IGF 2018 WS #269 Do(not) touch: selfregulatory safe harbor of social platforms

Format: 

Round Table - 60 Min

Organizer 1: Olga Kyryliuk, The Influencer Platform
Organizer 2: Lucena Claudio, Researcher, FCT Portugal, Professor, UEPB, Brazil
Organizer 3: Varsha Sewlal, ISOC NCSG
Organizer 4: Martin Silva Valent, Silva.legal

Speaker 1: Lucena Claudio, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Garcia Van Hoogstraten Catherine , Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Salvador Camacho Hernandez, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Mingli Shi, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Additional Speakers: 

Speaker 5: Natalia Filina, Private Sector, Eastern European Group

Relevance: 

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.

Session Content: 

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?

Interventions: 

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).

Diversity: 

The invited group of people meets the diversity criteria in terms of gender, age, regional representation, and stakeholder group. One of the organizers is also coming from the developing country, and is a first-time IGF session speaker. Cláudio Lucena, Professor, UEPB, Brazil/FCT and Católica Lisbon, Portugal, Academia Catherine Garcia van Hoogstraten, Consultant, Advisor & Lecturer, The Hague University of Applied Sciences and Chakana Lab, Netherlands, Technical Community Salvador Camacho Hernández, CEO and Co-founder of Kalpa Proteccion.Digital, Mexico, Private Sector Mingli Shi, CIPP(US), Research Associate, Ford-Media Democracy Fund Tech Exchange Fellow at Open MIC, USA/China, Civil Society

Online Participation: 

We make a strong focus and expect extensive online participation. For that purpose, we will share in advance the information about the session and possibility to join remotely. We truly want the most diverse voices to be heard.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The issue we discuss has relevance to each and every of us, and, therefore, the most interesting ideas might come from the least expected places. We will make sure that onsite and online moderators are working in tandem, notifying each other about the interventions from the audience. We will try to make discussion as inclusive as possible, giving participants the possibility to jump into discussion at any point, without dividing the round table into classic presentations and Q&A parts.

Onsite Moderator: 

Olga Kyryliuk, PhD, CEO and Founder, The Influencer Platform, Ukraine, Civil Society

Online Moderator: 

Martin Silva Valent, Director of Datas, Argentina, Civil Society

Rapporteur: 

Varsha Sewlal, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa, Government

Agenda: 

Timing:

  • 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

Thematic focus:

  • 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?
Report: 

IGF 2018 Pre-Session Synthesis 

Session Type: Round Table - 60 Min

Title: Do(not) touch: selfregulatory safe harbor of social platforms

Date & Time: 14 November 2018 (Wednesday), 09:00 - 10:00

Organizer 1: Olga Kyryliuk, PhD, CEO & Founder,The Influencer Platform, Ukraine, female
Organizer 2: Lucena Claudio, Researcher, FCT Portugal, Professor, UEPB, Brazil, male

Chair/Moderator: Olga Kyryliuk, PhD, CEO & Founder,The Influencer Platform, Ukraine, Civil Society, female

Rapporteur/Notetaker: Olga Kyryliuk, PhD, CEO & Founder,The Influencer Platform, Ukraine, Civil Society, female

List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

Speaker 1: Lucena Claudio, Researcher, FCT Portugal, Professor, UEPB, Brazil, Civil Society, male

Speaker 2: Garcia Van Hoogstraten Catherine , Lecturer & Researcher in Data Governance, Public Sector Innovation, Tech, Cybersecurity Law & Policy, The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Academia/Technical Community, female

Speaker 3: Salvador Camacho Hernandez, Co-Founder and CEO of Kalpa Protección.Digital, Mexico, Private Sector, male

Speaker 4: Nicolás Diaz Ferreyra, Research Fellow at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Member of the PDP4E project for “Methods and Tools for GDPR compliance”, Civil Society, male

Speaker 5: Natalia Filina, member of EURALO Individuals Association (ICANN), and ISOC, Private Sector, female

Theme (as listed here): Cybersecurity, Trust and Privacy

Subtheme (as listed here): LEGAL & REGULATORY ISSUES

Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]

