Fake News in Times of Pandemic and Beyond: An Enquiry into the Rationales for Regulating Information Platforms
Forthcoming in: Klaus Mathis and Avishalom Tor (eds), Law and Economics of the Coronavirus Crisis (Berlin: Springer, 2022)
25 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 24, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic threw our societies in dire times with deep effects on all societal sectors and on our lives. The pandemic was accompanied by another phenomenon also associated with grave consequences – that of the ‘infodemic’. Fake news about the cause, prevention, impact and potential cures for the coronavirus spread on social platforms and other media outlets, and continue to do so. The chapter takes this infodemic as a starting point to exploring the broader phenomenon of online misinformation. The legal analysis in this context focuses on the rationales for regulating Internet platforms as critical information intermediaries in a global networked media space. As Internet platforms do not fall under the category of media companies, they are currently not regulated in most countries. Yet, the pressure to regulate them, also in light of other negative phenomena, such as hate speech proliferation, political disinformation and targeting, has grown in recent years. The regulatory approaches differ, however, across jurisdictions and encompass measures that range from mere self-regulatory codes to more binding interventions. Starting with some insights into the existing technological means for mediating speech online, the power of platforms, and more specifically of their influence on the conditions of freedom of expression, the chapter discusses, in particular, the regulatory initiatives with regard to information platforms in the United States and in the European Union, as embedded in different traditions of free speech protection. The chapter offers an appraisal of the divergent US and EU approaches and contemplates the adequate design of regulatory intervention in the area of online speech in times of infodemic and beyond it.
Keywords: information platforms, platform regulation, EU, US, infodemic, fake news, free speech, intermediaries' liability
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