The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has reported that, on 27 November 2018, Parliamentarians from across the world signed a declaration on the Principles of the Law Governing the Internet.
The Committee says that the declaration affirms the Parliamentarians’ commitment to the principles of transparency, accountability and the protection of representative democracy in regard to the internet. The declaration will evolve over time as the International Grand Committee meets again and makes further progress on the issues of disinformation and “fake news”.
The declaration notes that “the world in which the traditional institutions of democratic government operate is changing at an unprecedented pace” and that it is “an urgent and critical priority for legislatures and governments to ensure that the fundamental rights and safeguards of their citizens are not violated or undermined by the unchecked march of technology”.
Further, it notes that the democratic world order is “suffering a crisis of trust from the growth of disinformation, the proliferation of online aggression and hate speech, concerted attacks on our common democratic values of tolerance and respect for the views of others, and the widespread misuse of data belonging to citizens to enable these attempts to sabotage open and democratic processes, including elections”.
The Parliamentarians affirm that representative democracy is “too important and too hard-won to be left undefended from online harms”.
Accordingly, the document continues that: “In the interests of transparency, accountability and the protection of representative democracy” the signatories declare and endorse the following principles:
“The internet is global and law relating to it must derive from globally agreed principles;
The deliberate spreading of disinformation and division is a credible threat to the continuation and growth of democracy and a civilising global dialogue;
Global technology firms must recognise their great power and demonstrate their readiness to accept their great responsibility as holders of influence;
Social Media companies should be held liable if they fail to comply with a judicial, statutory or regulatory order to remove harmful and misleading content from their platforms, and should be regulated to ensure they comply with this requirement;
Technology companies must demonstrate their accountability to users by making themselves fully answerable to national legislatures and other organs of representative democracy”.
Parliamentarians from the following countries signed the declaration: Argentina; Belgium; Brazil; Canada; France; Ireland; Latvia; Singapore; and the UK. To read the Select Committee’s announcement on the declaration in full, click here.