Legals

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You might be wondering how media convergence complicates future regulation:

1) When existing media is digitised and distributed differently, it brings the existing rules pertaining to each medium into question. Take TV for example. TV content can be watched on TV, delivered online, and to a mobile. The issue is that the rules for each medium are different and governed by distinct policy areas. Which policy do we apply?

2) Facebook exists in a legal grey area as they consider themselves a ‘platform’ not a ‘publisher’. This means they can’t be held accountable for offensive content published by users.

3) Governments are trying to find a national solution to a global problem. If you ask Attorney-General Robert McClelland, he’ll tell you that copyright reform is challenging because of the speed of technological developments resulting in legislative solutions that often lag behind reality.

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It’s time for legislation to “catch-up.”

CC BY-SA – courtesy of Adnan Islam 

Can we balance a global regulation policy with national laws?

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Image thanks to AJ Cann 

Attribution non-commercial

Facebook is reluctant to remove hate speech due to the US’ constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech under the  First Amendment.

This legislative right is unique to the US and puts them out of step with international legal expectations. This clash has resulted in Facebook (a US company) facilitating hate speech in countries like Australia where such free speech privileges are not constitutionally guaranteed. A little imperialistic, don’t you think?

Check out our #Unbonjuif case study to see how Twitter resolved this tension between free speech and censorship.

Who should be in charge of policing offensive content?

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Who should police the online realm?

Image thanks to Carl Wycoff

Determining what is a breach of policy is often a subjective matter. Facebook admits they “allow attempts at humour or satire” but we need to question who decides what is offensive as opposed to funny and are these guidelines open for public review?

Naturally, when discussing the possibility of regulating the Internet, libertarian arguments arise such as the need for self-moderation and the idea that the truth will emerge through public debate. is this ‘free market’ idea a little too romantic?

The Internet Law Bulletin argues that given the sheer volume of content on Facebook, it’s unrealistic to expect individuals to report and identify every single instance of hate speech. Andre Oboler believes that the argument for free speech is ignorant of the damage inflicted on the victims and fundamentally flawed as the consequences far outweigh the benefits.

Although self-policing the Internet presents itself as democratic, this form of regulation requires legislative reform and additional mechanisms for grievance processes which go beyond the individual complaint system.

The Convergence Review – Realistic?

Social Media Marketing Madness

Image thanks to Social Media House

The Convergence Review clearly favours self-regulation over government intervention. Internet activist Mark Newton insists that Internet regulation needs a global solution. He believes that by framing ‘convergence’ as an Australian media issue which requires an Australian regulatory response, the results of the review will be obsolete by the time they’re published.

Key problems with the Convergence Review as identified by Crawford and Lumby:

  1. The review advocates self-regulation by industry professionals.
  2. Users have limited roles in regulating online hate speech as they are restricted to making complaints. They believe users should have a more active role in the formation of policy and industry practices.

Some thoughts to consider:

Question mark made of puzzle pieces

Image thanks to Horia Varlan

Currently there is no international body with jurisdiction over policy in the global and converged Internet space. We need to question whether it’s preferable to have user regulation, national regulation or global regulation?

  1. Are traditional regulation policies still applicable within a converged online landscape?
  2. Is it time to adopt a fresh approach to regulating the Internet?
  3. Do social media companies like Twitter and Facebook owe a duty to their users to take reasonable steps to discourage online hate, a public wrong against the community?
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