RSF: Big Tech, Unchecked, Threatens News Survival

The International Commission on Information and Democracy is calling on Big Tech to commit to promote reliable news and information sources in search and to combat rumors and disinformation across their platforms as they have done specifically in the fight against COVID-19. 

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If not, the commission argues, those companies threaten the survival of news media.  

That came in an open letter signed by commission members, led by co-chairs Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters without Borders (RSF), and Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate. 

It also came on the even of World Press Freedom Day (May 3). 

"You are sometimes rendered dizzy by your power and the phenomena you cause. The digital platforms have had very positive effects on horizontal communication," they wrote. "But the information chaos – attributable to the absence of obligations – threatens democratic life, civil harmony, the survival of news media and everyone’s basic ability to distinguish true from false or to withdraw from the echo chambers surrounding them."  

The letter was directed at Big Tech in general, but to a half dozen of the biggest--Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon--by name. 

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The commission members argue that the those companies have the size and power of parliaments and governments, but without the accountability. 

"You define the framework and rules of the public debate, a role formerly (and normally) assigned to our legislators," they wrote, "but you are not subject to the procedures, checks and balances, and transparency obligations that are imposed on the laws and machinery of democratic states." 

"We are calling on you to take a huge step, in order to contribute to the implementation of a global framework that will enable public debate that is open, tolerant and as honest as possible," they wrote.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.