Amidst worldwide concerns of political meddling and data privacy, earlier this week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for global rules to regulate powerful social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.
Guterres, in a conference on Thursday, said he believes it shouldn’t be a company that has the power to decide whether, for example, then-president Donald Trump’s Twitter account should be closed, as a questioner asked. This was a reaction to Twitter’s censorship of former President Trump’s accounts as a reaction to the Capitol siege that took place in the US on January 6th.
Following suits, Facebook and Instagram also suspended Trump, severing ties with millions of followers with no evidence of the fact that he had “incited violence”. Conservatives accused the companies of censorship and violating the First Amendment’s right to free speech.
Speaking of this unregulated power to censor whoever they want to, Gutteres said, a “mechanism” should be created “in which there is a regulatory framework with rules that allow for that to be done in line with the law. I do not think that we can live in a world where too much power is given to a reduced number of companies.”
Guterres said he is “particularly worried” about the power of social media companies.
He pointed to “the volume of information that is being gathered about each one of us, the lack of control we have about … the data related to ourselves, the fact that that data can be used not only for commercial purposes to sell to advertising companies … but also to change our behavior, and the risks of that to be used also from a political point of view for the control of citizens in countries.”
He added that this “requires a serious discussion” and that is one of the objectives of his “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation” launched last June. The roadmap’s aim is to promote “a safer, more equitable digital world and it calls for action in eight areas including achieving universal connectivity to the Internet by 2030, “promoting trust and security in the digital environment” and “building a more effective architecture for digital cooperation,”
“Digital technology issues are too often low on political agendas,” it says.
Among the roadmap’s provisions is a call for strengthening the Internet Governance Forum, which brings people from various groups in the public and private sector together to discuss public policy issues related to the Internet, “in order to make it more responsive and relevant to current digital issues.”