martes, junio 29, 2021

Federated Platform Governance: a step forward in multistakeholder, bottom-up platform governance.

Federated Platform Governance: a step forward in multistakeholder, bottom-up platform governance

. Alejandro Pisanty
Facultad de Quimica, UNAM, Cd. Universitaria, Av. Universidad 3000,04510 Ciudad de México, México. 



 I propose to bring together the emerging platform governing and oversight boards in a bottom-up, multistakeholder federation. It will be flexible enough to accommodate each platform’s different rules and allow for cooperation on cross-cutting issues. 

 1. Introduction 

 a. Increasingly, platforms and social media like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are creating bodies like Facebook’s Content Oversight Board and TikTok’s Safety Councils. Some of them are global, like Facebook’s or Twitter’s, whereas in TikTok there are both global and national/regional structures being formed. 

 b. Fertmann and Kettermann further ascribe these Boards or Councils (Platformrätte) a legislative power, which is somewhat inexact. Facebook’s COB is more a judiciary that is now starting to write policies and rules by which Facebook will also abide, but it’s first line of action is to respond to complaints about content that has been removed. 

 c. This paper goes one step further by forecasting and proposing an interaction among these Boards and Councils that acknowledges and partly compensates their democratic deficit, contributes to a better governance, stays In the right Internet-architecture layer, and continues to respect competition and other needs some parties perceive for their regulation. 

 2. Federation and its benefits 

 a. It can be expected that there will be overlapping membership in these Boards or at least their immediate environment. 

 b. The companies are calling for membership in their Boards by convening a community of activists, legal scholars, former judges, and activists in fields like Internet rights, free speech, child protection, and cybercrime, together sometimes with members of a more technical bent. The universe of well-known specialists with a good reputation and sound judgement who are reasonably free of conflict of interest and multicultural is limited and all companies will be dipping into the same broader pool. 

 c. Further, the actual or prospective Board or Council members have built networks by their membership in organizations like the Internet Society, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Association for Computer Machinery, Dynamic Coalitions of the Internet Governance Forum, and many others. They interact in specialized, subject-oriented meetings; in the fora and meetings of their associations local chapters and regional and global meetings; in meetings of the International Telecommunications Union; in meetings convened by trade associations such as the GSMA, AIMX, and others; in intergovernmental meetings to which they provide documents and studies and occasionally attend as part of national or other delegations; and in the Internet Governance Forum and the National and Regional IG meetings. A few more are members of organizations like the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace or Global Forum of Cyber Expertise. Many meet through ICANN and a few more through the IETF, or the OECD. The issue of Artificial Intelligence Ethics has already caused the emergence of maybe a hundred organizations, from high-level like the GPAI to rather local ones. Thus they have a set of issues in mind and principles upon which to act that are not homogeneous but are communicated with each other. 

 d. While the priorities by country, region, or organization may vary widely – witness the approaches to freedom of speech or private data protection between the United States and the European Union for one example – these specialists have a common ground to start upon, acknowledging their differences and aware of each other’s Weltanschauung and respect for their knowledge and experience. 

 e. A loose federation of Boards is likely to emerge informally, if it hasn’t yet, through the natural exchanges of opinion and knowledge of their members. 

 f. While each Board serves a platform in particular, and the importance of different issues varies among them, it is likely that some of these Boards will rely more on specialists in the staff assigned or the members themselves on the pressing issues of free speech, content takedowns, hate speech, deplatforming individuals and organizations, interference in elections, children abuse, person trafficking, the spread of malware and ransomware, bullying, online violence against women and minorities, and others. 

 g. At some point soon if not past, exchanges between platforms will be made in a search for consistency among them. While say Twitter may focus more on free speech and Facebook more on violence, they will not want to diverge widely. Also, naturally the specialists in each Board will communicate at least through vetted, public versions of their decisions, from which also ensues a mutual influence. 

 h. At some point soon it may turn out to be efficient (in a Coase-ian sense and others) to convene a meeting of say child protection members of the Boards and to lay down some ground rules and boundaries. At the very least a no-surprises policy may arise. 

 i. This loose, informal, voluntary, issue-focused, specialized, problem-solviing approach also means that there will not emerge a single overarching body with the intent to rule them all, and thus conserve the plasticity, generativity, and permissionless innovation (but not ungoverned behavior) characteristic of the Internet. 

 3. A modest proposal 

 a. All interested parties should convene a meeting of platform boards and councils in the Internet Governance Forum of 2021 in Kattowice, Poland, and online, to flesh out their possible participations in this proposal. This can be done by the IGF MAG convening a special session or a Main Session Panel, or else during a Dynamic Coalition or similar session. 

 b. The experience of building up ICANN and other multistakeholder mechanisms and organizations should be used for the many valuable lessons learned. It can provide guidance for identifying constituencies, setting up rules for meetings, and evolve into the formulation of consensus policies and organizational design. 

 4. Acknowlegments 

 a. I am thankful to the generous staff of Facebook and the people they convened in the explorations for establishing their Oversight Board (full disclosure: I am not a member nor in any way connected to any of the platforms.) 

 b. I am particularly thankful to Vint Cerf and Paul Twomey for discussions on this issue. 

 5. References 

 a. Fertmann and Kettermann, 

 A new version of this draft will be provided soon, with formatting, references, and other improvements.