Lab Platform Governance, Media and Technology (PGMT)

Session 9: Eugenia Siapera & Elizabeth Farries: CSOs as Platform Governance Actors

Time and Date: April 16, 2024, 3-4 pm (CET)

Civil society organisations (CSOs) have emerged as a key stakeholder/actor in platform governance and digital policy. This presentation looks to examine their role in both theoretical and empirical terms, through focusing on the European context, the DSA and digital rights CSOs. Theoretically, we locate CSOs within the paradigm of neoliberal governance, which aims to limit state power advancing a market-based rationality. Civil society is tasked with pushing against both state and markets, but in doing so ends up upholding the terms of neoliberal governance.

In this context, we ask, how do CSOs participate in platform governance and to what extent can/are they engaged in what Foucault termed ‘counter-conduct’?

Empirically, we make use of a set of in depth interviews with key informants from five leading EU digital rights CSOs, supported by auto-ethnography and document analysis. Our findings indicate that CSOs operate across what we refer to as the ‘reform versus revolution’ continuum. While those closer to the ‘reform’ end aim to make incremental changes to improve platforms, those closer to the ‘revolution’ end take a more radical view aiming to dissolve platforms altogether.

While this structuring division reflects positions that are critical in different ways, pragmatic issues around funding and the hegemonic role of platforms undermine CSOs’ ability to act altogether. Ideological differences, financial precarity, and tensions within the milieu of CSOs involved in platform governance, can undermine their ability to operate, let alone engage in a radical redefinition of the terms under which (platform) governance takes place.

Eugenia Siapera is Professor of Information and Communication Studies and the co-Director of the UCD Centre for Digital Policy (with Elizabeth Farries). Her research interests are in the area of digital and social media, political communication and journalism, technology and social justice, platform governance and hate speech, racism and misogyny. She is currently working on the third edition of her book Understanding New Media and on an edited volume on Cancel Culture (with Paraic Kerrigan and Elizabeth Farries, under contract with Routledge).

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.


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