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Transatlantic Group Promotes Regime of Online Transparency and Accountability

In a series of online panels, members of the Transatlantic Working Group presented findings from the group’s final report, which proposes a regime of transparency and accountability to curtail online hate speech, extremism, and viral deception without harming freedom of expression.

The June 16, 2020, report “Freedom and Accountability” by the Transatlantic High Level Working Group on Content Moderation Online and Freedom of Expression (TWG), a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, urges the adoption of a flexible regulatory framework for digital platforms, including a redress system for promptly dealing with user complaints.

“Our report is just the beginning of the conversation,” said TWG co-chair Susan Ness, a distinguished fellow of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). “It offers a path forward, a flexible framework to address online harms while making democracy more resilient.”

The group was formed in 2019 to tap the best ideas from both sides of the Atlantic to improve the online environment and avoid conflicting rules that were being developed in different countries.

Members of the Transatlantic Working Group on a Zoom call to discuss their report on transparancy and accountability for digital platforms.
Transatlantic Working Group members on a Zoom call in June.


The lead-off event following release of the report was the June 23, 2020, panel Freedom & Accountability: Moderating Speech Online, sponsored by Aspen Digital, part of the Aspen Institute. The panel, moderated by Vivian Schiller, executive director of Aspen Digital, included Ness and TWG members Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media; Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism; and Eileen Donahoe, executive director of the Stanford Global Digital Policy Incubator.

Jarvis said that transparency is an important first step. “Transparency is the way toward accountability,” he said, because it will provide evidence that can be used in decision-making. With evidence, platforms can be held to account for their promises.

GMF panel on transparency and accountability

On July 1, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a report release webinar to highlight the report’s findings, featuring Ness, who also is a distinguished fellow of the German Marshall Fund; her TWG co-chair, Marietje Schaake, the international policy director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center; and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In addition, TWG members have discussed their work in other online forums and the group’s research has been cited:

The group’s final report, “Freedom and Accountability: A Transatlantic Framework for Moderating Speech Online,” a high level summary of this content, can be found here and its 14 working papers are here.

The Transatlantic Working Group is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands and the Institute for Information Law (IViR), which is affiliated with the Faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam. The TWG is also supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C.