Democratic Former Heads of State and Government Call on Technology Companies to Enforce Existing Content Rules for Public Figures

In a joint letter (see below) addressed to technology company representatives, Members of Club de Madrid, democratic former Heads of State and Government, have expressed profound concern over the proliferation of online hate speech and its detrimental impact on democratic values worldwide.

With more than 70 countries set to hold elections this year, including some of the world’s largest democracies, Club de Madrid Members underscores the critical role of digital and social technologies in shaping public discourse. However, the unchecked spread of hate speech by public figures poses a significant threat to democratic processes and social cohesion.

As Carlos Alvarado, a Member of Club de Madrid and former President of Costa Rica, highlighted, “Leaders’ rhetoric on social media has real-world consequences, amplifying division and fear. As democratic former presidents and prime ministers, we are firmly committed to safeguarding democracy in the digital age, one keystroke at a time.”

The letter highlights the alarming trend of countries moving away from democracy and toward authoritarianism, exacerbated by the influence of social media platforms and the manipulation of digital technologies. Recognizing the urgent need for action, Club de Madrid calls on technology companies to take proactive measures to safeguard democracies and electoral integrity, curtailing speech by public figures that incites violence, fuels discrimination and jeopardizes social inclusion, which Club de Madrid calls Shared Societies.

“We bear witness to the erosion of democratic values in the digital era, and are urging urgent action. Hate speech online silences voices, desensitizes societies, and undermines the very fabric of democracy, emboldening authoritarians”, remarked Danilo Türk, President of Club de Madrid and former President of Slovenia.

Former heads of state and government emphasize the importance of enforcing existing content rules and community standards to curb the spread of hate speech, disinformation, and harmful content on digital platforms.

“Let us harness the vast potential of digital technology to deepen and advance democratic values and culture. Let us empower citizens with truth, voice and freedom of expression. Let us ensure that there is no room for fake news, discrimination and spreading of bigotry, fear and hate in the digital space”, said Jigmi Yoser Thinley, Member of Club de Madrid and former Prime Minister of Bhutan. 

Club de Madrid Members underscore the imperative to uphold democratic principles, including freedom of expression and human rights, in the digital space. Also, they call on technology companies to recommit to having the necessary human resources trained and available to review political speech in all languages without relying solely on AI moderation.

The letter concludes with a unified commitment to protecting the principles of democracy and safeguarding the digital space, addressing the pressing issue of online hate speech by political and public figures.