NRIs collaborative session on harmful content

27 Nov 2019 12:00h - 13:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

The session considered national policies and efforts to combat the distribution and proliferation of harmful content online.

On several occasions, the speakers highlighted national measures adopted to combat online child pornography, an issue that represents a major violation of human rights. The speaker from IGF Japan underscored that the ban on child pornography is in fact the only measure on harmful content in Japan and that international co-operation should be favoured over education when addressing the issue, considering the fact that it is a challenge that requires urgent action. Speaking on the same subject, the representative from IGF Armenia explained that cases of child pornography are reported directly to the police, whilst in Nigeria a cybercrime act with explicit provisions on child pornography and other related crimes has not proven to be very functional.

In the context of national security, the speaker of IGF Armenia pointed out that the presence of harmful content could result in the revoking of domain name registration while in Lebanon the youth is a particularly vulnerable target of extremist groups. Concern was also expressed about the spread of extremist and harmful content that interferes with national and European elections and referenda. The representative of IGF France stressed that in 2018 a national measure was adopted to protect democracy from the intentional spread of disinformation while the speaker from the Pan-European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) highlighted that quick and multistakeholder action is needed to address this issue effectively.

On the subject of raising awareness, the speaker of the IGF Lebanon stressed that initiatives are being launched across schools in Lebanon in order to combat harmful online content given the fact that the majority of youngsters in Lebanon have been subject to violent material on their social media platforms. The representative of IGF Nigeria stressed that platform providers like Twitter and Facebook could play a role in awareness raising campaigns on harmful content.

Some of the participants also addressed the complex relationship between the freedom of speech and harmful content. The speaker of IGF Nigeria noted that the confusion that exists around the term ‘harmful content’ could have negative implications for fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of speech. Speaking on the same issue, but in a different context, the delegate of IGF USA stressed that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not apply to harmful content online. In addition, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act allows domain registries or data centre hosting companies that are not responsible for content creation to remove any sort of illegal material in case they have been alerted to it by a third party.

Speaking on cyber-bullying, the representative of IGF Italy pointed out that a cyber-bullying law was enacted in 2017 which gives 48 hours to platforms to block harmful content. This measure is regarded as one of the most impactful measures that have been adopted.

The value of local measures on harmful content was also addressed during the session. The speaker from IGF Bolivia pointed out that even though Bolivia does not have any particular regulation on harmful content at the national level, measures are taken at the local level such as the one in La Paz that regulates harmful content in Internet cafés and Internet rooms.

By Natasa Perucica