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'Attempts of tech companies to combat harmful content are unconvincing'

Online content can be harmful to democracy and the self-regulation approach is no longer adequate, claims Professor Tineke Cleiren in an opinion piece in Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant.

Tineke Cleiren

Besides her position as professor, Cleiren is also a member of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV). As vice president of the AIV’s Human Rights Committee, in the past year she has been involved in considering how the government should deal with harmful online content, such as discrimination, disinformation on coronavirus and elections, and the role of tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and is essential for the democratic rule of law; but not at any price, says Cleiren in her contribution: 'A committee of the US House of Representatives recently published a report on the damage caused by Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook – in part due to their monopoly position. Tech companies and social media constitute a direct threat to democracy, here in the Netherlands as well.'

The Dutch government and parliament are not sufficiently aware of this very real danger, says Cleiren: 'In spite of all the alarming developments in this area, the Dutch internet policy is still one of self-regulation; an approach that is supported by a majority in the Lower House. Since the tech companies and platforms essentially decide themselves on rules, compliance and monitoring, the Dutch authorities are powerless and are failing to safeguard the democratic rule of law.’

Read the full article (in Dutch) in de Volkskrant.

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