UNESCO’s work to establish guidelines for the regulation of digital platforms are likely to set a new standard for the way the internet is governed. Following our submission on the 2nd version of this, we have now commented on the 3rd, highlighting the importance of libraries and our values.

The Guidelines come at a time of many different initiatives at the national and regional level to regulate internet platforms.

While these have played a key role in shaping the internet we know today and delivering on its potential, their operation also clearly raises significant questions that need to be addressed. Worries about their transparency, the risks of accelerating the spread of misinformation, and broader role in determining freedom of access to information and freedom of expression.

As was the case previously, the Guidelines represent a positive step in ensuring that these freedoms remain the starting point for any consideration of regulation. This stands in contrast to the efforts by some to regulate in way that reduced freedoms.

The latest version reflects a number of the issues that IFLA previously highlighted. These include references to libraries as stakeholders, to ensuring that research and education repositories are not in scope, and to ensure transparency about the work of platforms themselves in promoting media and information literacy.

However, further improvements would help bring the Guidelines closer to what libraries need. These are reflected in IFLA’s contributions, notably:

  • Stronger references to the role of libraries at all stages of planning and delivery of media and information literacy programming, and better coordination of platform based efforts with those led by schools and libraries
  • Stronger international coordination of regulatory efforts, in order to avoid unnecessary inconsistencies that lead to internet fragmentation
  • Better information for users not just about what data is collected, but also on how it is used
  • Ensuring that filters and other policies used by platforms do not lead to undue restrictions on freedom of speech, or the destruction of materials that could help support research or prosecution of crimes such as terrorism or hate crime

We look forward to seeing the final edition of the Guidelines in the coming months.