Rebooting the internet: IFLA engages at UNESCO conference exploring platform regulation
01 March 2023
At a major global conference exploring how to update regulation of internet platforms as part of wider efforts to rebuild trust in the internet, Dilara Begum, on behalf of IFLA, highlighted the value of upholding freedom of expression and access to information, and the practical contribution libraries can make to this goal.
In the context of wider discussions about how to ensure that the internet works in a way that supports development, the question of how major platforms are regulated is central.
Such platforms have played a key role in shaping the web we know today, providing options to share ideas and content more rapidly than ever before.
However, this has also brought difficulties, with these same platforms cited as responsible – at least in part – for many problems, from the rapid spread of misinformation and polarisation, to the facilitation of hate speech and crime.
These questions are complicated, not only given the need to safeguard fundamental freedoms, but also because differences in approaches between countries also risk leading to the ‘fragmentation’ of the internet.
UNESCO is looking to address this challenge by preparing guidelines for platform regulation, setting out principles for how platforms themselves should act (in line with human rights), and how governments should act towards them.
A draft of the guidelines was at the heart of a major international conference on Internet for Trust, held at UNESCO on 22-23 February in Paris.
Representatives of the United Nations, national governments, business, the media and civil society met to share perspectives, including powerful inputs from Nobel Peace Prize Winner Maria Ressa, and Brazilian president Lula da Silva. President da Silva in particular highlighted the importance of a right to reliable information.
IFLA Professional Council member Dilara Begum of East-West University, Bangladesh, spoke on a panel focused on the importance of media and information literacy, highlighting the practical contribution that libraries can make.
Drawing on her own experience, she stressed the wider contribution that libraries’ expertise and values can bring to wider discussions about how platforms should operate. This should not be underestimated – libraries for a long time fulfilled many of the roles of today’s platforms, and have developed deep understanding of how to do so.
Building on the insights shared at the Conference, UNESCO is welcoming further comments on its draft Guidelines. IFLA is consulting on these amongst our members, and looks forward to sharing them next week, ahead of the deadline.