Social media platform regulation20.08.2020
The moderation of online content, especially on social media platforms, is a pressing issue for consumers and citizens. Experience of the Facebook Oversight Board, a self-regulatory initiative, will affect the future not only of Facebook, but also of other regulatory initiatives relating to social media and platforms more generally (including self-regulatory and coregulatory initiatives.
Within any one platform, there may be tensions between simple commercial considerations and political/public relations imperatives. To these may be added actual legal constraints, such as already exist in Germany and are proposed in the United Kingdom, to combat online harms. A valuable overview of the situation in 12 Sub-Saharan African countries recommends (among much else) the human-rights-based approach. Potential penalties for legal infractions may sometimes be treated as a cost of doing business, rather than as serious risks that must be avoided; adverse sentences in the court of public opinion could be seen as bigger problems.
Technology itself has a big role to play. The table below illustrates new and emerging safety technologies in the U.K. “safety tech” sector. Facebook and other online platforms are already using similar technologies for identifying and handling questionable content. Clearly many developments can be expected in coming years.
|Heading and description||Harm||Approach||Benefit||Technologies and services|
|Tracing, locating & removing illegal content||
||Detection and action against illegal content at system level||Tackling online crime, protecting citizens, preventing abuse||
|Platform level response to illegal content, including
preventing illegal content from being published
||Pre-moderation, detection, flagging and removal of illegal content at platform level||Protection from illegal online content||
|Platform moderation & monitoring|
|Prevention, detection & action against harmful conduct and / or content||
||Moderation and monitoring of harmful conduct and / or content||Protection from harmful online conduct and content||
|Age oriented online safety|
|Age appropriate design||
||Safety by design||Design and development of user-centred online environments to keep children safe||Age appropriate web services, consent management|
||Age detection and verification||Protection from age-inappropriate content||Age assurance mechanisms: age estimation,
e-IDs, database matching / attribute exchange
|User initiated protection (user, parental or
||Safety by design,
|Creating safe online experiences for children||Endpoint protection software and applications|
||Detection and blocking access to harmful or inappropriate content||Preventing access to harmful material within defined settings||Content filtering and monitoring|
|Detecting and disrupting false, misleading and/or harmful narratives||
||Fact checking, disinformation research and disruption||Ensuring citizen information accuracy and trust in the information environment and wider society||
|Online safety professional services|
|Compliance & professional services||– All||Compliance services, research, frameworks and methodologies for auditing, evaluating or mitigating potential harms||Enabling the development of safer online communities and embedding safety-by-default||Advisory support with implementing technical solutions|
Source: Adapted from Safer Technology, Safer Users: The UK as a World-Leader in Safety Tech.
- Examples include the Global Network Initiative and the Internet Commission. These both aim to provide independent assessments of industry members’ performance, though with different emphases and approaches. Both face the challenge of reconciling a level of commercial confidentiality that will be acceptable to their members with enough transparency to achieve public credibility. ↑
- The 2017 Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz is already under review. See Government wants to change the Network Enforcement Act, https://www.bundestag.de/dokumente/textarchiv/2020/kw19-de-netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz-692664. ↑
- See Online harms regulation: Clarity awaited but reforms set to be delayed. ↑