Article 19: Social Media Council would assist Eire fight on-line disinformation
Would include participation from social media companies, media and members of civil society
Article 19, an international organization committed to defending and promoting freedom of expression and access to information, concluded its #KeepItReal campaign with a virtual event examining the impact of online disinformation on freedom of expression in Ireland .
The campaign launched a conversation with young people in Ireland to ensure that their voices are heard in debates about “false news” and how decisions are made about what is allowed on social media.
Along with young people from across the country, expert speakers David Kaye, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Expression, Aoife Grace Moore, Irish Auditor’s Political Correspondent, Siobhan Cummiskey, Director of Public Order, Campaigns and The EMEA Programs at Facebook and Pierre François Docquir, Head of Freedom of the Media at Article 19, examined issues such as the role of government and the responsibility of social and traditional media to counter harmful disinformation while protecting freedom of speech online.
Article 19 also talked about the organization’s proposal to set up a Social Media Council (SMC) in Ireland.
Inspired by the experiences of the press councils, this proposed self-regulatory mechanism would be the first of its kind and would fit within the legal framework of the online safety and media regulation law currently under consideration. It will be a forum in which measures to deal with disinformation and other problematic content can be discussed, refined, assessed or checked.
Since the SMC aims to enable broad participation from social media companies, media and civil society, among other things, it would also be used as a forum to develop a common understanding, not just about the types of content that should be moderated, but also about the appropriate and realistic technical approaches to moderation. It would provide a grievance mechanism where users would have access to an independent external body that could make decisions on disputes related to content moderation. The decisions would be based on international human rights law to uphold freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.
“Disinformation jeopardizes the public’s ability to separate fact from fiction when amplified to the extent possible on social media,” said David Kaye, board member of Article 19. “Yet government action to counter this is threatening, especially but not only in authoritarian environments, freedom of expression itself. We need to develop mechanisms to address this huge problem without undermining fundamental rights, and social media councils offer an innovative way of doing this.
“The root of the Social Media Council is the idea that we don’t necessarily want the government to tell companies or individuals what is appropriate speech or not. However, we want transparency because social media platforms are incredibly opaque. As a result, we know very little about how they make content moderation decisions about what is appropriate on their platforms. We want tools that enable a public complaint … but above all offer a kind of civil society that is based on human rights in order to make decisions about online content. This is the thrust behind social media councils and the thrust behind public ownership behind such platform-related decisions and issues. Those are tough questions. In some ways they are among the largest and most important for our democracies in the digital age. “
“Ireland was the ideal place for this campaign and we believe a social media council would work very well here,” said Pierre François Docquir, Freedom of the Media Director at Article 19. “Ireland is not only home to the headquarters of social media companies in Europe and have a successful history of self-regulation with the likes of ASAI and the Press Council, but it is also in the midst of a lively and groundbreaking debate on platform regulation and online safety with the current consideration of the online security and media regulation and education bill Media and Online Safety Commission. We believe that the SMC could function well in Ireland within the future legal framework. “