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IGF 2020 - Day 4 - OF17 Building an ecosystem of media for public good

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the virtual Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), from 2 to 17 November 2020. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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    >> MODERATOR: Hello, good day.  This is Luis.  It seems that there is no analysts here.  Maybe it is you?  Who is running the session?

     >> No, it is not me.

     >> Hi, David.  I'm sorry.  Okay.  Sometimes it happens that they don't show up and they didn't -- let me try to see if I can get them soon or otherwise we will close the session.  Okay, so as not to have people waiting here.

     >> Please stand by.

     >> MODERATOR: For your information, we have the runners of the session and let's see if they come here.

     >> This is Luis again.  I don't think the session will be held.    Mazzone maybe you can explain.  Thank you.

     >> MODERATOR: Can you hear me?

     >> Very well.

     >> MODERATOR: Sorry about the -- as you probably know, I left EPU and decide not to continue with the session.  That was canceled.  But there was some mismatch in the chain of information and this information has gotten lost along the way.  I'm sorry for the participants.  But unfortunately, this is beyond my will because I'm not anymore with EBU.

     Sorry for those that are here, and I appreciate for your presence.  So I think that is we have to close here.  I can stay longer just to see if somebody else during the time that was scheduled.  It is unfortunate it has not been canceled on the program.  Anyway, I put in my new contact in case you want to reach me in my new activities right here.

     But I don't think that we can do more than that.  Thank you for being here to all of you.  And if you have any question, please address to me directly or -- and I will -- if there are questions for you, I will put you through to the new people in charge with this topic.  I see in the chat there is discussion so it seems that the topic was in the title was quite appropriate.  That's good.

     And this is the bottom up conversation.  I see asking where would internet companies fit in given the media role.  I have ideas.  Not EBU ideas, but if you want to exchange, we can exchange.  Do you want to take the floor?  Luis, are you with us?  Can we go ahead if this space is needed by somebody else?

     >> Okay.  Can you take the floor and express your question?

     >> GUY BERGER: Hello.  The panel was canceled and greetings to Giacone Mazzone and thank you for the initiative and good luck in your next steps.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you.

     >> GUY BERGER: I didn't see the contact details and tell us in the chat when you put the panel together you obviously had ideas.  It would be interesting to hear your ideas.

     >> MODERATOR: I repeat my contact details.  The idea behind the title of the panel today was media can play a very important role in the new situation, the new situation that has been determined by the combination of the globalization and of the digitalization at the same time.  As the presidential campaign in the U.S. proved enormously and I hope that will not prove more in the next days, but let's say how has been proved the media field is not anymore only the media field, there are new actors playing heavily in the field and they don't have the same responsibility that the media had in the past.

     In 200 years of media regulation in the western countries and then all over the world based on this principle that has been developed in the developed countries, the responsibility in the media communication was given to mediators.  All of the laws and rules building where the mediator is responsible if something goes wrong.

     They have to know about if you have insight to hate and as the director of the publication or the editor that are responsible and so according to the different law in the country.  But always the mediator has been responsible for what was happening.

     And since the last five year, let's say, and more and more in the recent times, there is no more mediator or the mediator are not considering themselves mediator because they simply consider themselves as they consult transmission and they don't accept any responsibility because they say we don't create the content, we don't commission the content, this belongs to somebody else.

     The problem was what was missing in this is the concept of the public good in the media.  What the media respected in the contribution of society and in the ideas and the exchange of ideas in society.  In the new situation the carriers they consider as they were simply telecom operators in the past, they don't have any finalization, they don't have any aim simply they are carriers and consider only carriers.

     This I think that if we introduce the concept of the public good and try to apply also to this new cover, this will change the discretion and this is the right approach.

     There are many debates in Europe currently and in other parts of the world about how to do but think this is the real point.

     It would be interesting to listen to the others that are here if they have any view on that.

     >> GUY BERGER: In the absence of other people jumping in at this point, I think that is very interesting what you say.

     One issue I think would be interesting to hear more from you about is what does this for the public good mean is different to public interest?

     And who should advocate this?  Is this a self-regulatory kind of gap in self-regulation or does this require regulation?

     And sorry to ask this other question, how does this impact on the financial issues because we even saw that some media and we still see some media is being captured or it is not living up to what you would say public good anyway.

     And media compromised by the good because they are promoting a particular commercial or political agendas.  And so it's a weaponization I suppose of the space.  And so if you want to keep things in the public good, what is the kind of the model there?  Because you also face the situation today, of course, that even public service media is facing a cash crunch let alone your independent private media apart from the biggest ones.  And internet companies are doing very well financially.

     But, you know, they are not set up to produce public interest content.  So it's really 20th century -- they never struck upon the good orientation, does that mean that some of the money should go into becoming public media companies or support the private media companies.  A bundle of questions for you.  Other people are jumping in.

