Academic Studies

This resource section has leant heavily on the "Platform companies and news media" section of the reading list curated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

Political Communication – DANIEL KREISS & SHANNON C. MCGREGOR

The question of how Facebook and Google make and justify decisions regarding permissible political advertising on their platforms is increasingly important. In this paper, we focus on the U.S. case and present findings from interviews with 17 former social media firm employees (n = 7) and political practitioners (n = 11). We also analyze emails (n = 45) exchanged between Facebook government and elections staffers and two campaigns, a U.S. gubernatorial (2017) and presidential campaign (2016), regarding the platform’s policies in the context of paid speech. In addressing questions about Facebook’s and Google’s processes and policies regarding paid political content, the rationales for them, and the ability of campaigns to contest decisions, this study shows how while Facebook and Google resist being arbiters of political discourse, they actively vet paid content on their platforms. These platforms differ with respect to how and what decisions they make in the context of paid speech and within each company there are active and ongoing debates among staffers about speech. These debates at times take place in consultation with political practitioners and often occur in the context of external events. Across these firms, policies regarding speech evolve through these internal debates, appeals by practitioners, and outside pressure. At the same time, both Facebook and Google make decisions in often opaque ways, according to policies that are not transparent, and without clear justifications to campaigns or the public as to how they are applied or enforced. This limits options for political practitioners to contest regulation decisions. Finally, we conclude by arguing for the need for expanded capacities for political practitioners and the public to exercise voice around the content decisions that these firms make, and for firms to create more robust institutional mechanisms for incorporating it.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press – ROBERT GORWA & TIMOTHY GARTON ASH (Edited by JOSHUA A. TUCKER & NATHANIEL PERSILY)

Over the last five years, widespread concern about the effects of social media on democracy has led to an explosion in research from different disciplines and corners of academia. This book is the first of its kind to take stock of this emerging multi-disciplinary field by synthesizing what we know, identifying what we do not know and obstacles to future research, and charting a course for the future inquiry. Chapters by leading scholars cover major topics – from disinformation to hate speech to political advertising – and situate recent developments in the context of key policy questions. In addition, the book canvasses existing reform proposals in order to address widely perceived threats that social media poses to democracy.

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