PACE today expressed its concern that a handful of internet intermediaries de facto control online information flows, giving them huge economic and technological power, as well as the possibility to influence people's private and social lives, and shape their opinions and choices.
Internet intermediaries must assume specific responsibilities regarding users’ protection against manipulation, disinformation, harassment, hate speech and any expression which infringes privacy and human dignity, the parliamentarians underlined. In particular, they must be held accountable for the algorithmic systems they develop in the automated production and distribution of information, they added.
In this context, PACE has called on member States to adapt their legislation and practice in line with the Council of Europe's recommendations on the human rights impacts of algorithmic systems and on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries.
The resolution, adopted on the basis of a report by Frédéric Reiss (France, EPP/CD), calls on States to ensure that the concentration of economic and technological power in the hands of a few internet intermediaries can be effectively dealt with via existing regulations. PACE also called on member States to use anti-trust legislation to reduce their dominance in the digital markets.
The legally mandated moderation of online content must provide for the necessary presence of human decision makers, and incorporate safeguards so that freedom of expression is not hampered, the parliamentarians said, while supporting the elaboration of a general framework of internet intermediaries’ ethics, including “the principles of transparency, justice, non-maleficence, responsibility, privacy and rights and freedoms of users”.