Global Freedom of Expression

“Regulating the Online Public Sphere: From Decentralized Networks to Public Regulation”, a retrospect.

Key Details

  • Region
  • Themes
    Intermediary Liability, Facebook Community Standards, Content-Related Requests and Decisions, Digital Rights

On October 3 & 4, 2022, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression hosted the conference titled: “REGULATING THE ONLINE PUBLIC SPHERE: From Decentralized Networks to Public Regulation”. In this event, a diverse group of panelists, comprised of leading academics, industry experts, and notable activists, gathered to discuss the new challenges that the regulation of the global public sphere pose. The event was held in person with over 50 participants in attendance each day and live-streamed on YouTube, drawing over 2,000 views. The conference webpage, including the agenda, speaker bios and the archived video is available here.

On the first day, the speakers discussed new models of decentralized networks and their importance in the current social media ecosystem. The panelists had the opportunity to debate the advantages of new network models for freedom of expression and reflected on central issues regarding this novel approach. For instance, how would content moderation work in a decentralized network? What can be done differently and how does it affect user experience? Should new regulatory frameworks be different when it comes to decentralized networks?

On the second day, panelists debated and analyzed the different regional approaches to public and private regulation of content moderation on the Internet. Speakers focused mainly on discussing current regulatory frameworks such as the Digital Services Act (DSA) in Europe or the work of Meta’s Oversight Board, to explain and understand the impact of content moderation on public discourse and how it shapes the internet’s architecture.

Feedback on the conference was overwhelmingly positive from a broad range of industry experts. Daphne Keller, Director of Program on Platform Regulation, Stanford Cyber Policy Center Tweeted, “This was the best discussion of interoperability, “middleware,” or “protocols not platforms” I’ve ever been in. hands down. These ideas are *really* important. They might be the best path forward for law makers responding to today’s platform speech pathologies.”

David Kaye, Clinical Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine, and the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (2014- 2020) Tweeted, “Another excellent panel w @Klonick @article19law @McAndrew @ ZoeDarme. And from Rachel Wolbers, Head of Global Engagement at Oversight Board Administration, “Thanks GFoE for putting together such a great conference!”

This conference was made possible thanks to The Future of Free Speech Project, a collaboration between Justitia, Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression, and Aarhus University’s Department of Political Science— with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

The Rapporteurs Rapport below summarizes the panel discussions.