The internet and social media have empowered societies with enormous opportunities for people to communicate, engage, and learn. The digital world holds potential for marginalized communities, democratizing spaces for communication and opportunities to have diverse voices engage with one another, to be heard and seen. However, these have been gradually eroded over recent decades.
Journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa observed in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, “technology, with its god-like power… has allowed a virus of lies to infect each of us, pitting us against each other, bringing out our fears, anger, hate, and setting the stage for the rise of authoritarians and dictators around the world.” In in fact, the governance and culture on platforms are rules informed by dominant cultural norms.
Meanwhile, across the world, governments are introducing laws to regulate content. According to research by Chatham House and Global Partners Digital, there are at least 56 laws or proposals across 42 jurisdictions that include requirements on how platforms moderate online content. Many of these contain provisions that may deprive individuals of necessary information and validation of identities, contributing to a new layer of exclusion and discrimination.
However, in their approach to regulation, Member States and partners have turned to UNESCO for advice on how best to deal with questions around online content regulation and to ensure genuine accountability for platforms operating in their jurisdiction.
UNESCO is therefore developing its new Guidelines on digital platform regulation, prioritizing inclusion, and encouraging the empowerment of users to access and make decisions about their content engagement.