In the past 20 years, online platforms have emerged as key social and technical institutions for communication and interactions. The ways in which they govern user activities has tremendous consequences for how our increasingly digital society is organised and how democracy is exercised. Growing controversies around issues such as hate speech and misinformation point to the role and (missing) responsibility of platforms for the regulation of public speech and communication dynamics.
While whistleblowers, scholars and journalists are increasingly highlighting the misbehaviour and failure of platforms in the face of these fundamental challenges, and the issue at stake are high and demand for evidence is high, it is hard to impossible for researchers to do systematic research on platform and their governance: companies are closing down APIs and inhibiting content scraping of their services; organizational processes remain opaque and access to internal insights are granted only to few researchers; policies are constantly changing with little documentation.
The talk highlights these challenges, discusses its implication for (data science) research and identifies future avenues and initiatives. It specifically portrays initiatives that collect data about platforms and share these with the research community, including the Platform Governance Archive (https://pga.hiig.de
). How can we collaboratively build research (data) infrastructures to study systematically platforms and their disconts, and what kind of regulations can help with that?
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Christian Katzenbach is a Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Bremen and Head of the ZeMKI Lab „Platform Governance, Media, and Technology“. Previously, he was head of the research group Internet Policy and Governance and lead researcher of the Research Program „The Evolving Digital Society“ at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin. His multidisciplinary background is in media and communication studies, philosophy, and computer science. In various international projects funded by DFG, European Commission and others, he investigates the formation of platforms and their governance, the discursive and political shaping of „Artificial Intelligence“ (AI) and the increasing automation of communication.
Christian has strong interest in building research structures and networks, both in terms of people and in terms of infrastructure. He was chair of the section Digital Communication in the German Communication Association, and has co-initiated the global Platform Governance Research Network
. Recently, Christian and his team have launched a beta version of the in the above mentioned Platform Governance Archive
, an emerging research data infrastructure that offers longitudinal data sets on platform policies (Facebook's Community Guidelines, YouTube's Terms of Service etc).