As the harmful effects of disinformation and other online problems on individuals and societies become increasingly apparent, governments are under pressure to act. Initial attempts at self-regulation via mechanisms such as voluntary codes of conduct have not yielded the desired results, leading policymakers to turn increasingly to top-down regulation. This approach is destined to fail.
Disinformation and other online problems are not conventional problems that can be solved individually with traditional regulation. Instead, they are a web of interrelated “wicked” problems — problems that are highly complex, interdependent, and unstable — and can only be mitigated, managed, or minimized, not solved.
Recognizing this wicked web of disinformation and related online problems requires a new mindset, which leads to a different solution set. The most effective strategy to manage wicked problems is co-regulation, a multi-stakeholder approach that requires governments and platforms to increase collaboration among themselves, with each other, and with civil society in a joint effort to balance the benefits of a free and open internet with the need to protect citizens and democratic institutions.