The world must look for a better way to deal with online speech than allowing tech oligopolies to take control of fundamental freedoms, the British weekly Economist wrote on Saturday.
The weekly said the decisions made by social media executives after the US Capitol storming to suspend or permanently block US President Donald Trump's Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube accounts were "chaotic." "Legally, private companies can do what they want. Some decisions lacked consistency or proportionality, however. Although Twitter cited + the risk of continued incitement to violence + by Trump, the tweets it pointed to did not exceed the common legal threshold of abuse of the constitutional right to freedom of speech "- assessed in the article, recalling that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still present on Twitter.
"Companies should have focused on individual inflammatory entries. Instead, they blocked people, including the president, pushing extreme voices further away from the mainstream," the weekly stated. He added that the internet infrastructure, including cloud computing services, should be neutral.
The weekly noted that the problem is also the fact that decisions about the presence in social media are made by a few managers who were not elected and cannot be held accountable. "Perhaps their intention is really to protect democracy, but they may also have other, less lofty motives," he concluded and added that some Democrats who enjoyed the suspension of Trump's accounts should consider that it could become "a precedent for silence them in the future. "
As the Economist recalled, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that private companies should not lay down rules on freedom of speech. "Alexei Navalny, a Russian dissident, condemned the + unacceptable act of censorship +. Even Jack Dorsey, Twitter president, called it + a dangerous precedent +," the weekly wrote.
In his opinion, the solution to the problem could be increasing the competitiveness of the industry, which would weaken the position of individual companies. "But as long as the industry is an oligopoly, a different approach is needed" - pointed out the weekly and explained that it should be defined what should be censored. In the US, rules should be based on the constitutional protection of freedom of speech. If companies wish to go further, they should act "transparently and predictably". Difficult cases should be dealt with by independent committees, which give people the right to appeal against decisions.
"More than 80% of Twitter and Facebook users live outside the Americas. In most countries, tech companies should comply with local laws on freedom of speech - say German hate speech laws. In autocracies like Belarus, they should by default follow the standards they follow in America. Again - committees could judge which standards are applicable in a given country "- said the weekly.
"America has to solve its constitutional crisis through a political process, not censorship. And the world must look for a better way to deal with Internet speech than allowing technology oligopolies to take control of fundamental freedoms," concluded the Economist. (PAP)