New PERITIA Journal Article on Right-Wing Platforms and “Big Tech” Governance
“Deplatformization (…) entails a systemic effort to push back encroaching radical right-wing platforms to the fringes of the ecosystem by denying them the infrastructural services needed to function online”. – José Van Dijck, Tim de Winkel and Mirko Tobias Schäfer (Utrecht University)
A new PERITIA journal article by Utrecht University researchers José Van Dijck, Tim de Winkel and Mirko Tobias Schäfer has been published on the journal News Media & Society.
Under the title “Deplatformization and the governance of the platform ecosystem”, the work analyzes deplatformization as an implied governance strategy by major tech companies to “detoxify the platform ecosystem of radical content while consolidating their power as designers, operators, and governors of that same ecosystem”.
The article explores the various strategies launched by major tech companies to govern right-wing platforms within their online environments. Examples of these strategies include the recent ban of the former US president Donald Trump from Twitter and the suspension of his accounts on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, as well as the ban of Parler from Google’s and Apple’s app stores.
This cascade of events in the digital world raises a fundamental question for digital governance: “Who is responsible for governing the platform ecosystem and who controls its infrastructure?”
The authors focus their analysis on the case of Gab, one of the well-known fringe platforms that has survived several rounds of deplatformization since its inception in 2017. In these governance processes, two concepts are fundamental to acknowledge different levels of governance in the hierarchical online ecosystem: deplatformization and deplatforming.
Deplatforming refers to “the removal of one’s account on social media for breaking platform rules” (Rogers, 2020: 1).
“Deplatformization is different from deplatforming: it entails a systemic effort to push back encroaching radical right-wing platforms to the fringes of the ecosystem by denying them the infrastructural services needed to function online”.
“We identify several deplatformization strategies, using Gab as an example of a platform that survived its relegation and which subsequently tried to build an alternative at the edge of the mainstream ecosystem. Evaluating deplatformization in terms of governance, the question that arises is who is responsible for cleansing the ecosystem: corporations, states, civil society actors, or all three combined? Understanding the implied governance of deplatformization is imperative to assess the higher stakes in future debates concerning Internet governability.”.
The article was first published on 23 September and is accessible on the journal’s website.