Research strand 3

Governance of social media and digital services

We investigate the relationship between government, business and society in social media governance. Who is setting the rules of the game in the digital world?

This research strand explores the interaction between government, business, and citizens in the area of governance of social media platforms. Based on qualitative and quantitative methods, we aim to understand problems associated with challenges of social media, such as, for example, false information and online hate speech. We also compare and provide insight on policy solutions aimed at stirring, channelling, managing, and guiding public discourse. More specifically, we are examining three policy solutions:

Content moderation and information control deletes, filters, and blocks harmful or illegal content published on social media. Daniela Stockmann’s forthcoming book, Governing Digital China (Cambridge University Press, co-authored with Ting Luo), argues that the Chinese state engages in a partnership with tech companies in the area of information control on social media and surveillance as part of the social credit system. The commercial nature of these digital participatory spaces also empowers citizens, which has important implications on their trust in the political system. Overall, China’s digital governance solves the digital dilemma by reaping economic benefits of digital technology while also containing challenges to political stability.

In contrast, Europe is following a process-based approach towards social media governance by regulating internal procedures of tech companies with the goal of increasing transparency, public responsibility, and accountability. To increase oversight the Digital Services Act envisions co-production between tech regulatory institutions and researchers. We aim to contribute to successful implementation by providing insights into the design of institutions and by building a relationship based on trust between public administrators and researchers. We also publish based on new information becoming available during policy implementation. In doing so, we narrow the knowledge gap between tech companies and the broader public.

A final approach deals with competition regulation and alternative business models. Joanna Bryson’s work with Helena Malikova, member of the Chief Economist Team of DG COMP at the European Commission, aims to detect market dominance and emerging digital sectors. Daniela Stockmann is engaged in research on alternative business models to the dominant one. Targeted-advertising has been found to significantly contribute to the challenges posed by social media platforms.


Further reading: 

Tech Companies and the Public Interest:, Information, Communication and Society, (2022). Special issue edited by Daniela Stockmann and Lance Bennett.

Implementing Data Access of the Digital Services Act: Collaboration of European Digital Service Coordinators and Researchers in Building Strong Oversight over Social Media Platforms. (2023). Policy Brief by Philipp Darius, Daniela Stockmann et al.

Delegated Regulation on Data Access Provided for the Digital Services Act: Response to the Call for Evidence DG CNECT-CNECT F2 by the European Commission. Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society - The German Internet Institute, (2023). Article by Ulrike Klinger and Jakob Ohme. 

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