     >> MODERATOR: I think it is better to open the discussion to others.  I see Daphne in the chat is saying something relevant.  If she wants to take the floor, it would be good.  Luis, can you give the floor to Daphne or only the panelists can talk?

     >> If you are okay with that, Giacone you can make anyone a panelist.

     >> MODERATOR: Why not.

     >> This has been record is like it is not official but in any case it is being recorded for the record if something can be taken out.

     >> MODERATOR: And I can prepare even a report.  I think that free wheeling discussion could be good.  This is really bottom up way to discuss.  So it is now Daphne able to talk?

     >> DAPHNE STEVENS: I should be.  Can you hear me?  Great.  Thanks for still letting this conversation continue because I think it is a very important conversation to have and it is into nice to see the insights from the different participants.  I think it is incredibly important that a code of conduct is created both with regards to media companies but also social media companies because I think that the social media companies have a very big responsibility regarding the public good.

     And, of course, maybe different in the ways that the code of conduct will be implemented because the media companies provide the news and social media companies provide the place where people can express themselves and talk about the news and all that.  It definitely has a different way of acting, I think.

     But I do think it is really important to take steps to have the media be more focused on the public good and ensure that the media companies are actually held responsible in cases when they create polarization and all those kind of situations as we can see right now that is quite harmful for society.  However, it is very important the freedom of expression is taken into account because that is something that definitely should not be forgotten.

     >> MODERATOR: The problem is a different status between the two companies.  The media companies are regulated in a way and the internet companies are regulated in a different way.

     In Europe, the debate is revising the electronic commerce directive under a new name that is critical service act and this is the crucial point of the debate when it comes to communication.  Because when it comes to physical goods like the trade, there are certain set of rules that applies.

     When it -- because then there are the integrity of the product and the transaction, the correspondence between the promised good and the good delivered, post delivered service et cetera, et cetera.

     When it comes to purely communication services, then the traditional tools that we use for the electronic commerce doesn't apply because for instance there is the reputational issue and the polarization issue and the information issue.  Et cetera et cetera that cannot be measured with a traditional ecommerce regulation.  In the past and I come back to the point that was raised in the chat but also by Guy, the commercial and public service media they exist because they don't exist everywhere in world but they are the public interest common notion.  But in certain countries, there was a public good notion.

     For instance, in the U.S., when there was the fairness act that was canceled by Reagan, all of the media, they have to act for the public good and in good faith.  So commercial and private public owned whatever there was the model of financing.

     Then this bill was taken out and you have the phenomena like Fox News where they don't bind to any public good concept.  They simply do it for in the purely commercial way without considering the effects that they produce on society or considering the effects they produce on society.  And they don't consider this as something unacceptable.

     So I think that if we reintroduce the notion of public good for all those that act as media means that put people that create bridges between people or they cut bridges between people for the polarization, this is also something that we need to enter into this consideration.

     Guy raised the question about the media responsibility to media for public good.  Yes, if we look at the last two years, what is happening is that the -- what was called the role of the traditional media new shifted in the platform.  So they act as mediators through the community rules.  They say the community rules -- the community rules are replacing what was the anthology of the journalists or the publishers.  Is this enough?  Is this working?  I think that we are -- the main problem is that there is not a third-party in the game.

     And the third-party in the game is the rule of law.  When there was a conflict between media and citizens about the way that we are treated in the media, if there was no possible composition, at a certain point in the process the law intervene.

     In the scheme that you is proposed now for the internet platform, the internet platform proclaim themselves and judge and party in the game and this I think is the weakness of the exercise because I people don't find an equitable third-party that could act on their interest in the game if a problem arise.

     I would be curious to hear what people that is present here think about that.  If you want to take the floor, please do it, each of you can speak because Luis freed everybody.  This is a free speech session.

     For instance, an interesting thought in the chat about what is the media company.  What she mentioned the fact that there has to be a common benchmark to create public good.

     Yes, I think it will be interesting to develop more if Juliana can take the floor.  But I think that in this regard, if I can say something is that the benchmark in many system was the public service.  So for instance the most classic example is BBC.  BBC was the benchmark for the quality of the media services all over the country in the UK.

     Doesn't exist Fox News in the UK because there exists BBC, I think.  That is where the problem is where the public service don't exist or don't make their proper role for instance where they are under control of the states, this is the case for instance in Hungary where the control of the state are public service are strong so they are not acting in the interest of citizens, they are acting in the interest of government, there the benchmark doesn't exist anymore.

     So it is possible that the demand and offer dialogue that is typical of the free markets is working very badly because the benchmark is very low.

