Platform regulation: perspectives from the Global South

1 Dec 2022 10:50h - 11:50h

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Over the past decade, there has been a growing need to regulate digital platforms around the world in response to their growing power to influence public debate, the functioning of democracies, and freedom of expression. This goes hand and hand with how they collect, store, and commercially distribute their users’ personal data, putting privacy and security of users at the centre of the debate. Although this debate is global, it has regional specificities and implications since the major digital platforms are based in the countries of the Global North and often do not even have official representatives in the countries of the Global South. Additionally, they have adopted content moderation and privacy protection rules that differ in the Global North and Global South, disproportionately affecting the freedom of expression and other human rights of individuals and groups in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, as research has shown.

What regulatory principles of content moderation can better guarantee freedom of expression and other fundamental rights in diverse legal systems? Although the debate about how to regulate content moderation in online social media platforms is global, there are different approaches according to the relationship between the private and public sectors in every country. There are three main distinct models that can be represented by the USA, China, and the EU and describe possible approaches to developing and implementing legal frameworks to regulate the practices of tech companies. The US model is a business-driven model, with very little intervention and led by the interests of the private sector. On the other hand, the Chinese model is also business-driven, but with strong state participation in the control of the internal and external policy of private companies. Finally, the European model also entails a strong presence of intervention from regional institutions, but mainly based on the protection of individual rights. In Global South countries, there is a need for innovative legislation that takes into consideration the specific needs of this region.

What are the challenges for the regulation of large global digital platforms and what are the appropriate bodies or mechanisms to do so? Firstly, it is important to keep in mind that beyond whatever the platform’s interest is, there are different lines of thought regarding content moderation. Broadly speaking, some believe that platforms should do much more in order to avoid hate speech, digital violence, and uncivil language. Another group thinks that there should not be intervention at all. And so the solution does not stem from the platforms themselves, but rather from the discussion that society has to have. In that context, criminalising platforms or platform users should be avoided. Instead, we should discuss the underlying issues at the same time that we discuss the responsibility of other stakeholders like governments, which have the responsibility of keeping a healthy public debate.

In Latin America in particular where these are pressing issues, the panellists expressed concerns regarding ill-intended laws to promote authoritarian regimes or serve the interests of exploitative companies. Regulation of digital platforms should not be driven by particular interest groups, but rather guarantee basic human rights. In order to develop legal frameworks that protect citizens in democratic societies, we should build regulations that include mechanisms of control and accountability. Oligopolies, monopolies, and digital colonialism should be avoided by institutional design. In order to protect digital sovereignty in the Global South, local communities should have a say and be able to communicate their needs. No content moderation laws developed under democratic regimes should be drafted without the active participation of civil society in the debate.

By Paula Szewach


The session in keywords

WS502 WORDCLOUD Platform regulation perspectives from the Global South IGF2022