Pompous 'International Grand Committee' Signs Useless But Equally Pompous 'Declaration On Principles Of Law Governing The Internet'
from the they're-really-going-all-in-on-this dept
So just a few weeks after a bunch of countries (and companies and organizations) signed onto a weird and mostly empty Paris Call for Trust and Safety in Cyberspace, a group of nine countries — Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore and the UK, have declared themselves the “International Grand Committee on Disinformation and Fake News” and signed onto a Principles of the Law Governing the Internet. If that list of countries sound familiar, that’s because it’s the same list of countries that put on that grandstanding inquisition of Facebook that produced fake news in its own way, by falsely claiming that Facebook had discovered Russians extracting 3 billion data points via its API back in 2014 (it wasn’t Russia, it was Pinterest; it wasn’t 3 billion, it was 6 million; it wasn’t abuse of the API, but using it correctly).
The Declaration makes some grand pronouncements:
Noting that:? the world in which the traditional institutions of democratic government operate is changing at an unprecedented pace; it is an urgent and critical priority for legislatures and governments to ensure that the fundamental rights and safeguards of their citizens are not violated or undermined by the unchecked march of technology; the democratic world order is suffering a crisis of trust from the growth of disinformation, the proliferation of online aggression and hate speech, concerted attacks on our common democratic values of tolerance and respect for the views of others, and the widespread misuse of data belonging to citizens to enable these attempts to sabotage open and democratic processes, including elections.
Affirming that:? representative democracy is too important and too hard-won to be left undefended from online harms, in particular aggressive campaigns of disinformation launched from one country against citizens in another, and the co-ordinated activity of fake accounts using data-targeting methods to try manipulate the information that people see on social media.
Believing that:? it is incumbent on us to create a system of global internet governance that can serve to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of generations to come, based on established codes of conduct for agencies working for nation states, and govern the major international tech platforms which have created the systems that serve online content to billions of users around the world.
Okay. So what does it all mean? Well, here are the details of the “declaration”:
i. The internet is global and law relating to it must derive from globally agreed principles;
ii. The deliberate spreading of disinformation and division is a credible threat to the continuation and growth of democracy and a civilising global dialogue;
iii. Global technology firms must recognise their great power and demonstrate their readiness to accept their great responsibility as holders of influence;
iv. Social Media companies should be held liable if they fail to comply with a judicial, statutory or regulatory order to remove harmful and misleading content from their platforms, and should be regulated to ensure they comply with this requirement;
v. Technology companies must demonstrate their accountability to users by making themselves fully answerable to national legislatures and other organs of representative democracy.
Of course, in the context of the committee who created this Declaration having now been revealed to have created “fake news” itself, this kind comes off pretty… weak. But also, the whole thing is kind of meaningless. The companies do recognize their “power” and have been trying to deal with this issue. Yes, perhaps they didn’t grasp the severity of the issue in the past, but they certainly have more recently. But simple declarations and pronouncements don’t really do anything useful in “solving” those issues. That’s because much of it is a human nature issue, and expecting tech companies to “take responsibility” for human nature is… well… nonsense.