The government could use regulations such as those in the EU’s proposed digital services act (DSA) to protect users’ rights and freedom of speech on global social media platforms, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday, adding that the regulations would be included in drafting a digital communications act.
The right of Facebook and other large platform operators to keep or remove user comments came under scrutiny after Taiwanese e-commerce business owner Chen Yen-chang (陳延昶), also known as “Mr 486,” was banned from posting comments on Facebook for 30 days after telling Chinese to “go fuck themselves and eat shit,” which Facebook deemed to be hate speech.
Chen’s comment was also subsequently removed.
While noting the vulgarity of his comments, Chen said that Facebook blocked his comments every time they were critical of China.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chu-yin (林楚茵) in the legislative plenary session on Tuesday accused Facebook of recruiting content reviewers from China to censor comments made by Taiwanese Facebook users, as well as employing artificial intelligence technology.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that Taiwan is a free and democratic country, and the government would formulate laws to protect users’ rights on digital platforms.
The commission is still drafting the digital communications act, which is to list responsibilities and obligations of digital platform operators, NCC Vice Chairman and spokesman Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) told the commission’s weekly briefing.
“We will take into consideration the digital services act proposed by the European Commission last year, as well as other similar regulations by other countries before finalizing the bill,” Wong said.
In 2000, the EU adopted the e-Commerce Directive, which contains the conditions under which certain intermediary service providers are exempted from liability for third parties, also known as “safe harbors,” Wong said.
To avoid liability issues, platform operators often remove or block user-generated content as soon as they are notified or if they know that the content is illegal, he said.
The e-Commerce Directive has been accused of causing worrying effects, as platform operators are not required to notify users before taking down content, and users do not have recourse afterward to defend their rights on a platform, he said.
The “notice and take down” mechanism can be abused, with platforms erroneously removing correct information, Wong said.
The digital services act was drafted to right these wrongs, ensuring that platforms disclose guidelines governing the management of user comments, and users are notified and told why their comments are taken down, Wong said.
“The DSA would require platform operators to list comments that they have removed on a separate Web site so that cases could be scrutinized by the public. They would also be asked to periodically produce transparency reports on how they handle user data, as well as disputes stemming from user content,” he said.
The act would also provide users ways to dispute claims, he added.
The commission would require platform operators to hire local residents or work with independent third parties to jointly examine user comments, in addition to using AI technology, Wong said.
The draft of the digital communications act would not address the distribution of advertising revenue between media content providers and platform operators, he said.
The commission, the Ministry of Culture and the Fair Trade Commission are still gathering information on how the advertising revenue of media outlets has been affected by people accessing the outlets’ content on digital platforms.
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