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The Digital Public Sphere
Sebastián Guidi and Brenda Dvoskin
Elettra Bietti and Adam Posluns
An ISP White Paper Series in collaboration with the Knight Foundation
Uniformity and Fragmentation in the Digital Public Sphere
Call for Abstracts
The Yale Information Society Project and the Yale Journal of Law & Technology invite contributions for a new edition of the Knight Foundation-sponsored Digital Public Sphere White Paper series. This year’s volume will discuss Uniformity and Fragmentation in the Digital Public Sphere.
The global public sphere is increasingly uniform. High concentration in social media ownership means that only a few companies decide which rules govern the mainstream channels of global communications. Elites in California spread their social norms across languages and cultures through their global content moderation policies. The legal regimes of some states in the global North have ripple effects over less powerful jurisdictions.
Scholars disagree about the extent to which this is a problem, and even more about its potential solutions. Not everyone agrees that decentralizing economic, cultural, or legal influence over the digital public sphere is feasible, or even desirable. And scholars who consider concentration of economic power and influence worrisome disagree about how to deal with it. The papers in this series will explore the costs and benefits of uniformity and fragmentation in the digital public sphere.
In this series, we invite legal and media scholars to submit abstracts about the different instances in which these problems manifest themselves.
Examples of possible research questions:
- Antitrust. What can antitrust remedies do (or not do) for the public sphere?
- Competition. Would more market competition improve the public sphere? Do we need to look outside the market?
- Publicly-funded options. What can publicly-funded media do (or not do) for the public sphere?
- Cultural norms. Are platforms’ content moderation policies creating too much global uniformity in cultural values and speech norms? If so, is it a problem? Can it be remedied?
- The Brussels effect. Are some jurisdictions (like the US or the EU) expanding their regulatory influence over the digital public sphere beyond their borders? If so, is this a problem, and what, if anything, should be done about it?
- Transparency mandates. Can mandating greater transparency improve accountability? Or will it further standardize content moderation across companies?
- Interoperability. Is interoperability a possible solution to current economic and cultural concentration? Or does it create other problems (for example, greater threats to privacy)?
- Legal harmonization and fragmentation. Is it necessary to harmonize intermediary liability regimes across jurisdictions? Are there benefits to having legal diversity?
- Historic perspectives on monopoly power and freedom of expression. What can we learn from previous experiences with the concentration of media ownership?
The next volume of the series will be published in 2023 in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology. Contributors will receive an honorarium of $4,000. We look forward to reading your abstract.
- Deadline to submit an abstract: October 1, 2022.
- Abstracts should be around 500 words.
- Send abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with the subject line “Abstract: Uniformity and Fragmentation.”
Decisions will be made by Oct. 15, 2022.
Full drafts will be due on Jan. 31, 2023.
Full drafts will be between 4,000 and 7,000 words.
About Knight Foundation-sponsored Digital Public Sphere White Paper series
The impact of online platforms and new technology on public discourse and the law are among the most pressing and consequential issues democracies face today. In the last two decades, we have moved beyond techno-utopian visions of the internet as an unregulated space to an appreciation of the ways the law, markets and social practices enable the platform economy. The threats that digital platforms and surveillance technology pose to individual rights and the social fabric give rise to numerous questions: How should we understand the structure and design of digital networks? To what extent should, or can, the government regulate these spaces? Is there adequate competition among the firms who provide digital services, and are their business models sustainable? Who is included and who is excluded from these spaces? Who should have the power to exclude and on what bases? When is surveillance and information collection permissible, and when is it pernicious? What are the signs of a healthy public sphere, and what are the symptoms of information disorder? How should we reform current law to meet the challenges of online platforms and new technology?
The Digital Public Sphere White Paper Series brings together scholars from a variety of backgrounds and diverse perspectives to contribute fresh thinking in this area. The Series Papers focus on how we should understand the effects of new technology on public discourse, law and society, and how these new technologies should be governed to achieve a more equitable, just and democratic digital public sphere.
Adam Posluns and Elettra Bietti, Founding Editors
The essays in this group examine the various legal and technological mechanisms that structure our experience of the digital public sphere – some of which enable our freedoms and connect communities, while others constrain us by impinging on our privacy, objectifying us as amalgamations of data, or causing invidious discrimination.
Exploring the conditions of audibility that are essential to sonic privacy.
Seeing Like an Algorithmic Error: What are Algorithmic Mistakes, Why Do They Matter, How Might They Be Public Problems?
Arguing that “seeing like an algorithmic error” means engaging the social, economic, cultural and political forces that make technology mistakes and public problems.
Arguing that CDA Section 230, despite its origins in one country, has served as a foundational norm for global internet speech.
Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci and Ethan Zuckerman
Presenting a model of "forgetful advertising" as an alternative for organizations whose values conflict with surveillant advertising.
By Anita L. Allen
February 21, 2022
By Khiara M. Bridges
January 27, 2022
By Mary Anne Franks
January 27, 2022
By Scott Skinner-Thompson
January 27, 2022
By Olivier Sylvain
January 27, 2022