     >> GUY BERGER: I see there is a hand raised in the chat.

     >> MODERATOR: Yes, please.

     >> SIVASUBRAMINIAN.: I don't come from a media company and my knowledge of media is limited.  I still have a question.  You were mentioning benchmarks and existing benchmarks if any are different in different places.  In one country the benchmark is to act like BBC and another country it could be quite free and another country the benchmarks could be extreme.  And so if we suspend just for the process of thinking if we suspend existing bench marks and ignore or not be bound by existing loss and imagine there is a country somewhere in the world, a kingdom, not a small country but a kingdom with about -- the king appoints someone of his favorite nephew or someone to be in charge of coordinating the media or in some way, how would he go about creating media for public good?  How would someone start from scratch the idea of creating media for public good?

     It cannot be counter productive, public good could be if he is an extreme person and his notion of public good cannot be that -- it cannot -- it could end up creating a media that is very pure.  On the other extreme, if he is a free person, he could total up everything for everyone to so that instead of becoming media for public good it becomes media for public harm.

     So what does that system that would decide what does the public good and what is lot?  What is not in public good?  In other words, what is public good and how would that -- the participants go about creating the notion of public good in a fair manner?

     >> MODERATOR: That's very complex.

     And part of the question is for, Guy, that is of UNESCO and UNESCO has among its duties to try to create benchmarking for quality in the media.  And they have created many tools for that.

     So I left this part of the answer to Guy.  My part of the answer to your question is it is true, and what you say is absolutely true.  The problem that exists is that the media are extremely related to the country and the rules of the game are extremely related to the country.  In fact, for instance, if you look at the few examples of trans national regulation, that for instance that exists in Europe, in Europe, European union decided not to intervene in the field of media regulation because this is something that each State member of the European union decide to keep under its own control.  And this is the limit of the exercise as you correctly say even in Europe.

     Now that I don't work anymore for the EBU I can be more free in expressing my opinion.  But this is the problem that for instance in Europe we have with Hungarian situation that the they are responding to the interests of the Hungarian government and is punished by the audience because the audience is not trusting anymore the public service since it is under total control of the politics.

     It could happen in a country where the government in power or the forces in power I think the totalitarian countries or that are formerly Democratic but in reality are autocratic there you don't have the benchmarking anymore because the public service has been delegated to state broadcaster as it was in the past.  So the logical public good, common good doesn't exist anymore.

     But there the only situation, the only force that can counterbalance that are the citizens.  I give you an example simple that is always an example coming from western democracies so I can understand that.  You can tell that in other country doesn't apply.  When Margaret Thatcher tried to impose to BBC about the Ireland, the BBC refused to do so and the only way to -- that was able to stop Mrs. Thatcher to impose to the BBC is two million people called the telephone number of downing street saying they want to have the public service continue to be free and without censorship because they wanted to know the truth of what was the up in the other country.  There is no other way other than the citizens protecting themselves against censorship and lies and those by government.  And in some countries this works and other countries it doesn't work.

     But then I would like very much that Guy could intervene for the parts that concerns what UNESCO is mandated to do by the UN system in this field that is very important, I think.  Guy, can you?  And then there are things in the chat probably we have to go back.  You asked for the floor, but if first, Guy, can you briefly answer that.

     >> GUY BERGER: UNESCO has this system of assessing media called the media development indicators that the many states of UNESCO agreed and may measure into the discussion or three points amongst other points.  The one is it should be a situation of media freedom because otherwise, of course, media or social media whatever it is can be instrumentalized by those in power which is not always the same as the public good.

     So there should be freedom for expression and free doom for media.  Number two, there should be pluralism.  And I think this is important because they are, as was said by the previous speakers, some premium that there are different views of public good so you need pluralism in that as to which immediately will represent what interpretation of public good.

    Across the board, free pluralistic situation should result some kind of choice for the public and some kind of overall contribution to public debate and public good.

     And the third element is independence of the media which means that the media should really and this is where the code of standards or community standards comes in depending enterprise.  Commit to public interest in the case of journalism so verifiable content and ethics of news gathering and what kinds of commitments there are to sort of reply and what kind of ethics in terms of respect for the needs of children and so on and so forth.  And sometimes the independence needs to be regulated in terms of what institutions are giving out licenses or subsidies to companies.  But because those also need to be independent, the regulators as well.

     So those are the elements that are seen as important.  These three elements, the freedom, independence.  And so this has been at UNESCO for more than 10 years this perspective.  And I think it has resonance for internet companies as well.

     I guess what we are speaking about here to what extent the mediators, these companies can exist in conditions of freedom of expression which, of course, isn't unlimited but anyway, you know, there is commercial limits such as copyright to start with, et cetera et cetera, but pluralism many in terms of size of the internet companies.  And what extent they have clear criteria that are actually again to be in the public interest and then enforce them.

