On 27 November 2018, members of the ‘International Grand Committee’ on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ signed the below declaration outlining the principles which should underpin laws governing the internet in order to uphold representative democracy.
The declaration affirms the Parliamentarians’ commitment to the principles of transparency, accountability and the protection of representative democracy in regard to the internet. The declaration will evolve over time as the International Grand Committee meets again and makes further progress on the issues of disinformation and ‘fake news’. The full text of the signed declaration is as follows:
We the undersigned:—
Members of the national Parliaments of: the Argentine Republic; the Kingdom of Belgium; the Federative Republic of Brazil; Canada; the French Republic; Ireland; the Republic of Latvia; the Republic of Singapore; and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Noting that:— the world in which the traditional institutions of democratic government operate is changing at an unprecedented pace; it is an urgent and critical priority for legislatures and governments to ensure that the fundamental rights and safeguards of their citizens are not violated or undermined by the unchecked march of technology; the democratic world order is suffering a crisis of trust from the growth of disinformation, the proliferation of online aggression and hate speech, concerted attacks on our common democratic values of tolerance and respect for the views of others, and the widespread misuse of data belonging to citizens to enable these attempts to sabotage open and democratic processes, including elections.
Affirming that:— representative democracy is too important and too hard-won to be left undefended from online harms, in particular aggressive campaigns of disinformation launched from one country against citizens in another, and the co-ordinated activity of fake accounts using data-targeting methods to try manipulate the information that people see on social media.
Believing that:— it is incumbent on us to create a system of global internet governance that can serve to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of generations to come, based on established codes of conduct for agencies working for nation states, and govern the major international tech platforms which have created the systems that serve online content to billions of users around the world.
In the interests of transparency, accountability and the protection of representative democracy we hereby declare and endorse the following principles:
The internet is global and law relating to it must derive from globally agreed principles;
The deliberate spreading of disinformation and division is a credible threat to the continuation and growth of democracy and a civilising global dialogue;
Global technology firms must recognise their great power and demonstrate their readiness to accept their great responsibility as holders of influence;
Social Media companies should be held liable if they fail to comply with a judicial, statutory or regulatory order to remove harmful and misleading content from their platforms, and should be regulated to ensure they comply with this requirement;
Technology companies must demonstrate their accountability to users by making themselves fully answerable to national legislatures and other organs of representative democracy.
The following Parliamentarians signed the declaration:
The Argentine Republic: Leopoldo Moreau, Chair, Freedom of Expression Commission, Chamber of Deputies
The Kingdom of Belgium: Mrs Nele Lijnen MP, Member of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Communications and Public Enterprises, Parliament of Belgium
The Federative Republic of Brazil: Alessandro Molon, Member of the Chamber of Deputies
Canada: Bob Zimmer, Chair, Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, House of Commons
The French Republic: Catherine Morin-Desailly, Chairwoman, French Senate standing committee on culture, education and media
Ireland: Hildegarde Naughton, Chair, Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, House of the Oireachtas
The Republic of Latvia: Inese Libina-Egnere, Deputy Speaker
The Republic of Singapore: Edwin Tong, Member, Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Damian Collins MP, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee