Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
P18: Goverance
Friday, 20/Oct/2023:
3:30pm - 5:00pm

Session Chair: Tarleton Gillespie
Location: Benton Room (8th floor)

Sonesta Hotel

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Infrastructural Insecurity: Geopolitics in the Standardization of Telecommunications Networks

Niels ten Oever, Christoph Becker

University of Amsterdam - critical infrastructure lab

This paper argues that the production of ‘infrastructural insecurity’ is an inherent part of the standardization of information networks. Infrastructural insecurity is the outcome of an intentional process within infrastructural production, standardization, and maintenance that leaves end-users of the infrastructure vulnerable to attacks that benefit a particular actor. We ground this analysis in an interrogation of the responses to the disclosure of three security vulnerabilities in telecommunications networks, namely (1) a security flaw in Signaling System No. 7 (SS7) that allows for the data interception and surveillance, SMS interception and location tracking by third parties, (2) the lack of encryption of permanent identifiers that allowed for the deployment of rogue base stations, which allowed for man-in-the-middle attacks, resulting in interception of all voice and data traffic in a physical signal vicinity, and (3) the lack of forward secrecy between user-equipment and the home network, which allows for the decryption of current encrypted data stream if credentials were obtained in the past. To research the shaping of communication and infrastructure architectures in the face of insecurities, we develop a novel approach to the study of Internet governance and standard-setting processes that leverages web scraping and computer-assisted document set discovery software tools combined with document analysis. We bring these methods into conversation with theoretical approaches from material media studies, science and technology studies, and critical security studies. This is an important contribution because it asks fundamental questions about the adequacy and legitimacy of standardization processes.

"YouTube Doesn't Care About Creators": How YouTubers Use the Platform to Promote Accountability

CJ Reynolds, Blake Hallinan

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Unsatisfied with the black-boxing of algorithmic governance and platform governance on YouTube more generally, creators have begun to seek accountability through other means, deploying their skills, audiences, and situated knowledge to investigate the platform’s operations. This paper examines a phenomenon we term user-generated accountability, or the use of publicity via content creation to reveal failures, oversights, or harmful policies on a platform. We analyzed 250 videos featuring issues of platform accountability following a grounded theory approach. Our results revealed that most videos calling out the platform took the form of vlogs that were negative in tone towards YouTube, or a mix of negative and positive. YouTube itself was the actor most targeted for accountability, but automated systems, other creators, YouTube employees, and even former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki were all prominently cited. Most complaints were aimed at YouTube’s policies, lack of communication, or perceived bias against creators of certain demographics or who made undesirable types of content. Claims of censorship were also prominent, as were frustrations with YouTube’s appeals process and the cultural disconnect between YouTube users and YouTube corporate. Publicizing problems with the platform in a way that draws attention from audiences, news media, and fellow creators represents one of the most important ways YouTubers can participate in platform governance. Our study outlines the primary methods they use to do so and the reasons that motivate them to engage in user-generated accountability.

Internet governance and moral entrepreneurs

Zachary McDowell1, Katrin Tiidenberg2

1University of Illinois at Chicago, United States of America; 2Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia

A growing body of academic work on internet governance focuses on the “deplatforming of sex,” or the removal and suppression of sexual expression from the internet. Often, this is linked to the 2018 passing of FOSTA/SESTA – much-criticized twin bills that make internet intermediaries liable for content that promotes or facilitates prostitution or sex trafficking. We suggest analyzing both internet governance and the deplatforming of sex in conjunction with long-term agendas of conservative lobbying groups. Specifically, we combine media historiography, policy analysis, and thematic and discourse analysis of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s (NCOSE, formerly Morality in Media) press releases and media texts to show how conservative moral entrepreneurs weaponize ideas of morality, obscenity, and harm in internet governance. We illustrate how NCOSE has, directly and indirectly, interfered in internet governance, first by lobbying for rigorous enforcement of obscenity laws and then for creating internet-specific obscenity laws (which we argue CDA, COPA, and FOSTA/SESTA all were for NCOSE). We show how NCOSE adjusted their rhetoric to first link pornography to addiction and pedophilia and later to trafficking and exploitation; how they took advantage of the #metoo momentum; mastered legal language, and incorporated an explicit anti-internet stance.

Researching under platforms’ gaze: rethinking the challenges of platform governance research

Carolina Are

Centre for Digital Citizens, Northumbria University, United Kingdom

Researching on platforms through platforms poses challenges to researchers, particularly when observing subcultures and content at the margins. Inspired by Massanari’s essay on researching under the “alt-right” gaze, this paper uses autoethnography to address the impact the system of platform governance has on researcher vulnerability in data collection, persona management and results dissemination, particularly for researchers gathering data censored by platforms and for early-career researchers constructing their personae through digital media. My goal is to examine how the intersection of platform power, academic precarity and the creator economy affects early-career researchers and academics. At the heart of this are the questions: How can researchers gather data, disseminate results and establish a professional profile under platforms’ all-encompassing gaze? What does platform governance and its focus on specific areas of control mean for researching content and users at the margins? What risks do platforms themselves pose to researchers’ work? And how does the broader precarity of particularly early-career academic work intersect with the effects of platform power? To this end, this paper starts with personal experiences of censorship in research to define ‘platform’s gaze’ as gendered, raced, heteronormative and puritan surveillance, constructing a social reality where marginalised individuals and dissent are both hyper-visible and vulnerable to harassment and silencing. It continues by discussing the increasing digital labour required by the ‘impact agenda’ and the difficulty of managing a researcher online persona in an age of growing digital censorship, concluding with considerations on activist interventions in the platform governance field.


Ran Ju

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, United States of America

Xiaohongshu (Red), the Chinese biggest lifestyle sharing platform, as a collaborator and partner with China’s national cultural and political project (Wang, 2021), aligns with multiple strategies of governing, shaping and guiding citizens through lifestyle practices. In this article, I propose the term ‘lifestyle governmentality’ to capture Red as a cultural technology of citizenship that directs self-managing subjects toward the desired outcomes sought by the institutions of the official government. This research project combines a systematic document analysis of regulations, notices, and guidelines related to platform governance, discourse analysis of Red's content, with walk-through method, and in-depth interviews with Red influencers (n=12) and users (n=35). I suggest that the inducement offered by Red to facilitate and improve users’ personal life, fulfillment and success through lifestyle sharing is distinctly tied to a hybrid model of governmentality that combines neoliberal and socialist political reasoning about governance, enterprise, and social welfare.

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