Social media companies must do more to stop unlawful material and counter disinformation

Social media companies must “rethink” their policies to stop the dissemination of unlawful material and to counter disinformation, according to a report by PACE’s Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media.

Approving a report by José Cepeda (Spain, SOC), the committee called for better fact-checking and content-moderation, identifying inaccurate or false content, warning users about it, and blocking it from being “liked” or “shared” in the most serious cases. Bot-generated content should be excluded from “trends”, and tools developed which give community feedback on the accuracy and quality of content.

For their part, States should fully comply with relevant international obligations concerning freedom of expression and lay down national regulations requiring that social media providers ensure diversity of views and opinions. They should also encourage “audits” of algorithms to ensure they respect data protection principles and encourage a diversity of views.

While social media make a huge positive contribution to society, their misuse are also “triggering numerous harmful consequences” for individuals, institutions and society, the committee pointed out – citing cyber bullying and stalking, hate speech, predatory behaviour online or harassment, as well as disinformation and manipulation of public opinion. It also said “data mining and profiling are phenomena which seem to have gone too far and beyond democratic control”.

The report is due to be debated in due course by the Assembly.