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Twitter releases principles for regulators to counter the ‘age of techno-nationalism’

Twitter’s new policy recommendations nudge governments to ditch the rhetoric when it comes to platform regulation.

“The risk that the rhetoric of policy and language of law will be co-opted and weaponised by those seeking to usher in an age of techno-nationalism is real,” Twitter said in a paper on how regulators can protect the open internet released on October 12.

In the paper, the social media platform takes a clear stance against data sovereignty, internet shutdowns, and intermediary liability. It outlines several policy recommendations in key areas including openness, transparency, and content moderation.

Over the past year, Twitter has been involved in a tussle with the Indian government over the IT Rules 2021. This paper can be seen as part of a larger effort by Twitter to nudge governments against using internet regulation to further nationalistic interests.

Twitter’s 5 Principles for Internet Regulation

Principles for regulating internet platforms in the paper include themes of openness, transparency, human oversight, competition, and content moderation.

1. Openness: “A foundational goal of all digital policy should be to protect the global, free, and secure Open Internet,” the paper said. Here are the main recommendations under this theme:

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  1. Governments should defend the open internet through policies and regulations.
  2. Throttling or blocking of the internet must be resisted.
  3. Rhetoric around national data sovereignty must be avoided and scrutinised.
  4. The approach to address online harms must be in line with human rights including privacy and freedom of expression.

2. Trust, transparency, and privacy: “Transparency enables accountability for companies and Governments.” the paper said. Here’s how regulators can inspire trust, according to Twitter:

  1. Regulations should enhance transparency by facilitating data access to academics and researchers.
  2. Governments should set clear harmonised standards for safeguarding and processing personal data
  3. Access to the internet must not be dependent on identity verification or detailed personal information

3. Human control over algorithms: The paper emphasises the need for users to have control over algorithms and exercise choice between algorithms:

  1. People should have the ability to control whether algorithms are shaping their experience.
  2. Requirements for algorithmic transparency need to go beyond focusing on source codes.

4. Protection of competition: “A less competitive internet trends towards a less open internet,” Twitter says. Here’s how Twitter believes regulators should preserve competition:

  1. Strong net neutrality protections need to be put in place.
  2. Intermediary liability protection facilitates competition and is critical to the open internet.
  3. Policymakers should avoid mandating technical means of implementation
  4. Regulators should provide a legal framework to promote the sharing of content moderation technology

5. Interventions in content moderation: Twitter argues that regulators need to look beyond content takedowns for nuanced content moderation. Here are the key suggestions under this umbrella:

  1. Regulation should set clear standards for the types of content they seek to address.
  2. Regulatory debate needs to move beyond takedowns, exploring options like giving additional context or de-amplification.
  3. Penalties for removal within strict timelines creates a corporate incentive to over-remove content.

A timeline of clashes between Twitter and the Indian government

While concluding the paper, Twitter refers to some concerning regulatory developments:

The harassment of employees of service providers is a worrying norm, accelerated by proposals to require local staff to be liable for decisions rather than the corporate entity. (emphasis added)

Notably, Twitter has been involved in a tussle with the Indian government over appointing a grievance redressal officer based in India who would be personally liable for Twitter’s failure to comply with regulations under the IT Rules 2021. Here is the timeline of developments in the issue:

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