10 claims for digital media pluralism

Without media pluralism, there can be no free, democratic society. Guaranteeing it is one of the most important objectives of media law. It falls within the responsibility of the media authorities to implement those objectives in practice.

1. The world is digital. Media pluralism needs to be, too.

The media landscape has changed with the emergence of the Internet. A multitude of information and sources leads to new challenges regarding the findability, credibility and quality of information and its discrimination-free curation. Information intermediaries are emerging as gatekeepers. Factors such as the design of algorithms, the diversity of personal networks, the way people share and engage with digital content and the architecture of digital information intermediaries are influencing media pluralism. To safeguard democracy, we need new normative benchmarks to identify risks and develop measures to defend media pluralism.

2. Let's talk more! A network is needed to (re)invent digital media pluralism.

Media pluralism needs a “plurality dialogue”. To achieve a more profound public knowledge of media pluralism we need an exchange between academia, private stakeholders, governmental institutions, NGOs and the public itself. All these parties play a part in safeguarding plurality and should be involved in creating trustable transparency procedures that are expedient and effective.

3. Hate Speech is a threat to open dialogue. We need to counter it collectively.

In a pluralistic democratic society, all voices must have an equal chance to be heard. Hate speech is often not an opinion, but a criminal offence. In such cases, the state has a responsibility to sanction it. Even if it is not criminal, hate speech is toxic for public discourse. It threatens and humiliates others and diminishes their right to equal participation. Therefore, we need to foster debate and engage society more deeply to counter hate speech with discursive measures. Additionally, we need new means to understand the role of intermediaries in hate speech contexts. In cases where intermediaries delete content for hate speech concerns, independent oversight is necessary to protect freedom of speech.

4. Free and strong journalism is a precondition for democracy. Let's defend it!

Journalism is and will be an indispensable element of a functioning democracy. The Internet and technological innovation offer new opportunities for quality journalism. However, alternative business models and other models of funding must be explored. Together, we need to identify these opportunities and provide room to experiment. A fair framework is required to guarantee the visibility of journalistic content. 

5. We need to find new methods to monitor media pluralism. Academia, are you in?!

New monitoring methods are needed to safeguard citizens’ rights. In the world of big data and algorithmic decision making we are facing a paradox: While opinion formation processes are extremely transparent for intermediaries because of their traceability through data, the public knows less about the actual mechanism of and influences on political opinion formation. This asymmetry of knowledge must be balanced.

6. Better access to data is needed to safeguard media pluralism.

Better access to data and more transparency concerning algorithmic decision making is crucial. The proprietary nature of algorithms and commercial data collections, the protection of trade secrets but also terms of use create barriers for researchers trying to gain access to data. For regulatory institutions to fulfil their duty of monitoring and safeguarding media pluralism towards the public, more and better research must be facilitated. In this, it is essential to balance the interests of companies to protect their trade secrets and data protection on one hand, and the need to access data for regulatory purposes on the other hand.

7. Surveillance endangers freedom of opinion.

State and private surveillance are creating an atmosphere in which citizens may feel subject to ubiquitous observation. Citizens must be able to inform themselves and to draw their own conclusions in a manner that is unobserved and free from manipulation. To avoid the danger of chilling effects, we need safeguards for informational self-determination.

8. Technology is part of the solution. Let's create more diversity by design.

Media pluralism should not only be researched and monitored in retrospect. It must be a design principle acknowledged in the process of creating technologies that recommend and curate media content. The criteria and benchmarks for this approach need to be developed and safeguarded by academia, the media, regulators and technology developers alike.

9. Dear brothers and sisters of the regulatory world, we need to reinvent the way we work.

Regulatory institutions need to reinvent their role for the digital age. Especially in times of change in media ecology, media regulators have the important mission to ensure free access to information and to monitor distribution of opinion power. For this purpose, effective regulatory measures must be implemented. 

10. Let's change the law to safeguard transparency and freedom from discrimination.

The laws that protect media pluralism require an update. New and evidence-based regulatory measures must be developed to address the influence of information intermediaries. We need laws promoting transparency and prohibiting improper discrimination of content. In order to protect media pluralism, the media authorities must be given a clear mandate allowing them to monitor and regulate gatekeepers.

You can download our 10 claims here:


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