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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchCan Regulation Douse Populism’s Online Fires?

Can Regulation Douse Populism’s Online Fires?

Author: Nikhil Pahwa, 

Affiliation: MediaNama ( campaign)

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place:  January 8, 2021/USA

Type of Literature: Argument

Word Count:  1582


Keywords: Social Networks, Hate Speech, Safe Harbor Provisions, Coordinated Messaging, Disinformation


Contemporary politicians don’t abstain from utilizing bots, fake accounts, and paid users to create fear and to therefore change mindsets. Author Nikhil Pahwa stresses the impact of spreading hate on social media and recommends regulatory measures for both the technology medium and the messenger. In the case of Facebook, Pahwa provides examples where the social media platform is supporting oppressive governments which prosecute minorities and political opposition. Facebook fosters the spreading of bias on the platform, which is changing local and global politics – and its actions are not facing any consequences from either side so far. While there is demand to prohibit hate speech, there is also the necessity to protect platforms which enable public speech. Because it is not possible for humans as well as algorithms to control billions of uploaded contents, the so-called safe harbor provisions guarantee that platforms cannot be held accountable for content that they cannot control with certainty. These provisions allow platforms to enforce their own restrictions and thus, Facebook for example can choose to delete certain content due to violation of its own guidelines. However, the author recommends that there must be transparency on how diverse platforms decide to act, how human moderators deal with content and complaints, how algorithms function, and how the exact chain of command is defined when a decision is needed regarding certain content. Further, the author emphasizes the necessity to take private communications such as WhatsApp into account, since coordinated messaging can lead to coordinated disinformation campaigns and can have the effect to target certain people, be it Muslims, Rohingyas and even enable a group to storm the U.S. Capitol. 

By: Dilek Yücel, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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