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Regulating online communications: fix the system, not the symptoms

Our digital information ecosystem fails to deliver the communications landscape needed to sustain our democracies. In a compact paper we introduce and disentangle some of the key concepts and issues surrounding the dominant role of platforms and the resulting harms to our freedom of expression.

In a nutshell

Freedom of expression is a human right enshrined in law. It includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, without undue interference or fear of retaliation. It is indispensable for both the development of individuals as well as for the protection and advancement of our democratic societies. It is essential for holding power to account.

Our current communications landscape fails to deliver these opportunities. A few giant corporations dominate the ecosystem, leading to the obstruction of our communications, including that of journalists and civil society, undue control over our public debate, and extremely limited possibilities for market challengers.

Characteristics inherent to these giant platforms and the ecosystem in which they operate, make them nearly immune to political, societal and consumer pressure. Therefore it has proven to be difficult for our correctional mechanisms - self-regulation, the market, policy makers and civil society - to sufficiently address the biggest harms and weed out the most toxic practices.

With this paper, we wish to contribute to shifting the discussion from how we can adapt to these businesses and fix their platforms, towards what a healthy communications landscape looks like in an increasingly digitalized world - and how to get there.


Importantly, this analysis is a living document. And although digital rights organisations are well-placed to inform this discussion, the issue at hand is one that concerns civil society as a whole. If you'd like to contribute to the paper, or engage in future advocacy efforts, please get in touch.

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