Elon Musk’s intentions regarding the fate of Twitter accounts is fuelling concern about the prospect of increasingly arbitrary decisions. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the billionaire to read the clear and precise recommendations in the latest report from the Forum on Information and Democracy : Accountability regimes for social networks accounts and their users.
By letting his community decide the fate of Donald Trump’s account, it is clear that Twitter’s new strongman has the power to remake his new toy however he sees fit. While the fate of the banned accounts is worrying, the intentions regarding their certification also remain unclear. It was precisely to avoid this that the Forum on Information and Democracy, which was initiated by RSF, published a report in September entitled Accountability regimes for social network accounts and their users. RSF urges Elon Musk and all social media platform owners (as well as legislators around the world) to read this report carefully.
They will find many recommendations by international experts that would help them to – finally – rise to the challenge of their global ambitions. The report points to major needs, such as a declaration of the specific rights and duties of account owners, and a specific status for news media accounts. Platforms currently enjoy complete immunity. They are free to do as they see fit with their users’ accounts on the basis of policies that they alone determine in accordance with their business interests.
“The recommendations in this report are a decisive first step in updating free media systems and reconciling them with a new pro-democratic social media ecology,” said Kjersti Løken Stavrum and Damian Tambini, the chairs of the report’s steering committee. “All countries that seek to guarantee freedom of expression should urgently seek to implement them.”
Ten recommendations for platforms by the working group on accountability regimes for social media accounts and their users – recommendations designed to defend journalism, information and users’ rights:
(1) News media must enjoy a specific status on social media that recognises their special role and assigns them both rights and duties. News media should be identified as such by bodies independent of government.
(2) Media should be informed about changes to content distribution algorithms. If their income has fallen as a result of changes to an algorithm, they must be able to demand financial compensation from the platforms responsible.
(3) A user account must be considered “very influential” when it meets one of the following conditions: it has at least 50,000 followers, it belongs to a person holding political office, or it belongs to a public figure certified as such by platforms.
(4) Social media must regulate the activity of influencers, individuals who make a living from advertising to the followers they have gathered on one or more platforms.
(5) These influencers should be subject to transparency obligations. Their advertising and political communication agreements must be made public in full detail, including the origin of funding.
(6) Public figures who repeatedly violate their obligations could be banned from accessing platforms for a period of up to 10 years.
(7) Social media must create a portal for their users to report all illegal behaviour and content.
(9) Users must be able to challenge a social media’s moderation by means of a fair trial.
(10)) Users must be notified immediately if any of their content has been removed, blocked, demonetised or contextualised by means of a warning message.
This statement was originally published on www.rsf.org on 22 November 2022.