4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (III). Content on the internet: regulation or self-regulation?

Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Session III

Round Table
Content on the internet: regulation or self-regulation?

Chairs: Raquel Xalabarder, Law Professor, UOC

Do we want to give up on the freedom we can have now? Do we want self-regulation or we want more education that leads to more commitment?

http://www.iqua.net, Spanish Internet Quality Agency (IQUA) and CEO Derecho.com

More than self-regulation, what it’s happening is that the liability to apply toughest laws if shifted towards the customer/user or the industry (ISPs and/or carriers).

But this has not been a matter of consensus, nor a widening of the range (from tough to soft) of the regulation spectrum.

Over-regulation puts an extra burden to the industry, making it more difficult for the Information Society to develop in a healthy way.

There’s a big room for metadata to play an important role in self-regulation, without being intrusive while providing good information for both the end user, the competition and the regulator.

Amadeu Abril, lawyer

Collective self-regulation seems another mean to name regulation against competition (i.e. my competitors.

Context matters, really matters, the problem being that exactly the same content is a really different thing when the framework changes. So how can self-regulation be effective with such a slippery landscape?

There’s a big difference between what is legal or not — and this is regulated by the laws that apply in the real world — and what is good or not. And this is another debate. And it was addressed in the TV by defining what was appropriate content depending on the time of the day, but cannot be addressed in the Internet, where both time and space are very relative concepts.

Miguel Pérez Subías, President of the Spanish Internet Users Association.

Self-regulation sounds good when at the individual level. But at the collective level, is it self-regulation? Or is is another thing? Can self-regulation be designed for communities? Besides, “compulsory self-regulation” is just regulation.

A second problem with self-regulation is that it seems to go against all moral and ethics we’ve learned in our childhood: wasn’t sharing good?

Yet another problem: there’s no transition taking place from one mindset to another one. Our mindset and our children’s are way too different and the divide between both has no transition. This poses a problem to any kind of regulatory change or, worse, a real challenge to the transmission of values.

Are we talking about the how’s before talking about the why’s? On the other hand, the debate has been focused on the economic sphere, not in the public (good) sphere. And this has caused many contradictions.

Main conflicts: intellectual property rights, security vs. privacy trade-off, control vs. freedom.

Mónica Ariño, OFCOM

If self-regulation is free adoption from the industry of any form of regulation, this does not exist. Co-regulation is what really takes place: as there is no free adoption of any kind of regulation (self-regulation), the private and public sector try and agree a second best.

For self-regulation to be effective, appropriate incentives have to be designed and these incentives have to be aligned with the public interest.

Norms have to be reasonable.

The participation of the customer is key for a better design of a self-regulatory system.

One of the main problems of self-regulation is the shift in who supports the burden of the responsibility to enforce this regulation. Indeed, there’s been some shifting too from what cannot be done, to list what can be done on the Internet, then subverting the whole rule of Law.

Besides protection, and self-regulation, there’s a tremendous work to be done in the digital and media literacy fields.


4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2008)