Abstract: Platform Governance — how platform companies set and enforce standards around their platform’s use, and how others seek to influence or control that process — has in the past five years become a highly contentious global regulatory issue. Countries as varied as Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Austria, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil have developed various public policies that attempt to influence how companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter conduct content moderation, with the firms responding by creating their own institutions for private rulemaking and oversight. The space is moving quickly: in Berlin, the much discussed ‘NetzDG’ is currently being amended, and in Brussels, the new Commission has finally decided to re-open the foundational E-Commerce Directive for discussion as part of its omnibus ‘Digital Services Act.’ What are the key factors driving these changes, and shaping the ability of these actors to successfully impose new rules that can affect the online activity and expression of millions, if not billions?
This talk will discuss what can be learned about these recent developments by deploying a regulatory politics point of view. It outlines recent efforts to map and understand the global landscape of intermediary liability rules, and presents a conceptual toolbox, informed by political science scholarship, that can help us better think about why this landscape looks the way it does, why specific configurations of rules emerge — and what changes we might expect to see next.
Robert Gorwa (@rgorwa) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, and a fellow at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in Berlin. Robert works on platform regulation, content moderation, and other transnational digital policy challenges, with recent work on ‘platform governance’ published in Information, Communication & Society, Internet Policy Review, Big Data & Society, and other leading academic technology policy journals. He has held fellowships and other research positions at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs and Oxford, Stanford University’s Centre for Philanthropy and Civil Society, and the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.
He contributes to the Los Angeles Review of Books and has written for Wired, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and a host of other popular outlets.