UN Special Rapporteur calls on platforms to use int'l human rights law as basis for content standards in new report

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1 June 2018

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression: A Human Rights Approach to Platform Content Regulation

Author: David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

[I]nternet remains history’s greatest tool for global access to information... [B]ut he public sees hate, abuse and disinformation in the content users generate. Governments see terrorist recruitment or discomfiting dissent and opposition. Civil society organizations see the outsourcing of public functions, like protection of freedom of expression, to unaccountable private actors. Despite taking steps to illuminate their rules and government interactions, the companies remain enigmatic regulators, establishing...“platform law” in which clarity, consistency, accountability and remedy are elusive... [R]eport the Special Rapporteur proposes a framework for the moderation of user-generated online content that puts human rights at the very centre...Companies should recognize that the authoritative global standard for ensuring freedom of expression on their platforms is human rights law, not the varying laws of States or their own private interests, and they should re-evaluate their content standards accordingly....The companies must embark on radically different approaches to transparency at all stages of their operations... Transparency requires greater engagement with digital rights organizations and other relevant sectors of civil society...[C]ompanies must open themselves up to public accountability. Effective and rights-respecting press councils worldwide provide a model for imposing minimum levels of consistency, transparency and accountability to commercial content moderation.

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30 May 2018

Response to David Kaye's report on platform content regulation

Author: Richard Wingfield, Global Partners Digital

[T]he UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression [has] published his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council: “A Human Rights Approach to Platform Content Regulation”. This report (to which Global Partners Digital contributed a submission), addresses the regulation of user-generated content online... While much of the report reiterates existing international human rights standards relating to the right to freedom of expression, it marks the first time a UN mechanism has examined their specific application to online content and the moderation processes of platforms.

... [Welcome aspects include]... the clear assertion that states must ensure that the legal and policy framework ensures an enabling environment for freedom of expression online;... the report calls for online platforms to use international human rights law and standards as the basis for developing and implementing their content standards;... [and] the report’s call for greater means for users to appeal and obtain remedies for wrongful decisions, as well as public accountability...  David Kaye’s report provides an important input into the ongoing debate relating to freedom of expression online... By clearly setting out how international human rights standards apply to freedom of expression online, and the roles and responsibilities of both states and platforms, the report moves the debate forward and provides clear markers by which the actions of these actors can be assessed.  

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