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Are social media contributing to limiting freedom of expression?

Motion for a resolution | Doc. 14184 | 14 October 2016

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU, Norway, EPP/CD ; Ms Sirkka-Liisa ANTTILA, Finland, ALDE ; Ms Doris BARNETT, Germany, SOC ; Ms Elena CENTEMERO, Italy, EPP/CD ; Ms Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN, Norway, SOC ; Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, Latvia, SOC ; Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN, Romania, SOC ; Mr Yves CRUCHTEN, Luxembourg, SOC ; Ms Aleksandra DJUROVIĆ, Serbia, EPP/CD ; Mr Bernd FABRITIUS, Germany, EPP/CD ; Mr Axel E. FISCHER, Germany, EPP/CD ; Mr Jonas GUNNARSSON, Sweden, SOC ; Mr Tore HAGEBAKKEN, Norway, SOC ; Mr Andres HERKEL, Estonia, EPP/CD ; Ms Anette HÜBINGER, Germany, EPP/CD ; Ms Susanna HUOVINEN, Finland, SOC ; Mr Vusal HUSEYNOV, Azerbaijan, EPP/CD ; Mr Michael Aastrup JENSEN, Denmark, ALDE ; Mr Mogens JENSEN, Denmark, SOC ; Ms Kristin Ørmen JOHNSEN, Norway, EPP/CD ; Mr Carles JORDANA, Andorra, ALDE ; Ms Naira KARAPETYAN, Armenia, EPP/CD ; Mr Eduard KÖCK, Austria, EPP/CD ; Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS, Estonia, ALDE ; Ms Yuliya L OVOCHKINA, Ukraine, SOC ; Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Latvia, EPP/CD ; Mr Dirk Van der MAELEN, Belgium, SOC ; Ms Milica MARKOVIĆ, Bosnia and Herzegovina, SOC ; Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER, Switzerland, SOC ; Mr Attila MESTERHÁZY, Hungary, SOC ; Ms Marianne MIKKO, Estonia, SOC ; Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, Hungary, EPP/CD ; Ms Marija OBRADOVIĆ, Serbia, EPP/CD ; Mr Cezar Florin PREDA, Romania, EPP/CD ; Ms Carmen QUINTANILLA, Spain, EPP/CD ; Ms Kerstin RADOMSKI, Germany, EPP/CD ; Ms Mechthild RAWERT, Germany, SOC ; Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, Austria, SOC ; Mr Nico SCHRIJVER, Netherlands, SOC ; Mr Frank SCHWABE, Germany, SOC ; Mr Samad SEYIDOV, Azerbaijan, EC ; Mr Mher SHAHGELDYAN, Armenia, EPP/CD ; Ms Petra De SUTTER, Belgium, SOC ; Mr Manuel TORNARE, Switzerland, SOC ; Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS, Lithuania, EPP/CD ; Mr Nikolaj VILLUMSEN, Denmark, UEL ; Mr Phil WILSON, United Kingdom, SOC

Social media, such as Facebook, have developed from social networking platforms to channels for dissemination of news, information and debates. For many Facebook is the main, if not only, source of news and information. Facebook, and other social media, claim not to have an editorial role and responsibility, yet there are numerous examples of statements and photographs being removed from individual users’ pages.

A recent example is the blocking of the iconic photograph of the “Napalm Girl” from the Vietnam War. Facebook’s zero tolerance of nudity was given as a reason. This is one example which illustrates that Facebook is not distinguishing between actual pornography and iconic historical photos. There are also examples of art and photographs with an educational purpose being removed.

As the leading social media platform Facebook should be given credit for their efforts in combatting child pornography. However, this example, where also written statements criticising Facebook for removing the picture were blocked, gives reason for concern about Facebook’s regard for freedom of expression and their recognition of the responsibility they have as one of the biggest providers of news and information. It shows that the rules and regulations the company bases its decisions on are unclear.

This shows that Facebook’s and other social medias’ role as news providers and the editorial responsibility that this entails should be studied and discussed.

The Parliamentary Assembly should analyse and consider the role of social media when it comes to the basic human right to freedom of expression. The consequences for the rule of law should also be considered.