Participative Web and User-Created Content: Web 2.0, Wikis and Social Networking is a new publication by the OECD that I just skimmed that looks tremendously interesting. Dealing with the challenges of the rise of user generated content on media such as blogs and social networking sites, the tome deals with the manner in which governments need to adopt to promote such content but also the challenges to legislation and regulatory mechanisms such content pose, in other words, the perennial contest between the freedom of expression and the need to curtail the growth of idea detrimental to society and polity.
The rapid rise of UCC is raising new questions for users, business and policymakers. Digital content policy issues are grouped under six headings: i) enhancing R&D, innovation and technology; ii) developing a competitive, non-discriminatory policy framework; iii) enhancing the infrastructure; iv) shaping business and regulatory environments; v) governments as producers and users of content and vi) better measurement. Governments as producers and users are treated in more detail in separate work. Apart from standard issues such as ensuring wide-spread broadband access and innovation, new questions emerge concerning whether and how governments should support UCC. The maintenance of pro-competitive markets is particularly important with increased commercial activity combined with strong network effects and potential for lock-in. UCC is also testing existing regulatory arrangements and the separation of broadcasting and telecommunications regulations. With the emergence of increasingly advertising-based business models and unsolicited e-mail and marketing messages, rules on advertising will play an important role in the UCC environment (e.g. product placements, advertising to children). In the regulatory environment important questions relate to intellectual property rights and UCC: how to define “fair use” and other copyright exceptions, what are the effects of copyright on new sources of creativity, and how does IPR shape the coexistence of market and non-market creation and distribution of content. In addition, there are questions concerning the copyright liability of UCC platforms hosting potentially unauthorised content, and the impacts of digital rights management. Other issues include: i) how to preserve the freedom of expression made possible by UCC; ii) information and content quality/accuracy and tools to improve these; iii) adult, inappropriate, and illegal content and selfregulatory (e.g. community standards) or technical solutions (e.g. filtering software); iv) safety on the “anonymous” Internet; v) dealing with new issues surrounding privacy and identity theft, vi) monitoring the impacts of intensive Internet use; vii) network security and spam, and viii) regulatory questions dealing with virtual worlds (taxation, competition etc.). Finally, new statistics and indicators are urgently needed to inform policy.
Italy shows us how not to go about addressing the challenge of UCC, yet the challenge of fostering civil conversations online is not insignificant, as many examples from Sri Lanka aptly demonstrate.
What’s interesting in this document are some of the drivers it posits as those that have fostered the rise in UCC. It would be tremendously helpful for agencies such as ICTA to attempt to understand the value of some of the regulatory and legislative frameworks pointed herein to truly foster the greater growth and use of ICTs in Sri Lanka.
Download the full report here.