Technology companies had the toughest year in terms of scrutiny and scandal. Think Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. This wave of increased monitoring and accountability stemmed from one of the biggest security issues; content monitoring and removal.
What’s the problem?
A lot of governments and policy-makers felt that tech companies have not been living up to their responsibility lately by providing accurate information on how they are conducting their business online and what content is acceptable. I agree. It really looked like the business became the focus and fake news and inappropriate content took over for a while there.
What are the solutions?
In a blog, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, has given 3 ways in which tech policy can evolve in 2019 for efforts addressing illegal and harmful online content:
- Tech companies should have Transparency Reports – these would be helpful in understanding what kind of content governments around the world are looking for. They need to be detailed so the ordinary person can understand them as well.
- He urged tech companies to cultivate best practices for responsible content removals and encourages tech companies, governments and civil society to keep working together to stop exploitation of online services.
- He added that Google has participated in government-overseen systems of accountability like the EU’s Hate Speech Code of Conduct that includes an audit process to monitor how platforms are meeting commitments. The recent EU Code of Practice On Disinformation has multiple tech companies agreed to help researchers study this topic and to engage in regular reporting and assessment of next steps in this fight.
“The scrutiny of lawmakers and others often improves our products and the policies that govern them. It’s sometimes claimed that the internet is an unregulated “wild west,” but that’s just not the case. Many laws and regulations have contributed to the internet’s vitality: competition and consumer protection laws, advertising regulations, and copyright, to name just a few. Existing legal frameworks reflect trade-offs that help everyone reap the benefits of modern technologies, minimize social costs, and respect fundamental rights. As technology evolves, we need to stay attuned to how best to improve those rules.” – Walker
As we move towards a place where more people are getting online everyday adding their own content and sharing what they find, there needs to be better digital literacy programs and education for people to productively use the online space, or be alert enough to distinguish between false or damaging content and report it with haste.
“New tools inevitably affect not just the people and businesses who use them, but also cultures, economies and societies as a whole. We’ve come a long way from our days as a scrappy startup, and with billions of people using our services every day, we recognize the need to confront tough issues regarding technology’s broader impacts.” – Walker
How can tech policy be supported
To support this, lawmakers in every country need to look at their cyber laws and adjust them to move with times. Tech is ever evolving, so the law will have to provide for some new issue as the years go by. It will be a hassle rewriting or adding more clauses but that’s the only way we as users’ digital rights can be sure that we are protected, or that abusers of platforms have no way to escape their digital crimes due to unclear laws.