Lab Platform Governance, Media and Technology (PGMT)

Session 8: Sahana Udupa: Platform Governance and Extreme Speech: Three Approaches to Corporate Stonewalling

Time and Date: February 20, 2024, 3-4 pm (CET)

In the ERC-funded AI4Dignity project, we developed a collaborative coding space, which we called “Counterathon” (a marathon to counter hate), to invite AI developers, ethnographers, and factcheckers to an assisted dialogue to assess classification algorithms in hate speech detection and the training datasets involved in creating them. In subsequent publications, we proposed a methodology for combining ethnography with “algorithm auditing” (Sandvig et al., 2014) that can articulate a critique and contribute to policy in an interrelated way (Udupa et al., 2023).

Throughout this process, several challenges emerged in terms of accessing and assessing algorithmic logics that inform Big Tech’s decisions to act on problematic content. Gaining access to data and developing a close understanding of organizational and algorithmic rationale are necessary to develop a sound analysis of platform governance, but researchers are confronted with corporate stonewalling and several hurdles along the way.

In this talk, I will reflect on three approaches that we adopted in partly circumventing as well as foregrounding such hurdles, and what we might still accomplish even when corporates don’t cooperate. I will delve into algorithmic auditing, community partnership and “cruel optimism” (Berlant 2011) around corporate invitations for collaborations.

Sahana Udupa is Professor of Media Anthropology at LMU Munich and founder of the Center for Digital Dignity. Her books include Digital Hate: The Global Conjuncture of Extreme Speech (Indiana University Press); Digital Unsettling: Decoloniality and Dispossession in the Age of Social Media (New York University Press); Making News in Global India: Media, Publics, Politics (Cambridge University Press) and Media as Politics in South Asia (Routledge). She is the recipient of Joan Shorenstein Fellowship at Harvard University, Francqui Chair (Belgium) and European Research Council Grant Awards (Consolidator Grant, 2023; Proof of Concept 2021; Starting Grant, 2017).

About the Series 

This talk is part of the series Behind the Scenes – Conversations on Empirical Platform Governance Research that invites scholars in this field to share their experiences and views, fostering  community exchange about how we can study platform governance in this challenging context. It is hosted by the Lab “Platform Governance, Media, and Technology” (PGMT) at the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI), University of Bremen, and the Centre for Media and Journalism Studies, University of Groningen.


Please register via this form shortly with an email-address for the full series or this event only, so that we can share the meeting link with you.