While as individuals we may not spend time daily considering how digital platforms have changed our lives, the reality is that we have all seen headlines, had discussions, and likely at some point personally considered the role of these platforms on our personal or professional lives. We are living at a time when new technologies have changed life, but as a society we have yet to fully understand or address the potentially far-reaching consequences on the future.

Recently, UNESCO, a branch of the United Nations, published a report titled, “Guidelines for the Governance of Digital Platforms.” This free, open-access guide, available in English, French, Arabic and Russian, is the result of more than 10,000 comments from 134 countries. It aims “to develop consistent responses around the world, and avoid the fragmentation of regulations or approaches that compromise human rights” (p. 6). As described, while these new digital platforms hold tremendous promise, they “all too often become bubbles of isolation, cocoons of misinformation, which sometimes foster conspiracy theories and extreme violence” (p. 6).

The report presents five principles for moving forward:

  1. Platforms conduct human rights due diligence.
  2. Platforms adhere to international human rights standards, including in platform design, content moderation, and content curation.
  3. Platforms are transparent.
  4. Platforms make information and tools available for users.
  5. Platforms are accountable to relevant stakeholders.

The report also includes context-specific provisions related to:

  • Protecting particular subgroups, including “women and girls, users from groups in situations of vulnerability and marginalization, and journalists, artists, human rights defenders, and environmental defenders” (p. 50)
  • Maintaining electoral integrity
  • Responding appropriately during emergencies, armed conflicts and other crises

While each of the principles are written as if the work must be done by the platforms, a read of the report demonstrates that we all have a role to play. For example, the report highlights the importance of addressing media and information literacy as well as cultural diversity — both of which are described as “common responsibilities of all stakeholders” (p. 14).

Check out the full report today.

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