After 20 years of Facebook, time for strong action by Meta to protect the right to information. RSF calls for six urgent measures on Mark Zuckerberg’s platforms

Facebook is celebrating its 20th anniversary on 4 February. The world’s most widely used social media has spawned an online public information arena with no real safeguards against mass disinformation. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the tech giant now called Meta to adopt six urgent measures to protect the right to reliable information on all of its platforms.

Mark Zuckerberg apologised to the US senate on 31 January for the failure of his platforms to protect their young users against harassment. Instead of partial excuses about the many dangers inherent in the lack of platform regulation, RSF calls for strong action by Zuckerberg, especially to protect his users and to safeguard their right to reliable information. RSF urges him to support trustworthy, quality journalism, to combat the circulation of deepfakes that are unidentifiable as such, and to regulate the status of influencers.

“The success story of Facebook's impressive growth hides another story: that of the decline of quality news content on Meta’s platforms. The elimination of Facebook News and the ban on media content in Canada are symptomatic of the company’s negative policies with regard to the right to news and information. Meta’s policy is clear: Journalists can get lost! Engaged in a race for unlimited profits, Mark Zuckerberg's company neglects the fact that billions of individuals now depend on its services to get their news and to form a picture of the world. We ask Meta to act responsibly by protecting the right to information on its platforms.”

 Vincent Berthier

Head of RSF’s Tech Desk

Zuckerberg has become one of the world’s richest men thanks to the social media he created 20 years ago in his college dorm, or so the story goes. But this idyllic tale of the brilliant entrepreneur is, in RSF’s eyes, the story of how digital capitalism has stolen the right to news and information, and democracies. Because Meta wields such vast control over the online public information arena, it must undertake to protect the right to information by adopting the following six RSF recommendations:

Support trustworthy, quality journalism on its platforms:

  • Promote reliable, pluralistic news sources in its content curation algorithms: Curation algorithms must pay attention to the reliability of content producers and must promote those that are reliable. To this end, Meta should use the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), a European self-regulatory standard compiled by media professionals and experts from all over the world who were brought together by RSF. It certifies media that adhere to trustworthy journalism standards.

  • Enhance the visibility of journalists who use Meta’s platforms as their reporting outlets: Many journalists publish their content on Meta’s platforms. These content creators should be supported in various ways including greater visibility for the news stories they cover on the platforms, by means of partnerships, publicity and algorithmic promotion.

Regulate influencers, these social media users who are more visible that many news media outlets:

  • Assign a status to influencers: In view of the considerable impact of “influencers” in the attention economy, a user account should be considered highly influential if it has at least 50,000 followers or is linked to an individual holding political office or a public figure who has obtained certification from the platforms. Influencers in this category must be subject to a code of conduct and specific obligations, including transparency about their remuneration or political affiliations, as appropriate.

  • Regulate virtual influencers generated by artificial intelligence: Their training databases must consist of reliable content and the instructions given to chatbots must include safeguards to prevent them from producing false information.

Combat the circulation of deepfakes, a poison for democracies:

  • Use authentication standards with synthetic images: Given the role of large platforms in the circulation of news and information, it is essential that they should be technically capable of distinguishing deepfakes from authentic content, including photographic, video and audio content.

  • Promote the circulation of authentic content during elections: When citizens are called upon to vote, access to reliable information is particularly necessary because of the observed increase in disinformation online. Content identified as authentic must be given priority in algorithms responsible for political and general news during electoral periods, in order to minimise the risks of disinformation by means of content created by artificial intelligence.  
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Updated on 02.02.2024