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Regulating hate speech and disinformation on social media platforms


In an online CIVICA workshop organised by the Hertie School, participants discussed solutions for internet regulation as part of the EU’s planned Digital Services Act.

The spread of hate speech and false information on the internet poses a growing threat to the collective public interest, as disruptive actors aim to undermine honest and respectful public discourse. How to address challenges that social media poses for democracy was the subject of an international online workshop on 2-3 July 2020, organised by the Hertie School in the framework of CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences.  

Participants from the CIVICA network as well as other institutions in Europe and in North America examined issues and solutions for platform regulation. The workshop, “Tech Companies and the Public Interest – Comparing European and North-American Models for Regulating Social Media Platforms,“ was linked to the public consultation process taking place until 8 September for the European Commission’s planned Digital Services Act. 

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is leading an initiative to strengthen regulatory oversight and coordination among the current system of national and local institutions governing digital media. The idea is to create a single European “digital media observatory.” But how this would work in practice remains unclear. Also unclear is how harmful content would be regulated – whether through blocking content, increasing transparency, or changing business models among platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 

The eighteen workshop participants presented papers and discussed topics such as new technological solutions, increasing transparency and oversight of platforms, breaking up companies, and other ways to reform tech companies.

Daniela Stockmann, Professor of Digital Governance at the Hertie School and the school’s Centre for Digital Governance co-organised the workshop with Lance Bennett (University of Washington), Alan Borning (University of Washington) and Volker Wulf (University of Siegen). 

The workshop took place in the framework of CIVICA and was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Read more about work being done to inform the Digital Services Act at the Hertie School on


Written by Ellen Thalman (Hertie School)


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