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11th Hamburg Media Symposium: Can Media Law Promote Social Cohesion?

11th Hamburg Media Symposium: Can Media Law Promote Social Cohesion?

Hamburg, 27.05.2021. The 11th Hamburg Media Symposium took place today under the title "Can Media Law Promote Social Cohesion?” With Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz (Director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut) as moderator, experts discussed the effects of digital media on the structures and dynamics of public communication and the resulting consequences for social cohesion. They also addressed the requirements for digital regulation.

Oliver Radtke, Chairman of the Committee for Media and Creative Industries, welcomed the participants on behalf of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce: "The world has digitised rapidly - the regulatory framework must now adapt to these changes as quickly as possible. It is now a matter of regulating comprehensively for fair competition and for a diverse media landscape. If this succeeds, regulation can fundamentally support the opinion-forming process in a democracy through functioning quality media and a variety of high-quality content on the Internet, and thus promote social cohesion".

Thomas Fuchs, Director of the Media Authority Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein (MA HSH), emphasised the importance of regulating media intermediaries for the social opinion-forming process in his presentation "Mit deutschem Medienrecht gegen Google, Twitter und Co.? [With German Media Law against Google, Twitter and Co.?]". Among other things, he explained the MA HSH's action against the dissemination of illegal content on international platforms, such as Twitter. The MA HSH had succeeded in having Twitter block illegal, in this case pornographic, profiles for German users. The administrative proceedings initiated by the MA HSH under media law were the first of their kind to be successfully pursued to the end against a host provider based abroad.
The proceedings against Google for possible violations of the prohibition of discrimination were also effective: "The new State Treaty on the Media is having an effect. Large international platforms with relevance for the opinion formation process must have their selection decisions reviewed in a media law procedure. That, regardless of the outcome, is a value in itself."

PD Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt from the Research Institute Social Cohesion (FGZ) Sub-Institute Hamburg at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut addressed in his presentation "Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt in Zeiten digitaler Kommunikation [Social Cohesion in Times of Digital Communication]" the question of whether the media logic of social media allows us to expect similar integration services that we traditionally associate with journalistic media public spheres or whether we are rather observing new forms and threats to cohesion as well as to coherence. "Social media are fundamentally changing the structure of the public sphere and follow a different media logic than traditional media. This also has an impact on social cohesion."

Ass. iur. Amélie P. Heldt, maître en droit, also from the Research Institute Social Cohesion (FGZ) Sub-Institute Hamburg at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut, explained in her presentation "Der digitale europäische Markt von morgen: europäische Regeln für die großen Plattformen [Tomorrow's European Digital Market: European Rules for the Major Platforms]" that with its draft Digital Services Act Package, the EU Commission intends to make major platforms more accountable and reduce risks of distorting public opinion. For this purpose, it does not limit itself to the European internal market, but understands this regulatory initiative as a template for other legal systems to ensure comprehensive protection of the public. "The EU legislator has the fundamental rights of EU citizens more in mind than twenty years ago when the predecessor law, the E-Commerce Directive, came into force. It is also more aware of the risks of platforms' business models for society and wants to take a lead at global level."

The Hamburg Media Symposium is a joint event series of the Hamburg Media Authority/Schleswig-Holstein (MA HSH), the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. Today's 11th event took place online for the first time.


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