Bullying, harassment, violent content, hate, porn and other problematic content circulates on digital platforms. Who should be responsible for stopping the spread of this content and how?
Inappropriate content circulating on digital platforms seems to be a common problem in the development of the internet. A challenging controversy in this domain is who and how to stop the spread of this content. Several scholars and statistics have shown that this problem can be overcome by maintaining web intermediaries to take moderation responsibility. While democratic and neoliberal principles were embedded into cyberspace, the reformation of regulation becomes vital for the future of the internet ecosystem. Equitable institutions must be changed in a way that is appropriate to the global context, rather than measuring the legitimacy of global governance arrangements in the Internet sphere, even nation-states are no longer fully fulfilled according to criteria derived from democratic theory, but somewhat different forms of global governance are compared to each other and controlled through intermediaries. This essay will discuss the unbiased consequences of intermediaries regulating platforms and the benefits and drawbacks of government regulation.
The main responsibility for regulating the work of the Internet is the important technology and telecommunications companies.
The question of legitimate and effective forms of governance beyond the nation-state is one of the main concerns of governance approaches. In particular, the disputable question of ‘whether global democratic deficiencies are suited in a different social context’. Social media platforms can face problems of globalised cultural artifacts, with online networks often displaying a rich internal structure in which users can choose between different types and intensities of interaction. The very localised presence of users’ perspectives can cause information conflicts with the differentiation in global cultures, so it is essential to assess whether there are differences in adoption patterns between genres when it comes to controlling. With internet intermediaries often caught between conflicting legal systems, there is no effective regulation in the platform network, it is rather the problem of the acceptable level of regulation. (Video or other examples)The growing expectations of digital platforms’ responsibility towards citizens mean that global digital platform companies need to take responsibility for the content on their websites. They have the major responsibility to manage the content on their websites in a way that is both in the public interest and open and transparent.
The main job of regulating the internet falls to significant technology and telecommunication companies, which have to match not only with the laws of their own countries but also with the laws of other countries in which they have substantial commercial interests and assets. All of these organisations make decisions that have a real impact on public culture and the social and political life of their users. The UK and France have each issued proposed legislation on social media regulation, and Germany passed an Online Enforcement Act in 2017. Common to such policies is an attempt to tighten the liability obligations of online intermediaries to ensure that they have strong incentives, such as fines, to deal more quickly and effectively with harmful content and take action to reduce its prevalence online.(Tambini, 2019) So substantive legitimacy depends on the expertise and problem-solving capacity of the regulator. When governance arrangements can implement a comprehensive information policy， it can make a relatively even-handed and fair regime. (EDRI, 2019)
The direct removal of some illegal content will be more effective against illegal organisations
Experts suggest that regulatory frameworks are not clearly defined and that agencies may need to cooperate when cases arise that expose the potential disadvantages of widespread connectivity (Ravindranath, 2016). Most scholars and governmental organizations expect communities to self-regulate or platforms to cooperate with the government, the efficiency of relying solely on intermediaries to regulate the internet may be inefficient. Communication Act in 1996 established ‘safe harbour’ provisions for internet service providers and provided legal safeguards for digital platforms in terms of content and carriers. （Flew, Martin& Suzor，2019). Intermediaries cannot be held responsible for their users’ speech, as they legally provide access to the internet or other web services rather than legally being “publishers” of user content. The deregulation brought about by the Act allows for competition in local exchange areas that have been effectively monopolised for many years. It also provides new regulations, for example, forcing local operators to share their communications facilities with competitors at the rates set out in the Act’s guidelines and ensuring that each competitor is treated fairly and equitably. Other provisions of the Act removed restrictions on media ownership and led to immediate industry consolidation.
