Earlier this year, Google blogged about how it plans to support smart regulation and policy innovation this year and now the company has delved deeper into smart regulation in its latest public policy blog post. The company believes that fighting illegal content is a major challenge and it is important to determine a legal framework to combat it in a way that doesn’t threaten social values such as freedom of speech, innovation, and diversity.
The search giant says that tackling illegal content is a complex task and although the company has poured in millions of dollars to fight it effectively, it cannot be solved totally. However, per Google, it can be managed and the company is constantly refining its practices to deal with it. One thing pointed out in the blog post is context, which can vary depending on the perspective the audience has and is something of a gray area. So, even though it is a relatively easy process to submit takedown notices, the company only decides which content to pull after ensuring that the removal process isn’t being misused.
Google believes that a smart regulatory framework is needed to take an appropriate approach towards illegal content. The company abides by four key principles that it believes are important constituents of an effective regulatory framework. Firstly, the company terms illegal content as a societal challenge, one which must be tackled by companies, users, and the civil society together. So, for instance, if a flagged content isn’t entirely illegal, legal help could be sought to determine an appropriate course of action.
Secondly, the blog entry emphasizes the importance of rule of law and presses upon the need for clarity regarding what platforms can do to perform their legal responsibilities. Moreover, legal protection is also being sought for Good Samaritan practices such as the voluntary removal of illegal content by platforms. The third principle included in the company’s regulatory framework says that laws governing illegal content must not be rigid and specific, and evolve according to changing technologies. These laws should focus on the underlying problems instead of mandating fixes. Lastly, the company stresses the importance of fairness and transparency while also emphasizing that fairness is a fluid notion.
Google receives a plethora of removal requests each day and some of these pertain to the deletion of legitimate content. Given this quandary, the company has raised concerns about any potential laws that may not take a balanced approach towards content removal. The company has pledged to continue a debate with policy watchdogs, governments, industry and the civil society to contribute to the development of the ecosystem of tools and institutions to address the issue.
The removal of illegal and offensive content is a heated topic in the industry right now. At the beginning of this month, Google had to pay a fine to Russia for its failure to exclude blocked resources from its search engine results. However, Google isn’t the only company being held responsible for content policing, as this is an industry-wide problem. Both Twitter and Facebook have also pledged to take steps to fight misinformation and fake news. There is an increased call for government regulation for news content and it remains to be seen if tech bigwigs and government agencies are able to find a middle ground to tackle misinformation. Tech companies have apparently gotten better at self-regulation with time as a recent European Commission’s (EC) Code of Conduct report has revealed that social media platforms examine 40-percent of flagged content within 24 hours and remove 28-percent of it.