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Regulating Disinformation on Social Media Platforms: A Defence of the Meta-regulatory Framework

Yang Shao-Kai

(2022) 34 SAcLJ 834

Disinformation on social media platforms has become a serious problem in recent years. This article argues that due to addictive design and the gatekeeping power of social media companies, self-regulation is ineffective because it usually devolves into either over-regulation or reluctant regulation. The former is the practice of overblocking, removing all suspicious content with no concern for user rights, while the latter denotes the unwillingness to regulate false content in order to profit from higher user involvement. This article argues that governments can enforce the regulation of disinformation effectively without falling into the trap of over-regulation under a meta-regulatory framework. Meta-regulation has two policy objectives: one is to enforce platforms to regulate disinformation effectively, and the other is to prevent platforms from over-regulating user speech. When platforms regulate disinformation, they need to meet certain substantive and procedural requirements. These obligations can create incentives for platforms to establish effective processes to identify and remove “disinformative” content, as well as provide users procedural protection. Given that disinformation is amplified by the gatekeeping power of platforms, which has created an imbalance between users and platforms, public authority is justified to adopt certain measures, such as a meta-regulatory framework, to protect the fundamental right of users. This article then responds to potential concerns about this framework, such as the increasingly asymmetrical power of platforms over users and the risk of delegating public authority.