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Open Internet more at risk now than ever before: Twitter

The Open Internet is not something to be taken for granted


Amid raging debate globally over social media regulation and controls, microblogging platform Twitter on Tuesday cautioned that 'Open Internet' is more at risk now than ever before, and asserted the need for coordinated, multi-stakeholder strategy to defend free, secure, and global open internet.

In its position paper on 'Protecting the Open Internet', Twitter said governments that seek to defend and expand online freedom cannot stand by while other countries seek to silence critics, censor journalists, and block access to information.

"The harassment of employees of service providers is a worrying norm, accelerated by proposals to require local staff to be liable for decisions rather than the corporate entity," Twitter said.

The Open Internet is more at risk now than ever before, the paper concluded.

"...the targeting of independent journalists and activists highlights the willingness of some states and actors to use digital policy and manipulation to control political debate," it said.

The paper went on to say that as the control of digital infrastructure is increasingly a focus of geopolitical action, these issues cannot be viewed in isolation.

"It is essential that there is a coordinated, multi-stakeholder strategy to respond to these threats and defend the free, secure, and global Open Internet," it added.

The Open Internet is not something to be taken for granted; and in the coming years, decisions will be made that define its future, Twitter observed.

"The risk that the rhetoric of policy and language of law will be co-opted and weaponised by those seeking to usher in an age of techno-nationalism is real," Twitter said.

In the paper, Twitter outlined five guiding principles for regulation.

"The Open Internet is global, should be available to all, and should be built on open standards and the protection of human rights," Twitter said.

Trust, it noted, is essential and can be built with transparency, procedural fairness, and privacy protections.

"Recommendation and ranking algorithms should be subject to human choice and control," Twitter said.

It contended that competition, choice and innovation are foundations of the Open Internet and should be protected and expanded, "ensuring incumbents are not entrenched by laws and regulations".

"Content moderation is more than just leave up or take down. Regulation should allow for a range of interventions, while setting clear definitions for categories of content," Twitter said.

The US-based company has faced flak in the past for various actions taken on tweets and accounts of high-profile users and delay in compliance with India's new IT rules in the immediate aftermath of notification of the said norms earlier this year.

Under the new rules, social media companies are required to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for nudity, pornography etc. The new rules are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal.

"As has been noted by a range of voices, the combination of significant administrative penalties for individual pieces of content and expected removal in short time periods whether one hour or 24 hours creates a significant corporate incentive to over-remove content, particularly in edge cases," Twitter said.

It more acutely impacts small companies and new services who have more limited resources to litigate or pay fines, the social media platform said.

These frameworks must be underpinned with strong, independent processes and free from political interference while allowing for civil society participation, Twitter's paper said.