     And I will make a final comment you find in some media, of course, they have a journalistic kind of conduct but the business model is such that they have the sensationalism that contradicts their code of conduct.  And some internet companies you have the strange situation where the algorithms are encouraging hate speech and this information at the same time as they try to take action to reduce the presentation of these kinds of content.

     It is a matter of how does each institution involve in terms of aligning its business model and its mission and redo see there are contradictions here.  And you did mention Giacone.  And you say there is no Fox News but there is the tabloid media with content that often doesn't meet the standards of journalism.  It is a question beyond the particular realm is there a good independent public service media in the country?  And the importance of pluralism within and across sectors.  Public service media and in many countries there are different kinds of public service media.  Not one centralized apparatus that can be easily controlled by a particular government.  There can be different such as in the German or Australian model and then the commercial media and community media.

     So the three sectors less fantastic when you talk about internet because you have -- resonant.  You don't have many public service provided internet platforms but in terms of promoting minority languages or for children and stuff, there are gaps that are not provided by the voluntary community sector like Wikipedia and not provided by the commercial sector.  I think there is a new space there.  I think I said enough at this point to I pass back to you.

     >> MODERATOR: Thank you.  Asked for the floor.  Can you intervene.  You are free to talk.  You have been liberated.  Your word and speech has been liberated by the host.  Can you hear us?

     >> XAVIER BRANDAO: Thank you for the opportunity to talk.  I don't come from the media sector.  I come from the Civil Society sector.  We are media users.  I work or I am here which is an international network of cyber activists’ counter speakers.  So we use social media a lot.  We are on Facebook mostly and on media pages.  So as users, what we see with media is now they have become interactive.  We are not only recipients but also participating to what the media have to offer.

     So there is some thing we don't see often.  We always speak about freedom of speech, but we don't speak about safety of the users on media pages and especially on social media.

     And if freedom of speech is one of the universal human rights, safety and security and dignity of people are also fundamental human rights and this is I think completely overlooked and social media are not and media as well, media pages are not doing their job of protecting their customers and protecting their users.  So people are vulnerable to misinformation, to attacks by Trolls, for example, in comment sections.

     So I think for the public good definition we might take as the lowest common denominator the human rights.  I think everyone can agree that people need to be free to speak and also need to be free from harm.  And so I think that could be a start to start there.  So yeah, that was my take.

     >> MODERATOR: I have a question for you because you say that you are using Facebook as main for your activism.  Have you incurred in any I would not say censorship but infringement of community rules is the way that they say because of what you published or not?  Or you think that you are relatively able to do your job without restriction there?

     >> XAVIER BRANDAO: We don't see a lot of restrictions to the rights of freedom of speech.

     So there is the European way, we are mostly European in the network.  We don't have a group in the U.S.  I guess for the European conception of freedom of speech there is -- it is really respected like we are able to say a lot of things, people who are more I would say a bit extremist or a bit more having extreme views can also pretty much freely express and often what we see and we have a lot of data about that, we see that the standards of community of Facebook and even Twitter are not enforced.  So we see that they have rules, but they don't apply them fully.  And let's not talk about the legalities.

     So yeah, it is -- it is the problem is not so much into -- at least for the European countries, we don't see a problem with freedom of speech but more with safety of the users.  And basically if we have a lot of information which is not factual and misinformation.  So this is a huge problem.  Content not being removed.

     >> MODERATOR: On this, I think that we have in the audience somebody that could say a word on that if he dared to is from the internet reflection team.  Are you with us?  Because some of the questions that has been raised by Xavier is exactly part of what we are trying to discuss with the jurisdiction group.

     >>

     >> I wasn't following the discussion.  I can give you an update on the work that we do in the track.

     >> MODERATOR: The main point for you just to be sure that you react to this that was raised by Xavier is that freedom of expression is one of the human rights that is to be protected for those that is to be protected safety and dignity of people.  What are you doing to achieve in the specific field?

     >> One of the things we are working on with the content jurisdiction tract is to focus on developing a set of shared criteria that can sort of be agreed upon by both by States and by platforms for determining the geographic scope of content restrictions for content determined illegal to be in one particular territory.  This is again these are targeting very exceptional circumstances when a particular piece of content is illegal in one country and has potentially the potential to be restricted in other countries because it is either that its convergence on the legal basis for the restrictions or harm extends beyond.  In that sense one of the focus of ING and the track is to focus on the determination of how the geographic scope of restrictions what are the criteria and the different elements that can go in to determining the geographic scope and to use geographic scope as an additional tool to the proportionality test that needs to be done in the determination of the restrictions.

     >> MODERATOR: This would not answer to the question. 

 

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