The United Nations (UN) has recommended that the future of the World Wide Web needs to include regulations that protect against violence towards women and girls.
The UN recommends that social networks should proactively monitor and police every profile and post that is made by its users. Under the new scheme, governments would only grant a “license” to those social networks who agree to abide by these strict new rules.
“The respect for and security of girls and women must at all times be front and center,” the report reads, not only for those “producing and providing the content,” but also everyone with any role in shaping the “technical backbone and enabling environment of our digital society.”
How that would actually work, we don’t know; the report is light on concrete, actionable policy. But it repeatedly suggests both that social networks need to opt-in to stronger anti-harassment regimes and that governments need to enforce them proactively.
At one point toward the end of the paper, the U.N. panel concludes that “political and governmental bodies need to use their licensing prerogative” to better protect human and women’s rights, only granting licenses to “those Telecoms and search engines” that “supervise content and its dissemination.”
In other words, the United Nations believes that online platforms should be (a) generally responsible for the actions of their users and (b) specifically responsible for making sure those people aren’t harassers.
Regardless of whether you think those are worthwhile ends, the implications are huge: It’s an attempt to transform the Web from a libertarian free-for-all to some kind of enforced social commons.