The DC PR is grounded on openness and inclusion. Every interested individual and entity is welcome to join the DC PR:

The need for a DC PR

Online platforms, such as social networks and other interactive online services, give rise to transnational “cyber-spaces” where individuals can gather and express their personalities imparting and receiving information and ideas. By reason of their transnational dimension as well as of their private nature, online platforms are regulated through contractual provisions, unilaterally established by the platforms’ providers and enshrined in the platforms’ ToS.

Hence it may be argued that, by regulating the use of information within a specific online platform, ToS undertake a normative function that may be compared to that of the “Law of the Land”. However, differently from the Law of the Land, the contractual provisions delineated in the ToS can be applied in several jurisdictions, thus affecting platform users in spite of their geographical location. Furthermore, the private decisions that may be taken by the platform provider in order to implement the ToS (e.g. removing content which is not compatible with the ToS provisions) are not subject to the constitutional guarantees that frame national jurisdictions.

In addition, it should be noted that the spectrum of rights and remedies that are granted to platform users through the ToS may be difficult to comprehend or even read exhaustively, and similar platforms may be regulated through very different provisions that might be unilaterally modified by platform providers.

For these reasons, it is appropriate to engage in a common multi-stakeholder effort aimed at producing model contractual provisions, which can be incorporated in ToS in order to provide intelligible and solid mechanisms to protect platform-users’ human rights and foster platform providers’ responsibility.

Such an effort has the potential to equip platform users with common and easy-to-grasp tools to guarantee the full enjoyment of their human rights. The absence of binding international rules in this area despite the universal nature of human rights represents a real challenge, which can only be effectively overcome through active participation and cooperation of a variety of stakeholders. Importantly, this multistakeholder effort should be in accordance with the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council together with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights). As a result, the concept of “platform responsibility” aims to stimulate behaviour in line with the principles laid out by the UN Guiding Principles, focusing on the responsibility of private corporations to respect human rights and to grant effective grievance mechanisms.

The ability of users to recognize and reward this type of behaviour creates the potential for a virtuous circle, whereby consumer demand drives the market towards human rights-compliant solutions. Accordingly, the utilisation of model contractual-provisions may prove instrumental to foster trust in online services for content production, use and dissemination, allowing platform-users to directly identify those platforms that ensure the respect of their rights in a responsible manner.

The establishment of the DC PR seems therefore necessary to nurture a multi-stakeholder endeavor aimed at defining the concept of “platform responsibility”, and elaborating model contractual-provisions for various types of online platforms.

An Action Plan

The establishment of the DC PR aims at fostering a cooperative multi-stakeholder effort in order to elaborate concrete and interoperable solutions to protect platform-users’ human rights. To that end, the involved stakeholders will interact via the DC PR mailing list in order to jointly delineate a set of model contractual-provisions, defined as Platform-User Protections (PUPs).

While the long-term objective of the DC is to produce several PUPs in order to ensure the protection of individuals’ rights in a range of contexts, the first exercise of the DC will be a the definition of a set of PUPs focusing on the specific issue of content removal.

The aforementioned goal will be achieved through several steps:

a) An initial meeting, to be held at the 9th IGF, which aimed at elaborating a DC PR roadmap while taking stock of the existent initiatives that may be of interest for the purposes of the DC PR;

b) A consultation period aimed at identifying current best practices, e.g. recognising current contractual provisions/mechanisms utilised by platform providers for content removal and the related remedies to challenge the removal decision;

c) The elaboration of draft PUPs and the circulation of the different draft as Request for Comments on the DC PR mailing-list;

d) Finalisation of PUPs as soon as the “rough consensus” around the most appropriate wording will crystallise;

e) Definition of appropriate PUP labels (similar to those utilised to characterise the various Creative Commons Licenses) to be associated with each PUP. The utilisation of PUP labels is instrumental to signal the inclusion of PUPs in the ToS of selected platform providers, and help Internet users to easily identify the platform-providers who are committed to securing the respect of human rights in a responsible manner.

In recent years, several initiatives have been taken to scrutinise and assess platforms’ ToS, particularly in the context of intermediary liability. For this reason, the first step of the DC PR will be to take stock of the existing initiatives and assess the potential of building upon prior work in this area for the purpose of putting the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework of the Guiding principles into practice.

Such stocktaking exercise is taking place through the DCPR mailing list (http://lists.platformresponsibility.info/listinfo/dcpr), and comments are solicited until 10 October 2014. Further to this compilation, a first general recommendation draft regarding online platforms’ due diligence will be circulated to the mailing list by 30 October. This drafting will be elaborated by the DC PR coordinators in collaboration with any other interested DC PR member. The draft will be open for comments via the DC PR mailing list until 30 November. A second draft will be developed compiling the comments expressed via the mailing-list and shared for comments by 10 December 2014. The final version of the recommendation will be drafted by 30 December 2014.