Earlier this month, members of the Electoral Matters Committee travelled to Northern Ireland to participate in a meeting of the Grand International Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’. This committee is comprised of the members of several parliamentary committees around the world, in recognition of the potential global impact that can be caused by disinformation and ‘fake news’. Below is a media release published by the International Grand Committee on 7 November 2019.
Law makers from seven countries have signed a declaration in Dublin to advance international collaboration in the regulation of social media to combat harmful content, hate speech and electoral interference online.
Members of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ signed the agreed principles in Leinster House, this evening at the end of a day long meeting in the Seanad Chamber.
Chair of the International Grand Committee (ICG), Hildegarde Naughton TD said: “The message from the International Grand Committee is clear; self-regulation by global technology firms is not sufficient.
“The principles agreed and signed today are a clear message that the social media landscape needs to change to boost transparency and protect democratic elections. There is a need for full transparency regarding the source, methods of targeting and funding for all on-line political advertising. As the internet is a global network the response to combat harmful content online must be an international collaboration.”
The ICG is a gathering of parliamentarians who meet to discuss the behaviour and regulation of social media platforms. The ICG met for the first time in Westminster at the end of 2019 and in Ottawa in May 2019.
Deputy Naughton signed the declaration along with parliamentarians from six countries: Australia, Finland, Estonia, Singapore, UK and the USA.
Deputy Naughton said: “It has been an honour to chair this meeting of the International Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ in the Seanad Chamber. This is the third meeting of the International Grand Committee and it’s significant that the declaration is signed here in Dublin which is the home to the European headquarters of social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.
“All of our signatories leave here today having agreed to support or introduce legislation in their own parliaments to require disclosure and transparency of online political advertising while at the same time respecting free speech. There is an understanding that free speech also requires transparency of source and adherence to national laws.”
International Grand Committee Members agreed the following set of principles in the interest of advancing international collaboration in the regulation of harmful content, hate speech and electoral interference online:
Online harmful content and disinformation are complex problems which require political and civic collaboration to combat; left unchecked, these problems will undermine our civic space and democratic institutions.
- The work of the International Grand Committee has proven valuable in highlighting the issue of disinformation and desires this work to continue.
- The Committee continues to recognise the conflicting principles that sometimes apply to the regulation of the internet, including the aim to protect freedom of speech, in accordance with national laws, while, at the same time, countering abusive speech and disinformation.
- There is need for full transparency regarding the source, targeting methodology and levels of funding for all online political advertising but such controls should not be interpreted as a blanket ban on advertising relating to the political sphere.
- The Committee believes that global technology firms cannot on their own be responsible in combatting harmful content, hate speech and electoral interference and that self-regulation is insufficient.
- Technology companies should be fully accountable and answerable to national legislatures and other organs of representative democracy.
- The internet is global and accordingly it is vital that an internationally collaborative approach is taken with regard to regulation.
- The Committee recognises the initiatives taken by individual countries and non-governmental organisations in this space, but these require more co-ordination across national boundaries.The Committee therefore recognises the need for a dedicated international space which provides such co-ordination of internet regulations and commit to work with governments and relevant multilateral organisations in the establishment of such governance structures.
Parliamentarians from Australia, Finland, Estonia, Georgia, Singapore, UK and the USA travelled to Dublin to attend the meeting.