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States versus social networks. What is the direction of online regulation?


To the displeasure of their operators, social networks are receiving increasing attention from states. Politicians around the world are working to regulate a still relatively young industry. Why do legislators come up with proposals for new restrictions and how do the EU and other countries approach the issue?

There are relatively many reasons for regulation to set new rules for technology giants. In many countries, for example, there are voices calling for Facebook, Google and others to pay publishers to share their news content on their platforms.

A similar law was passed in Australia, which led Facebook's management to block the flow of all media content for several days. Google has even threatened to withdraw from the Australian market altogether. However, the company eventually agreed with the local publishers and legislators.

The Australian case in the world provoked a loud response and inspired, for example, politicians in North America. "Canada is at the forefront of this battle," Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement on Thursday. "We are really among the first countries in the world to plan this," he added, adding that the country would force Mark Zuckerberg's company to pay for news content.

Many politicians are increasingly addressing the issue in the United States, where they are addressing a bill allowing media publishers to collectively negotiate compensation with technology giants. Nevertheless, the local government proposed to Australia in January to abandon the bill due to possible adverse effects.

What about the EU and what is the situation in the Czech Republic?
The European Commission is preparing a reform of the e-commerce directive in 2000, which should set clear conditions for the functioning of technology giants in the EU. Legislative proposals published last December under the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Market Act (DMA) should, inter alia, oblige social network operators to pay for news content. The strengthening of the Copyright Act of 2019 is said to be insufficient in this respect.

"The dominant position of digital platforms in search, social networking and advertising creates a power imbalance," Maltese MEP Alex Saliba told the Financial Times. "I think it will be fair if they pay," he continued.

These proposals should not be put into practice until 2023, however, Google will pay commissions to a number of Czech publishers earlier. They signed an agreement with the company to pay for their content published by Google News. The transaction is to be mediated by the Google News Showcase licensing program, which brings together over 300 European publishers.

Regulation and freedom of speech
Even the two largest parties in the United States, Republicans and Democrats, agree on the need to regulate the power of technology giants. While more liberal politicians see the problem mainly in the possible abuse of the monopoly position of the "Big Tech" society (including Facebook), conservatives emphasize the effort of social networks to censor differing views.

In the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus Jr., a deputy and chairman of the Tricolor movement, probably deals most significantly with the topic of social network regulation. Already at the beginning of 2019, he submitted to the Chamber of Deputies a proposal to punish restrictions on freedom of expression on social networks, which, however, did not pass. The next discussion of this amendment to the Criminal Code should take place on Tuesday, March 2.

The Polish government also talks about the threat to freedom of speech in this context. At the end of last year, the local Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, began work on a bill that would mean the creation of a council for freedom of speech. For example, it could instruct social networks to recover deleted content or unblock an account. However, it is not yet certain whether Ziobr's proposal will be put into practice.

Some of the points mentioned by him partly cover the already mentioned legislative proposals of the European Commission. For example, social network operators should be required to explain to their user why they have removed a shared post, moderate potentially dangerous content, or provide users with access to basic decision-making processes based on a platform that chooses what to display on the network. Failure to comply with the conditions could then lead to fines of up to 6% of the company's annual income.

Source: Reflex

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