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10 December 2019 by COMPACT Project

COMPACT Project: Messages from Sofia Symposium “Technology and regulation in a convergent environment. The role of social media and its implications”, 11-12 November 2019, Sofia, Bulgaria


The participants agreed the following common messages to be sent to all stakeholders:
- Users face the complexity of the digital environment and the challenge for policy-makers and regulators is to balance the conduct of different actors. We need a new digital skillset and culture in order to deal with this complexity.

Challenges for legacy media and journalists
- Digital environment opens a number of possibilities for the media to develop new journalistic formats and tools. This includes, e.g. working with large data sets, story visualization, production of multi-media articles, etc. Media and journalists have to acquire new skills ranging from coding, programming, using new fact checking and verification tools to constant learning to safeguard their electronic communication.   
- Digital environment also challenges the traditional media financing models since advertising funds are shifting towards social media and other internet platforms. This development pushes media to the verge of economic existence and in search of a sustainable financing model they become more prone to political or business influence.
- In the new media ecology Public Service Media (PSM) has still a role to play but has to find ‘what people, values and processes’ it should embody.  There is an urgent need for PSM adaptation to the requirements of the digital environment. This goal can be achieved through new strategies, strong leadership and professionally competent and enthusiastic employees that support the evolution of PSM. The improvement of the organizational culture of PSM can make these institutions more agile, entrepreneurial and high technology oriented.

Social media power
- We have already witnessed how powerful social media are when fuelling social discontent and turning it into large-scale protests.
- Present generations are influenced by the social networks and the youngest ones are already Google natives to the most popular platforms.
- A holistic approach is needed to explore how we consume and interact with the social media content and how consumption and interaction vary among different age groups and particularly children.

Regulation of social media threats to personal data and AI
- Social media generate new threats to personal data as well as to personal integrity and dignity. Modernized data protection legislation at the European level seems to fit to the diverse digital rights and freedoms, social and economic challenges. The GDPR is seen globally as a model regulation for privacy and data protection. However, the GDPR has been adopted only very recently. Companies, SMEs and large corporations alike have invested heavily to comply with this legislation. If any loopholes are identified those loopholes and gaps in regulation will have to be addressed on an evidence based model. 
- AI as a process is already reshaping the digital world. There should be general understanding on how data and algorithms work.

Cybersecurity regulation
-     We need to be cautious how we implement cyber security regulation in the digital environment. The world is becoming more connected through the new communication technologies. The Internet is multilayered and in such very complex environment continuous adaptation and holistic approach is the only strategy to protect persons and institutions against cyber threats. Based on the awareness of the different cyber security levels, we should not only be able both to protect and identify when necessary people’s digital identity, but we need an overall understanding of the processes on the net having also in mind the emerging immersive technologies which will pose regulatory challenges. It is also necessary to formulate and implement a set of cyber security standards for the service providers.

Regulation for the future
- What kind of regulation is needed for the future? Various approaches are possible.              
Along with other measures we need to promote self-regulation among media organizations as a remedy to disinformation and other social harms. We also need to build skills among users on how to recognize the fake from the real.  Today education and critical thinking can be far more effective and sustainable than regulation but this is a long process ahead.
- Social media related case law shows that judicial treatment draws heavily on the generic legal frameworks adopted prior to the expansion of social networks. Statutory regulation that specifically targets social media could benefit from a careful assessment of the regulatory potential of the existing legal framework. The role of courts as the final arbiter of any social media dispute should not be neglected.
- The role of Facebook has vastly increased in the last 15 years.  In order to regain users’ trust and address public concerns, Facebook is setting up an independent Oversight Board in full transparency. The platform will make this step to improve content moderation as a part of the Facebook’s commitment for better regulation of content and protection of human rights and data portability. Safeguarding the independence of the Oversight Board is crucial to its future operation.

* Support and disclaimers:
- This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 762128.
- This publication reflects only the author's view and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.