Sliding from self-regulation to self-policing: When internet intermediaries are asked to balance rights

EDRI’s recent report “The slide from self-regulation to corporate censorship” addresses one of today’s biggest challenges when it comes to the balancing of our digital rights.

Slide” is the word proper for this step by step process of public and governmental pressure on internet intermediaries. A process that effects our rights gradually with sporadic and uncoordinated self-regulatory initiatives. When pushed to act as at the same time police, judge, jury and executioner, private companies’ will increasingly end up policing our communication in a way that is often much stricter than the actual law. It’s a slide that is gradual and unfortunately largely unnoticed or at least down played in the glorious light of “fighting crime” (any crime). The discussion turns black and white as in a super hero cartoon where good fights evil. Hurray – Batman killed the bad guy with a super hero tech powered lazer canon! (that at the same time blew up half of the city – but hey! the bad guy is gone – or is he?).

In our eagerness for example to protect youth online against physical threats, we often see through fingers with the transgression of under 18’s rights to participate and express themselves freely as well as their rights to privacy. Internet intermediaries are pressured from all sides and inside to protect children against physical harm, which will often result in limitations and surveillance. Ad hoc and uncoordinated initiatives will include heavy monitoring of the content of youth’s communication, because this is the safest answer. Thus, the balance between youth’s social and cultural rights tips on account of protection against physical threats. However the most effective “protection” begins with empowerment of youth via education into/and awareness of the role as digital citizens. And that’s definitely not the easiest answer – but in the long run probably the most effective one.

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Read the EDRI report “The slide form self regulation to corporate censorship”

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