COMMENTARY: Platform regulation is just too essential to be left to People alone – Nationwide

The fact that Twitter’s decision to permanently ban US President Donald Trump from his platform is treated almost as consistently as the actual armed uprising in the US Capitol underscores the growing awareness of the power of internet platforms and internet infrastructure companies in the determination of the rules in force American lives.

The assertiveness of Twitter – confirmed by the decision by Apple, Google and Amazon to ban the right-wing social media app Parler from their respective companies – is far more than an American story. As new platforms, this newfound willingness to censor problematic language and actors will almost certainly inform about how they conduct their business in the rest of the world.

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Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, defends the decision to ban Trump and warns of dangerous precedents

It was a strange experience to watch this debate from outside the US. It’s a very American debate: American platforms react to a coup attempt by the sitting US president in the context of the respective US legal system and an ideology that regards free speech as a primary, almost sacred value. Discussions about what to do with these platforms have centered on reforms of US law, particularly Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as well as US preferences for market-based solutions – such as antitrust enforcement – to public problems Order.

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Trump’s deplatforming not only underscores the ability of these platforms to regulate online activities (often with offline consequences), but also shows to what extent these platforms – as powerful in Canada as anywhere else – are uniquely shaped by and respond to American needs and values .

It’s a safe bet that a Donald Trump character in another country wouldn’t have resulted in the sweeping changes to wholesale guidelines we’ve seen here. The same goes for the platforms’ decision to fight COVID-19 misinformation: a global crisis that directly impacts the people who play a role on these platforms. Meanwhile, the United Nations implicated Facebook in an actual genocide in Myanmar without moving the US regulatory needle.



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Uprising in the US Capitol: Facebook has “no plans” to lift Donald Trump’s ban


Uprising in the US Capitol: Facebook has “no plans” to lift Donald Trump’s ban

When Canada tried to get Google to comply with its election advertising law in the run-up to the 2019 general election, Google refused to advertise at all. Similarly, with all the talk about how little platforms react to regulatory attempts, at least the US Congress can get the leaders of those platforms to present themselves in committee hearings. In other countries, including Canada, they don’t even bother showing up.

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In addition, the policy proposals put forward are shaped by what is possible in America’s current economic, political and social climate – including unprecedented political instability – regardless of what might be possible elsewhere (e.g. on public social media -Platform). This reflects the reality that platform governance debates often hardly matter more than Americans arguing with other Americans about how to run the world.

Due to the global reach of the platforms, other countries must assert their interests in these debates. This can be done in part through tighter regulation that forces platforms to respect local differences. With its NetzDG (Network Enforcement Act), Germany is a leader in the regulation of hate speech. The UK is also committed to anti-online harm laws. Australia has committed to tighter regulation of digital platforms and social media, and in Canada, the federal government has proposed some reforms and indicated that more are to come.

But we also have to go deeper. Formal multilateral regulation of global platforms by democratic countries would be a start.

American platforms reacted so strongly to the American coup because they are primarily American companies. Platforms have to be just as sensitive to the needs, laws and values ​​of other countries as they are to those of Americans.

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Right Parler app removed from internet after US Capitol riot

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It may be time to wonder whether the global platform model – and the outsourcing of ultimate authority to the United States – makes democratic sense. Domestic control of platforms (private or public), rather than just domestic regulation, may be needed to ensure that the platforms are more responsive to the needs of Canadians. We need to stop looking at the internet and platforms as undifferentiated spaces and think about what a federated internet of interoperable democratic sovereign countries could look like.

Global Finance offers us a model and a warning when it comes to platform governance. Twelve years ago the global financial crisis brought the world economy to its knees. A financial bubble in the US subprime real estate market, carried by a broken US regulatory system, free market ideologues, illegal behavior, and good old-fashioned greed, crashed the US economy and spread across the world.


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Trump condemns “unprecedented attack on freedom of speech” after social media crackdown


Trump condemns “unprecedented attack on freedom of speech” after social media crackdown

In 2008, poor regulation in the United States destroyed the world economy. Millions of people paid the price because US bankers and policy makers had a much higher risk appetite (and criminal misconduct) than any other country.

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Not all countries have been affected by the US. Those who had capital controls across their financial system’s interface with the rest of the world were largely unaffected. Others, like Canada, have also been spared US incompetence due to a well-regulated financial system characterized by the control of our largest domestic financial institutions. If the global financial system consisted of a bank run according to US rules, Canada would not have done so well.

In finance, we have had the opportunity to implement rules that reflect local conditions and risk tolerances. These rules were designed to ensure Canadian control over an important industry. We need to create the same space and control with online platforms and critical internet infrastructure.

Platform governance is too important an issue to be left to the United States alone.

Blayne Haggart is a Senior Fellow and Associate Professor of Political Science at the Center for International Governance Innovation at Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada.

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