The notorious 2020 is going to end soon, and we look forward to a fresh start in 2021. At the Social Media Governance Initiative (SMGI), we refined our goal this year to bring prosocial governance mechanisms to tech corporations and social media platforms. By prosocial we mean governance strategies which encourage people to follow rules, cooperate with each other and their communities, and to engage with their community — socially, economically and politically.
We want to promote prosocial governance strategies in contrast to the dominant punitive governance methods which social media platforms seem to adopt. The punitive measures were all too popular this year because of the “infodemic” or disinformation about the COVID virus. Next year will be a good time to reflect on the consequences of punitive measures and designing prosocial governance strategies.
To advance our mission we have taken a number of important steps:
The Research Network
This year we formed a new research network comprising key academics who have novel insights about social media governance. In 2021, we will publish a special issue at the Yale Journal of Law and Technology that discusses the important work these scholars are doing in the realm of social media governance studies. The special issue will be available in April, and will include papers with topics such as:
- Advances in our understanding of trust building and platform-based governance;
- Designing in-product & policies using alternative theories of justice and going beyond criminal justice;
- When to deploy “soft” and “hard” interventions in social media governance;
- The challenge of cultural diversity and the power of human rights approaches;
- Experimental evidence of promoting compliance and engagement online;
- How to organize innovation at the firm level to promote prosocial engagement.
During the fall semester, we held three #TeaAtTwo virtual presentation sessions. The first was with Paolo Parigi discussing trust and measuring trust in social media platforms; the second with Professor Baron Pineda on governing diverse cultures on social media platforms using a human rights framework; and the final one with Professor Sarita Schoenebeck on repairing technological harms. These sessions were very popular and we plan to host another SMGI #TeaAtTwo series in 2021.
We have forged exciting new research partnerships with a number of tech-platforms. SMGI aims to bring healthy and civil online interactions to these Internet platforms by providing the evidence-based suggestions that can be implemented in policy and product design. We will publish the result of our partnerships next year.
We regularly published blogs about the most pressing social media governance issues during the last year, and we will continue to do so in 2021. We covered topics such as how to have a prosocial Facebook Oversight Board, how to fight COVID-19 disinformation with non-punitive mechanisms, and what the prosocial movement is, and how we want to start it.
I have also published a report about Telegram’s governance shortcomings in which I use the theories of procedural justice and collective efficacy to make suggestions about how to improve the governance structures and protect vulnerable communities online.
We are eager to publish other experts’ thought pieces and opinions too, so please reach out if you want to publish a piece on the Justice Collaboratory Collaboration in Action (CIA) blog.
You can keep in touch by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to our listserv.
On behalf of the entire SMGI Network, we wish you a less punitive and more prosocial 2021.