IGF 2018 WS #269 Do(not) touch:selfregulatory safe harbor of social platforms
Recent Zuckerberg trial in the US Senate and Cambridge Analytica data scandal allowed the states to take revenge over online platforms for successfully keeping self-regulatory status quo for that long. The allegations of the monopolism, bad faith business practices and manipulation of users’ data have been widely and relentlessly used for discrediting regulatory models that have appeared and evolved out of states’ direct control and involvement. With the above examples of data misuse states are trying both to prove failure of self-regulation as a model, and to strengthen control over online platforms, so that the latter will themselves start demanding more clarity in applicable rules to keep focus on their business, rather than on the burdens and pitfalls of uncertain regulations. But do the states play a fair game when claiming that it is only the absence of tantamount alternative that keeps users in Facebook and Google? The state regulation monopoly similarly had no alternatives before the Internet grew into a truly global network, and online platforms undertook regulatory burden on themselves. The aim of this workshop is to try to map the scenario in which global social media platforms begin to give signals that their initial approach concerning regulation of their services could be starting to shift; from an initial stand of an absolute opposition to any kind of regulatory constraints to recent - although at times very subtle - evidence that they are willing to acknowledge that the provision of certain services and the performance of certain roles imply a certain extent of accountability. The steps, the facts, the extent of the regulation they are willing to accept, and how that resonates along the many regions and throughout the many cultural perspectives our group comes from are part of the realm this session intends to explore.
Given the recent confrontation of the states and big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, it seems no one is questioning the need for having some rules in place to regulate what was once created and made available out of regulatory scope. During the session we will try to debate and find out what is so far the proper regulation for the Internet. Should the tech giants stay in the safe harbor of self-regulation, gradually adjusting it to the newly arising challenges? Or should the governments be allowed to leave the bay and confront online media platforms with a bunch of laws and regulations? Has the era of self-regulation reached its dusk? Or should we expect online platforms to take a strong stand in defending their space of influence? Can the regulatory private-public partnerships become a solution to securing political predictability for the states and economic profitability for the tech companies? What is it that we as users should advocate for no matter what regulatory framework is settled? Interesting enough, that states remained immune to alleged abuses by online platforms as long as those continued to serve their needs and didn’t touch upon their interests directly (as in case with pre-paid political advertisement). But neither fake news, nor propaganda are new to the humankind. Social media have simply increased the amplitude and reach of these phenomena. Given state’s practices to label any unwelcome pieces of information as fake, hostile or threatening, one should think twice before taking its side in confrontation with the online platforms. Shall the stronger focus on improving digital literacy and e-skills be an alternative to keeping Internet free of governmental regulation? Are the governments that use technologically advanced tools for stronger surveillance over their people the right stakeholder to talk about a need for shift in regulatory approach? We will also look into the issue whether the regulation of online platforms is only an immunity issue for the companies, or also a safe harbor for the users who have more flexibility and tools to influence the policies, which are not compliant with human rights laws?
The speakers will present their perspectives on the issues raised above based on both their professional expertise, and experience as regular Internet users. Coming from different stakeholder groups the speakers will present pros and cons of self-regulation and regulation by governments giving food for thought to onsite and online participants. The moderator will keep an eye on timely welcoming of interventions from the audience (onsite and remote participation).
- Setup of the topic by moderator & introduction of speakers, online moderator and rapporteur, including their background/experience - 5 min
- Short statements by each speaker reflecting the theme of the session from different perspectives - 15 min (3 min per person)
- Discussion phase where moderator is addressing one/two key questions to each speaker - 20 min (4 min per person)
- Questions from onsite and online participants are welcomed throughout the whole discussion - 15 min
- Brief conclusion and thank you note - 5 min
- Techno-utopia: neutral nature of technological tools v. their targeted (for better or worse) use. Current paradigm - the more information we have, the more ignorant we become. Data is not the new oil due to its infiniteness.
- Controlling technology or controlled by it: domain name v. FB profile. How to regain control from technology over us? Generation of prosumer communities.
- Social platforms as a profitable business: can money be balanced with morals when it comes to self-regulation?
- Impact at the society level: awareness and education for the connected and non-connected communities. Digital culture. Everyone should learn to use technologies. Create own technologies. Protect developed technologies. Generate awareness about the use of data and its importance. Is it fair to receive income for the use of your data?
- Impact at the state level: nations overtaken by technological companies in charge of data. Does it make nations dependent on businesses? Does this impact democracy? Does the abuse of social platforms by states ensures tolerating self-regulation?
- What can a country do to recover its technological sovereignty? With examples such as Estonia, could a true digital government and democracy exist in the future?
- Industry landscape and regulatory environment for platforms in China and the USA: national intermediary liability laws.
- Shortlist of possible regulators: heavyweight v. super heavyweight. Mutually exclusive or complementary?