“We need to establish the rules that will be beneficial for both parties – both Ukraine and Facebook” – the overview of the round table on disinformation and hate speech

On July 2, 2019, the round table “Can Facebook Be Effective in Countering Hate Speech and Disinformation? Transparency of Algorithms and User Interests” took place in the press center of Ukrinform information agency. During the round table, representatives of the Ministry of Information Policy, NGO “Internews Ukraine”, Center for Democracy and Rule of Law, and civil society discussed privacy policy of Facebook, how the social network counters hate speech, and the need for joint agreements between Ukraine and the company that will be beneficial for both parties.

Photo Ukrinform

Vitaliy Moroz, Head of New Media at NGO “Internews Ukraine” said that today users and journalist community don’t quite understand how Facebook works and how transparent it is for users.

“For the past several years, Facebook started communicating with the public and the world more open and started explaining what they do to counter hate speech and disinformation. In addition, Facebook claims that 5% of all profiles on the social network are currently fake. I think that for Ukraine, a country in conflict, we have the war with Russia, hybrid war, the number of such profiles may be much higher,” Vitaliy Moroz thinks.

He also cited Facebook data about 2.1 billion of fake profiles having been deleted at the moment of creation in the fourth quarter of 2018, and 2.2 more — only during the first quarter of 2019.

Photo Ukrinform

Moroz also emphasizes that currently there are many issues with the company in the part of its responsibility to users.

“All of us are interested in free Internet and working Facebook. However, the company must take into account the interests of the users themselves. The prominent example of protection of user interests is the European Union, which introduced new rules on personal data protection (GDPR). They allow for protection of user data and fining for a violation,” the representative of NGO “Internews Ukraine” thinks.

Speaking of Ukraine as a market for Facebook, Vitaliy Moroz says that our country is a minor player, and the number of Ukrainian users in the social network is 13-14 million. However, other small countries such as Belgium learned to influence the company, impose fine, as Italy recently did. However, Ukraine does not have legislation that would allow influencing Facebook, Vitaliy Moroz emphasizes.

In his opinion, this is a question for Ukraine – whether we need such legislation and whether we are protected enough from disinformation.

Dmytro Zolotukhin, deputy minister of information policy, is convinced that Facebook is currently an important information channel that influences the decisions of Ukrainians who rely on the information field that they are in.

“If certain interested parties, politicians have an influence on the method or instrument of communicating information to a user, this means that this way or the other they create a certain reality of this user. Roughly speaking, your Facebook feed defines how you vote in the upcoming parliamentary election,” Zolotukhin thinks.

Photo Ukrinform

He also added that the company is in a way a monopolist in the market. “I generally don’t see a big difference between Mark Zuckerberg and Dmytro Firtash. Firtash has monopolized influence on a certain energy market segment in Ukraine. In the same way, Mark Zuckerberg has monopolized influence on a certain part of communicating information in the entire world,” Dmytro Zolotukhin said.

According to him, taking into account the monopoly of the company, the government has to find an approach to it — come up with game rules, develop mechanisms in the Ukrainian legislation, and apply administrative levers. The Ministry used to have difficulties in communication with Facebook, but after Kateryna Kruk was appointed Public Police Manager for Ukraine, there has been some change, Zolotukhin points out.

“There are two key problems with Facebook policies on content in particular. The first being the lack of reaction to the content that is harmful to Ukraine, meaning that the users who spread hate speech about Ukraine and Ukrainians are not deleted or punished in any way. And another major problem is that content is deleted and Ukrainian users are punished who, in our opinion, should not be punished. For instance, volunteers or Ukrainian journalists,” deputy minister for information policy says.

Ihor Rozkladay, lawyer for Center for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM), explained how to establish a relationship with Facebook, emphasizing that “we should be setting up rules that will be beneficial for both parties — both Ukraine and Facebook.”

Photo Ukrinform

During the discussion, Ihor Rozkladay also said that the company will create the Global Oversight Board.

“Last week, I was in Berlin and took part in the final discussion of the new instrument that Facebook plans to launch this year, Global Oversight Board. It will be an external body consisting of 40 people all over the world. If there is a situation when the letter of standards does not correspond to the spirit of standards, this body will have the power to provide its recommendations to Facebook. It is obviously a very complicated process,” he said, adding that such approach of the company evidences that it has taken a clear course on co-regulation.

Among the key problems related to the creation of the Global Oversight Board, the expert names difficulty finding unbiased experts, creating the list of criteria, as well as ensuring physical security for members of Global Oversight Board when someone is seriously dissatisfied with the decision of the board.

On countering disinformation and hate speech on the Internet, CEDEM lawyer emphasizes that policies should be developed not only by Facebook but also by Ukraine.

“We are not doing our homework. In order for Facebook to do anything, it needs grounds. And there aren’t any in Ukraine. Is there an obligation to display information about owners of the website? No. There is also no control over how money from election funds is spent on Internet advertising. It is obvious that such rules should be created by Ukraine, and not by Facebook,” the expert emphasized.

The video of the round table is available here.

Handouts from the round table are available here

The discussion was organized by Internews Ukraine in cooperation with the Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine. The event was held with the support of The Media Program in Ukraine funded by USAID and implemented by Internews.

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