Towards a global approach to digital platform regulation

Preserving openness amid the push for internet sovereignty
Research paper ISBN: 978 1 78413 593 5 DOI: 10.55317/9781784135935
A man stands holding his mobile phone, in front of a mural drawn in black and white of people walking and using mobile devices.

After decades of reluctance, governments around the world are moving to regulate, and more actively direct, digital platforms in an effort to tackle perceived harms and to strengthen state oversight and control. Digital sovereignty is emerging as a critical goal of government policy, but the agenda is complicated by national security considerations, the influence of tech companies and domestic politics.

There is significant diversity among countries in their approaches to platform regulation, with no clearly established norms or best practice. Multilateral organizations are not providing sufficient leadership at the international level. The major digital centres of power – Brussels, Beijing, London and Washington – are pursuing vastly different regulatory models. In the absence of new approaches to global governance, a jurisdictional, fragmented ‘Venn diagram’ of national internets could emerge, undermining the promise and benefits of openness.

This research paper is produced in partnership by Chatham House and Global Partners Digital, a social purpose company working at the intersection of human rights and digital technologies, including platform regulation. The paper defines and details a set of current trends in platform regulation, outlines possible pathways for the future, and shows how, despite being overlooked by some in the tech industry, human rights provide a well-established and compelling framework that could contribute to a global regulatory approach. It concludes with recommendations on how policymakers can make progress towards alignment and preserve an open, global internet.