Self-regulation and ‘hate speech’ on social media platforms

On 5 and 6 March 2018, on the occasion of the European conference on Media Against Hate, ARTICLE 19 has proposed how models of independent media self-regulation could be adapted to address ‘hate speech’ on social media.

International freedom of expression standards allow for different types of regulation of the media, based on the type of media. A model of self-regulation has been the preferred approach to print media. It is considered the least restrictive means available, and the best system for promoting ethical standards in the media. An effective self-regulation mechanism can also reduce pressure on courts and the judiciary. Generally, when a problem is effectively managed through self-regulation, the need for state regulation is eliminated.

ARTICLE 19 therefore proposes exploring a new model of effective self-regulation for social media. This model could include a dedicated “social media council” – inspired by the effective self-regulation models created to promote journalistic ethics and high standards in print media. Effective self-regulation could offer an appropriate framework to address current problems with content moderation by social media companies, including ‘hate speech’, providing it also meets certain conditions of independence, openness to civil society participation, accountability and effectiveness. Such a model could also allow for the adoption of tailored remedies, without the threat of heavy legal sanctions.

The realisation of this model may raise certain practical challenges and problems. However, ARTICLE 19 believes that these should be further debated and explored. In today’s digital societies, people must engage collectively around important issues to concerning the right to freedom of expression and human rights more broadly.

This briefing was produced as part of Media Against Hate, a Europe-wide campaign initiated by the European Federation of Journalists and a coalition of civil society organisations, including the Media Diversity Institute, ARTICLE 19, the Croatian Journalists Association, Community Media Forum Europe, Community Medien Institut and Cospe.

Read the full briefing here.

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