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Global freedoms and viral harms: The controversy around governance of speech and social media

Poletti, Chiara 2021. Global freedoms and viral harms: The controversy around governance of speech and social media. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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In the study I address the controversy surrounding the governance of speech and social media communications. In less than 15 years, the regulation of content on social media platforms has increasingly taken over public discussions all over the globe. Social media’s charming narrative of ‘liberation technology’ and space of free speech, has progressively switched into the frightening character of ‘threat to democracy’ and space of hate speech and fake information. Whichever idea one might be leaning on, the diffusion and entanglement of social media platforms with every aspect of our society has made content regulation on social media a global public issue. Scholars have stressed how governance of speech has been in the hand of a plurality of actors, in a plurality of settings. In the lack of a single decision-making process, governance initiatives emerge as a reaction to public shocks. In this study, I investigate how public shocks have contributed to regulation initiatives. Using theoretical concepts from Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and critical data studies and the methodological tools from controversy mapping, I have analysed narratives about free speech, technology and governance models on websites and in the UK press from 2015 until 2018. The analysis reveals public bodies have increasingly assigned public policy responsibilities to social media and their technology (algorithms and A.I.). However, they miss considerations about the social implication of this type of governance of speech, which reinforces the structure of organisation of platform economy and algorithmic management of social life. With this study, I hope to contribute to the empirical study of governance of speech as well as presenting a normative reflection on the type of governance. I also include a meta-reflection on the role of researchers, and in particular on how this methodology and theory can expose the paradoxes hidden in the black boxes of technology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 December 2021
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2023 02:35

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