Working group on accountability regimes for social network accounts and their usersShifting from immunity regimes to accountability regimes online
The classic law on freedom of expression (with regard to reasonable restrictions such as defamation and insult, hate speech and apology for crimes against humanity) is not adapted to accounts on social networks, because if it allows in principle to rule on content, it does not provide effective guarantees regarding the treatment of the accounts themselves (responsibilities, sanctions, etc.)
The only rules on temporary or permanent suspensions and account visibility were developed by platforms, not by public institutions. Some examples have shown that the moderation of accounts cannot be left to the sole discretion of digital platforms and social networks.
Thus, it is becoming urgent to develop an accountability regimes for social network accounts, based on democratic principles, and implemented by public institutions.
On the occasion of the second Summit for Information and Democracy held on 22 September 2022, the Forum published the report of the working group entitled “Accountability regimes for social networks and users”. Based on more than 80 contributions of international experts, it develops specific accountability regimes for digital platforms and their users.
Accountability of social networks
Platforms must be responsible in proportion to their influence on the public debate. They must have fair and transparent decision process towards their users and provide them internal appeal mechanism. Compliance with decisions from authorities and courts must be without delay.
General accountability regime for users
A general accountability for account holders should fix in the law their rights, duties and application sanctions in case of non-compliance. Acount holders should have access to an appeal mechanism to challenge decisions from platforms towards a judicial authority.
Special regimes for specific users
News media, journalists, influencers, highly influential accounts and group administrators… Given the influence of these categories of users in shaping the public debate, it is necessary to establish special regimes with additional rights and duties for them.
A new governance architecture must be established to ensure the application of these accountability regimes at the national and international levels. It will be necessary to verify the compliance of platforms with the rules decided by democratic institutions.
Kjersti Loken Stavrum
CEO of Tinius Trust and President of PEN Norway
Distinguished Policy Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics
Member of Parliament, appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Tech and the Digital Economy in July 2022
CEO of the Swedish Film Institute since April 2022, Former director of the Swedish Media Council,
Lawyer of the Indian Supreme Court
Olivier de Frouville
Professor of International Law at Paris-Panthéon-Assas University
Timothy Garton Ash
Professor of European Studies at Oxford University
Lawyer specialized in freedom of expression
Director of the Institute for Information, Telecommunications and Media Law at the University of Münster
Legal expert and Director of the think tank Justitia