Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility
Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min
Despite online platforms’ relevance for democratic mobilisation, trade, and social participation, platforms' architecture and algorithmic functioning have often been criticised for several problematic practices, including the weaponization of harmful and unlawful speech, political micro-targeting, and profiling techniques, maximization of disinformation, etc. The relevance of such matters is increasingly occupying the public debate, with several national/regional legal reforms under discussion. Nevertheless, initiatives to tackle those issues are often focusing on the content level, neglecting the infrastructural perspective that could significantly generate more profound changes regarding the asymmetries of power and information between platform users and platform providers – for instance focusing on strong interoperability provisions. In addition, governments have been attempting a variety of ad-hoc solutions with the goal of protecting digital sovereignty, which may likely lead to the fragmentation of the Internet. This tendency and the lack of shared rules promoting a harmonized and user-centred approach to platform governance and fostering interoperability create a wide range of negative externalities such as data concentration, censorship, conflicts of jurisdiction, increasing complexity, making compliance more challenging, and threatening users' autonomy. The DCPR 2022 session will explore how platform governance may improve the current scenario. Speakers will be encouraged to discuss how guidelines can be proposed to orient policymakers in creating a more trustworthy and inclusive digital environment, fostering user control, and interoperability.
The session will be open to questions both from on-site and online participants – the organizers have extensive experience in conducting and moderating similar sessions (e.g. the Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility at IGF 2020). The session will also be live-tweeted from the institutional accounts of the Center for Technology and Society (@CTS_FGV) and the CyberBRICS project (@BRICSCyber) by other staff members.
Proponent: Center for Technology and Society at FGV Law School
Co-proponent: Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency
- Luca Belli, Center for Technology and Society, FGV Law School, Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency
- Yasmin Curzi, Center for Technology and Society, FGV Law School
- Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency
- Oli Bird, OFCOM
- Ian Brown, CyberBRICS Visiting Prof, FGV
- Nicolas Suzor, Oversight Board
- Emma Llanso, Center for Democracy & Technology; Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency
- Courtney Radsch, Centre for International Governance Innovation
- Vittorio Bertola, Head of Policy and Innovation at Open-Xchange
- Rolf Weber, University of Zürich
- Monika Zalnieriute, Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at UNSW Sydney
Moderators: Luca Belli & Yasmin Curzi, CTS-FGV
Targets: In the last few years, we have seen a growing trend towards the monopolisation of communication mediated by applications, such as WhatsApp - the ensuing market concentration generates risks both for privacy and other users' rights since users are heavily discouraged from migrating to other platforms. The consolidation of this monopoly could exacerbate the already sharp inequalities between North and South countries in the technology sector, by inhibiting the entrance of new actors (for instance, new companies and organisations from the global South) into this market. A potential solution for mitigating the market concentration is through industrial diversification by platform interoperability. Discussing the means and methods by which such measures could be implemented by governments and international organisations is of vital interest in an increasingly technology-reliant society.
Although there may be convergences between different national legal regimes regarding platform governance, national regimes will inevitably diverge, fostering Internet fragmentation. Speakers highlighted the necessity of a multistakeholder agenda to enable the development of shared guidelines and procedures towards meaningful and interoperable transparency, for improving platform governance and law enforcement, and also to ensure users' rights.
One of the main points brought by the speakers was the obstacle of fragmentation for the regulation of digital spaces, something that was addressed from an infrastructural perspective to a rhetorical level.
More transnational and national collaboration among independent regulators and authorities to foster platform observability;
Platforms should cooperate by providing continuous data access and information to researchers and independent investigators and not only publishing transparenc reports;
The session aimed at discussing the impacts of platforms' regulation on internet fragmentation and how common standards and interoperability could help to mitigate it. The speakers stressed that to improve platform governance and enforce users' rights – especially regarding content moderation and possible impacts on fundamental rights –, it is necessary to develop a multistakeholder agenda on shared guidelines and procedures towards meaningful and interoperable transparency.
The panel began with Prof. Luca Belli presenting the session and highlighting the impacts that both private ordering by platforms and national regulation pose to internet usage. Prof. Belli also emphasized the great role that platforms and its regulations – or lack of them – play in the responsibility have in respecting human rights. Those remarks were followed by Yasmin Curzi’s statement over the objective of the DCPR Session, which is to explore how platform regulations are affecting internet fragmentation worldwide. She stated that "such regulations may be causing negative externalities for users and for the enforcement". Some examples are data concentration, censorship, conflicts of jurisdiction, and others. The speakers were encouraged to discuss possible guidelines to orient policymakers in creating a more trustworthy and inclusive digital environment, that may be able to foster user control, and interoperability.
In this regard, one of the main points brought by the speakers was the obstacle of fragmentation specifically on the regulation of digital spaces, something that was addressed from an infrastructural perspective to a rhetorical level. From the first moment of the discussion two points can be highlighted: accessibility to information and the actual ability to use it. Oli Bird, from Ofcom, and Vittorio Bertola, from Open-Xchange, commented on the internet infrascrutural fragmentation that can be observed from software programming to hardware operation, for example. Bertola highlights that although States can contribute to IT with shutdowns etc, also the big internet platforms can disrupt national regulations on content. Oli Bird, on the other hand, brought examples of user experience on mobile devices to point out the multiple possibilities of the digital world both in terms of ideation and use. He added that, although there may be convergences between different national legal regimes regarding platform governance, "national regimes will inevitably diverge", fostering internet fragmentation. Point also highlighted by Yasmin Curzi, who recalled the infrastructural issues of access and its implications for regulation in the unfolding of the possibilities of usage.
On a rhetorical level, some of the concerns pointed out by both Prof. Luca Belli and Prof. Rolf Weber were around determining a "common semantics" and methodologies for a jurisdiction capable of encompassing regulation that serves both local and global levels. On this matter, Prof. Weber also highlighted that open standards are important tools to promote interoperability. Adding to the discussion, Prof. Nicolas Suzor, from Oversight Board, talked about some of the challenges the current way platforms use automatic classification systems: marginalized populations face errors more frequently due to the lack of data regarding them.
In response to Nicolas Suzor, Emma Llansó included to his point that the reluctance of platforms to make information available is part of the big picture, the researcher from Center for Democracy & Technology and Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency, states the importance of independent research regarding online services in order to inform public policy-making, adding to that, she states the entering into force of the Digital Services Act in the EU as a way researchers will have to access data from platforms, which will be useful for policy making, especially regarding transparency. Luca Belli had as final remarks that the quality and relevance of the information in the reporting activity is more relevant than raw data.