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Internet intermediaries should ensure a ‘free and pluralistic flow of information online which is respectful of human rights’

Internet intermediaries “should assume specific responsibilities based on international standards and national legislation regarding users’ protection” against manipulation, disinformation, harassment, hate speech and any expression which infringes privacy and human dignity, PACE’s Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media said today.

Following the proposals by the rapporteur, Frédéric Reiss (France, PPE/DC), the committee unanimously adopted a draft resolution that calls on member States to bring their legislation and practice into line with Council of Europe recommendations on the human rights impacts of algorithmic systems and on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries.

Council of Europe member States, the adopted text says, should consider whether the concentration of economic and technological power in the hands of a few internet intermediaries “can be properly dealt with via general and already existing competition regulations and tools”. Anti-trust legislation should be used “to force monopolies to divest a part of their assets” and reduce their dominance in digital markets.

Legally mandated content moderation should provide for the necessary presence of human decision-makers and incorporate sufficient safeguards so that “freedom of expression is not hampered”, the parliamentarians said, and expressed support for the elaboration of a general framework of internet intermediaries’ ethics, including the principles of “transparency, justice, non-maleficence, responsibility, privacy, rights and freedoms of users”.