10 May 2019

Between Anarchy and Censorship

Public discourse and the duties of social media

Judit Bayer

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Social media platforms have become powerful enough to cause perceptible effects in societies on a global scale. They facilitate public discussion, and they work with excessive amounts of personal data – both activities affecting human rights and the rule of law. This specific service requires attention from the regulator: according to this paper, a new legal category should be created with clear definitions, and a firm delineation of platforms’ rights and responsibilities. Social media companies should not become responsible for third-party content, as this would lead to over-censorship, but they should have the obligation to create and maintain safe and secure platforms, on which human rights and the rule of law are respected. In particular, they should maintain the transparency and viewpoint-neutrality of their services, as well as protect the personal data of their users. The paper sheds light on the similarities and differences from traditional media, and sets out detailed policy recommendations.

This paper has been prepared as part of the ENGAGE II Fellowship Programme, with support by the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE). The Fellowship Programme involves academic, civil society and think tank actors from Central and Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries. It engages selected fellows in EU-level policy debates on the rule of law in domains such as rights and security, foreign and economic affairs. The programme entails training, study visits, public events and the publication of policy papers. See the penultimate page for more details about the ENGAGE II Fellowship. The programme is coordinated by the CEPS Justice and Home Affairs Unit and includes several CEPS senior research fellows. This publication has been written under the supervision of  Sergio Carrera, Head of CEPS Justice and Home Affairs Unit.

Judit Bayer is Professor of Media Law and International Law at the Budapest Business School, University of Applied Sciences.