Internet control in China is typical government control （Wall Street Journal，2022), where the government effectively blocks negative content, which is radically different regulation with Western culture. McKinnon, an assistant professor of new media at the Centre for Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Hong Kong, says the government can crack down when it needs to, pointing to examples of people being jailed for expressing their opinions online, and says it is essential to keep the proper perspective. (Blanchard, 2007) Most Chinese do not show repression in the face of this situation and are not angry that they cannot ‘freely express themselves on the internet. In China, censorship is mainly aimed at undesirable information, with more than 80% of reports involving obscene and pornographic websites. Data from the National Centre for Reporting Illegal and Undesirable Information on the Internet shows that of the more than 3,000 reports received daily, more than 85% involve obscene and pornographic websites. Through dissemination, some pornographic information will develop into pornographic transactions in addition to earning clicks. And when regulators search for relevant censorship loopholes, they will directly delete the content as well as block their accounts through strong-arm tactics.(Situ, 2014)
a single system of rules like this does not apply to all state
Nevertheless, a single system of rules like this does not apply to all states; it relies on the voluntary cooperation of the recipients of the rules and must generate legitimacy from within to enforce their rules. (Bischoff, 2022) In this context, the question of forms and mechanisms of legitimate governance that go beyond nation-states becomes even more critical. Globalised digital platforms need to consider the challenges that arise when country- and region-based regulatory options are available. Taiwan’s draft bill to regulate internet audiovisual services would provide easy-to-use user complaint mechanisms by mandating certain companies to report revenue and user statistics and ensure that their terms of service spell out how data is collected and used policies. The bill comes amid concerns that streaming platforms owned by Chinese companies are operating illegally in Taiwan and could facilitate the dissemination of disinformation or other illegal and violent content from Beijing. This means that legitimate governance is also a key feature of policymakers’ intermediaries. To ensure accountability, transparency in decision-making must be guaranteed (Buchanan & Keohane, 2006; Gupta, 2008). This assumes that only actors aware of all stages of the decision-making process can raise their concerns, understand their integration in the decision-making process, perform their oversight function and exercise their veto power when necessary. While regulators may currently lack the legislative power to enforce such guidelines strictly, they can still use their ‘soft’ regulatory powers to reach industry consensus on best practices for IoT security.
In summary, regulating the internet presents unique challenges, and no regulatory authorities will be fully effective. However, in this environment, the balance of online intermediaries is the fairest and most equitable option that does not threaten the freedom and interests of users while balancing the interests of governments, platforms and other parties. This means that while authoritarian states will continue to use these policies to strengthen their unfettered authority, intermediaries can ensure that policies that compete among tech companies and limit the concentration of power are essential to a healthy democracy.
Bischoff, P. (2022). Internet Censorship 2022: A Global Map of Internet Restrictions – Comparitech. Comparitech. Retrieved 14 October 2022, from https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/internet-censorship-map/.
Blanchard, B. (2007). Expert Says World Misunderstands China’s Web Controls; An academic says most censorship of Chinese Web sites is not invoked by the government but by the sites themselves. eWeek.
Buchanan, A., & Keohane, R. O. (2006). The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions. Ethics & International Affairs, 20(4), 405–437. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-7093.2006.00043.x
Flew, T., Martin, F., & Suzor, N. (2019). Internet regulation as media policy: Rethinking the question of digital communication platform governance. Journal of Digital Media & Policy, 10(1), 33–50. https://doi.org/10.1386/jdmp.10.1.33_1
More responsibility to online platforms – but at what cost?. (2019). [Blog]. Retrieved 14 October 2022, from.
Ravindranath, M. (2016). Who’s in Charge of Regulating the Internet of Things? NextGov.com.
Situ, Y. (2014). 新华视点：网络色情信息打“擦边球” “牛皮癣”如何根治？. THE STATE COUNCIL. Retrieved 19 October 2022, from http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2014-06/10/content_2698058.htm.
Tambini, D. (2019). Rights and Responsibilities of Internet Intermediaries in Europe: The Need for Policy Coordination. Centre for International Governance Innovation. Retrieved from https://www.cigionline.org/articles/rights-and-responsibilities-internet-intermediaries-europe-need-policy-coordination/
Wall Street Journal. (2022). Can Internet Algorithms Be Regulated? China Is Giving It a Shot. [Video]. Retrieved 14 October 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kppxyotjoD8.