The Council has adopted conclusions on digital empowerment to protect and enforce fundamental rights in the digital age.
These days, digitalisation infiltrates every facet of our society and personal lives. It is essential for this digital realm to be a space where fundamental rights are upheld, and individuals can assert their rights.
The text restates that fundamental rights are applicable both in online and offline contexts, emphasising the importance of ensuring everyone has the opportunity and support to gain essential digital skills. These skills are crucial not only for understanding and exercising rights, but also for fully benefiting from the growing array of online public and private services.
The conclusions focus on two core principles: empowering individuals and key sectors digitally, and establishing a secure digital environment that safeguards fundamental rights.
1. Digital empowerment of people and key sectors:
In the context that, according to Eurostat data, 46% of European citizens do not have sufficient basic digital skills, the Council invites Member States to take measures, such as:
• Promote adequate media and digital literacy.
• Take measures to ensure that everyone has equal access to online public services.
• Raise awareness of the importance of protecting privacy.
• Allocate funding to support education, training and skills development in digital media tailored to the needs of different groups of people.
2. Building a secure digital environment where fundamental rights are protected:
Various challenges, such as online disinformation leading to a decline in trust in institutions and media, pose threats to our digital environment. The increase in hate speech, hate crimes, and cyber violence further jeopardises our fundamental rights online.
While AI has the potential for significant positive impact, its use without adequate transparency, safeguards, and quality controls can also pose challenges in upholding fundamental rights and combating discrimination.
To establish a secure digital environment, the Council urges Member States to, among other measures, persist in combating online hate speech. This includes enhancing the capabilities of judicial and law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute illegal online hate crimes and hate speech.
The European Commission is also invited to combat online disinformation and illegal content by monitoring and enforcing the rules of the recently adopted Digital Services Act, and by regularly assessing the implementation of the 2022 Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation, as well as the Code of Conduct.