  1. Over the past years, interactions based, involving or absolutely connected to digital platforms have started to interfere directly with democracies, which raised concerns as to the regulation of those online spaces. The governments have regulated other businesses and economic activities of global reach before. But social platforms have characteristics that have never been seen before. They are comprehensive, transforming, inclusive and extremely rapidly developing. Moreover, the distribution of resources and regulatory powers is not uniform anymore. Both social platforms giants and governments increasingly recognize the need for regulation. Though, what we need to learn is how to regulate together. It is time to acknowledge the shift to stronger oversight that is called for by the governments and supported by some of the platforms, and find ways to share regulatory hurdles with all other respective stakeholders.
  2. Boundaries between offline and online life are getting blurred. Need in raising awareness as to behavior in digital world. Domain names could serve as an act of independence from social media. At the same time, there is a need in increased risk awareness for making better and more informed decisions. Users have the right to be informed about the risks of using a platform/service by analogy with the real world.
  3. Private-public partnerships (PPPs) in cybersecurity should allow the government and major ISPs to pool their resources and know-how to tackle key aspects of cybersecurity, including protection of critical infrastructure and fight against cybercrime. PPPs are a notoriously complex phenomenon in terms of roles, responsibilities, and governance. Current challenges for effective cooperation between public and private actors countering cybercrimes include obligations regarding disclosure and exposure; evolving liability and regulatory landscape; cross-border data transfer restrictions and investigation of cybercrime.

Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [150 words] Examples: There was broad support for the view that…; Many [or some] indicated that…; Some supported XX, while others noted YY…; No agreement…

Coming from different backgrounds (technical, private sector, civil society, and academia) the speakers not only presented a comprehensive vision of who and how should regulate the social platforms, but also touched upon the subsidiary issues, like risk awareness for informed choices and domain names as an alternative to social media profile, that potentially could ease the regulatory burden. It was unanimously agreed that the information shared and the effect of externalities were not that sensitive at the onset of the social platforms, as they are now. The speakers also agreed that we are more attached to our private information when we are in an offline context. It was also indicated that often social platforms introduce themselves like spheres that are free of any risk, which actually modulates user’s perception and attitude towards using the platform.  Basically, if you think that there's no risk, you will disclose more information. The need for some kind of oversight was broadly recognized, with the question of how such oversight should look like being left open for further experiments. Speakers were unanimous in recognizing that the time for classical means of regulation has ended, giving a rise for various modalities of co-regulation. The regulatory public-private partnerships were presented as an example when few stakeholders can actually agree on the rules of behaviour to be obliged by. Though, the roles, investments and responsibilities in such partnerships have to be carefully defined. Some suggested that users must be paid for usage of their data.

Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]

Next regulatory steps must include some extent of multistakeholder participation in order to be efficient and enforceable. More risk awareness is needed for making better and more informed decisions. Awareness raising campaigns should be conducted to increase the understanding among users that logging to Facebook or any other social platform is not equal to using the Internet, which in this case becomes narrowed to having social media account.  Users have the right to be informed about the risks of using a platform/service like in the real world. The introduction of preventative technologies in the social media platforms could potentially make people more aware about what can happen with their data. The risk should be embedded in the regulations when we are talking about the social platforms. Regulatory public-private partnerships could become a solution for securing political predictability for the states and economic profitability for the tech companies. The democracy is at stake, and we need to learn how to regulate together. “Take it or leave it” approach is not taking us anywhere, and we should put more resources into investigating efficient modalities of joint regulation that would allow us to make some progress.

What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words]

IGF creates a perfect environment for various stakeholders to come together, hear the concerns of each other and work together on possible solutions. The speech and the very presence of President Macron at the opening ceremony was recognized as a positive move towards finding balanced regulatory solutions by joining the efforts, expertise, and resources. The follow-up targeted discussions are needed with all respective stakeholders. The fact that France and Facebook started negotiations on the hate speech regulation could be considered as one of the steps on the way for various stakeholders to try to find common ground for future regulation.

Please estimate the total number of participants.

50

Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present.

20

To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]

The gender issue didn’t fall into the scope of the session theme.

Session Time: 
Wednesday, 14 November, 2018 - 09:00 to 10:00
Room: 
Salle XII

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678