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2019

Safety of Female Journalists Online (SOFJO) Conference 2019 under the theme ‘Expanding Opportunities for Freedom of Expression and Media Plurality’ has been organised by the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM), Mr Harlem Désir, and Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights and former OSCE FRoM, Ms Dunja Mijatović, addressed the audience. In his opening speech, Désir noted that with the increase of threats against the press, female journalists face specific type of gender-based violence online. It includes sexually explicit and misogynistic abuse, death threats, surveillance, imprisonment, and other types of intimidation against female journalists and their families. It is aimed at silencing their voices and removing them from work. He called for ‘meaningful and systematic response and holistic approach’, which needs to include Internet platforms, media companies, and political will at the highest level. Last December, OSCE participating states unanimously adopted an OSCE Ministerial Decision on Safety of Journalists. Désir underlined the courage of journalists who have shared their challenging experiences, which resulted with a documentary ‘A Dark Place’. Mijatović launched ‘Safety of Female Journalists Online’ project in 2014 in order to highlight the issue and call for greater action against the trend which attacks both media freedom and human rights. She reminded about the importance of adopting gender sensitive approaches to policy developments in order to have the full participation of women in online spaces. ‘States must step up the implementation of the human rights standards they have adopted on the safety of journalists and on combating violence against women. They have the duty to adopt protective measures for female journalists and to encourage the private sector and the media to fight gender-based violence online.’

A UK government report says that regulation is needed to ensure the reliability of news content distributed by Internet companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. The Cairncross Review: A Sustainable Future states that 'This task is too important to leave entirely to the judgment of commercial entities'. The reviewers were asked to 'consider the sustainability of the production and distribution of high-quality journalism, and especially the future of the press, in this dramatically changing market' and also 'looked at the overall state of the news media market, the threats to the financial sustainability of publishers, the impact of search engines and social media platforms, and the role of digital advertising'.

Australian federal government wants to make sure that on-demand economy worker pays their fair share of taxes. The Treasury published an industry discussion paper containing proposals for a mandatory regime of taxes for people working in the sector. The measure would include companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Uber eats, among others. Sharing economy has experienced significant growth in Australia, and authorities are concerned that there is a possibility that some workers do not report their current income to avoid paying the right amount of taxes. The Transportation Workers Union of Australia has condemned the proposal, alleging that, first, the government should consider regulating the on-demand economy to protect workers, including legislation on minimum pay, superannuation, sick leave, and the possibility of collective bargain. 

The Catalan government released proposals for regulating ride-hailing apps, including a 15-minute wait time between a user booking and being able to take the transportation. The time proposed did not attend the taxis drivers who require the wait time to be at least 24 hours. In response, taxis drivers are now on strike. In August 2018, the central government agreed to transfer the regulatory competency for the ride-hailing apps to the regions, but the change was not enough to put an end to the disputes between both sectors. Taxi drivers want regulation to ensure fair competition.   

Facebook removed pages linked to Russian Sputnik news website for having breached the platform’s terms of services. The pages mispresented their identities, pretending they were independent news services or fan pages related to celebrities, regions and food. Facebook found out that at least 75 accounts belonged to Sputnik’s employees and often had posts with anti-Nato, protest and anti-corruption content among pictures of chocolate cakes, food recipes and cats. The platform suspect that it was a strategy to attract an audience interested in this type of content. Not rarely, these pages would post a link to a Sputnik article. The pages had around 700,000 followers. Facebook has struggled to remove illegal content and pages which violate its terms of services after having been charged liable for illegal political ads and content in the last American presidential elections. 

According to India Today, Indian authorities are working on amending the IT Act in parts related to liabilities of intermediaries, to allow the government to monitor and remove user content and messages, including encrypted ones. These steps are being justified as a need to monitor unlawful content, and in particular, fake news and inflammatory messages via messenger apps, such as WhatsApp, which resulted in a series of lynch mobbings. WhatsApp and Twitter, both announced that they will respond to consultations opened by the Indian the government, and criticised the new rules as being against privacy and leading to censorship, Financial Times reports.

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