Many governments around the world are increasingly concerned about the growing power and influence of technology companies, but none of them seem to be taking action the same way as Europe.
However, some wonder whether European regulations are excessive in its attempt to check the power of these corporations, as reported by The New York Times on May 6, 2019. The continent has been more active than others in regulating Internet platforms in general, and many are questioning whether Europe is indeed making the right moves.
The New Battleground
One of the issues when it comes to “policing” the Internet is that there are unintended consequences that are not always clear at the forefront. There are some that believe that Europe is essentially censoring free speech as a result of some of the actions it has taken.
David Kaye, a law professor, currently appointed by the United Nations to examine how government restricts free speech, believes that overall “freedom of expression” is less protected as a result of these actions. Great Britain, for instance, recently proposed new powers to remove “harmful” content, although many are still unclear about the exact definition of “harmful.”
Of course, on the other side, some individuals believe that certain hateful content, including terrorist-related material, have to be taken off the Internet as soon as possible.
A European Commissioner by the name of Dimitris Avramopolous believes that in these situations, governments should interfere. “The new battleground is the Internet,” he states.
Some human rights groups insist that the removal of content normalizes the kind of censorship that prevents overall internet freedom. Julie Owono, executive director of Internet Without Borders, a group that tracks and monitors internet freedom in countries around the world, points out that this content is often removed in a manner that seems random. She points out:
“Freedom of expression relies solely on the possibility your content won’t be suppressed arbitrarily.”
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, one of the most popular social media companies in the world, hinted that some guidance would be appreciated. He told Congress recently:
“It would be useful to spell out clearly what the responsibilities that we want companies and people and governments to have.”
Jimmy Wales, the American entrepreneur that helped found Wikipedia, the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet, also raises the question of different regulations from country to country and the issues that arise.
“Unlike a global resource where we’re sharing information and knowledge, we end up with something severely crippled,” he said.