The National Communications Commission (NCC) should propose a draft bill on digital communication to ensure that social media platforms have transparent mechanisms to review online content, legislators and media experts said on Tuesday last week.
The call came after the official YouTube channel of the Golden Horse Award-winning Hong Kong documentary Revolution of Our Times (時代革命), which tells the stories of the Hong Kong protests in 2019 and 2020, was shut down for six hours the day before the film’s premiere on Feb. 25, due to an alleged influx of complaints over its content.
The documentary’s official fan page on Facebook was reportedly suppressed and not appearing in searches of the film’s title.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) said that social media companies often claim they have no way of verifying the authenticity of the content on their platforms whenever they are asked to remove disinformation, allowing it to spread on the Internet.
However, they also often block content without disclosing the standards they use, he said.
“We ask social media companies to disclose the standards they use to review content on their platforms,” he said.
The NCC last year unveiled the legal framework of a draft act, which would require Internet service providers to disclose their review procedures, but it did not set a timeline for its completion, he said.
Platform operators have the power to control speech freedom, raising questions of whether politicians or political parties can take advantage of the situation to manipulate public opinion, said National Taipei University of Technology associate professor Christy Chiang (江雅綺), representing the Taiwan Law and Technology Association.
Professional Technology Temple (PTT) founder Ethan Tu’s (杜奕瑾) Facebook page was banned for using a profile cover picture of the Ukrainian national flag, said attorney Huang Di-ying (黃帝穎), representing the Taiwan Forever Association legal reform group.
A US court ruling required Facebook to make public its content review standards and offer users a series of remedial procedures, he said, adding that Taiwan does not yet have such regulations.
“Companies have corporate responsibilities, and the government is obligated to oversee them and ensure that speech freedom is protected,” he said.
Facebook censors speech, as witnessed in the case with the documentary, DPP Legislator Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) said, adding that this fuels social division.
“The soon-to-be-established Department of Digital Development should help rectify these problems, whether preventing the spread of disinformation or making Facebook’s algorithm open and transparent,” he said.
Free speech is important to democracy, and Facebook’s censorship must not exceed domestic laws, DPP Legislator Lin Chu-yin (林楚茵) cited Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as saying, adding that Su has instructed government agencies to make legal revisions soon.
The Fair Trade Commission should support consumers by requiring platforms to disclose their suppression algorithms and not apply them arbitrarily, Lin said.
Facebook has such great power in Taiwan because the country has long allowed overseas digital platforms to benefit from regulations without taking responsibility for their actions, said Shen Jung-chin (沈榮欽), an assistant professor at the School of Administrative Studies of Atkinson Faculty at York University in Canada.
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