Worried about power of social media companies: UN chief

Guterres does not think 'we can live in a world where too much power is given to a reduced number of companies'
Last Updated 29 January 2021, 12:42 IST

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he is "worried” about the power of social media companies and issues such as the volume of information being gathered about people, lack of control over personal data as well as the risk of data being used politically to "control" citizens requires serious discussion.

Guterres, addressing a press conference Thursday following his informal briefing to the UN Member States on ‘Priorities for 2021’, said he does not think “we can live in a world where too much power is given to a reduced number of companies"

“Well, I think that the question is not the right question, if I may. The right question should be a company, the entity, that has the power decision on these issues, or should we create a mechanism in which there is a regulatory framework with rules that allow for that to be done in line with law? And my clear answer is the second,” Guterres said in response to a question on whether Twitter made the right move in closing down the account of former US President Donald Trump.

"I must say that I'm particularly worried about the power that they already have," he said.

“I mean, the volume of information that is being gathered about each one of us, the lack of control we have about our own... the data related to ourselves, the fact that that data can be used not only for commercial purposes to sell to advertising companies but also to change our behaviour, and the risks of that to be used also from a political point of view for the control of citizens in countries, all this is something that I believe requires a serious discussion," he said.

"And one of the objectives of our road map for digital cooperation is exactly to put these things on the table," he said.

In response to another question on if he believes China is driving an “authoritarian agenda” at the UN, Guterres said in relation to the United Nations, he can guarantee that “we are very strongly committed to make sure that the UN is a beacon of all the values related to peace, security, development, and human rights.”

He underlined that he hopes “we will see a reset in the relations between the United States and China with different dimensions. It is clear that, in human rights, there are two completely different views, and it is clear that, in human rights, there is no scope for an agreement or a common vision.”

(Published 29 January 2021, 12:42 IST)

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