Platforms like WikiLeaks raise normative questions about how the introduction of new digital technologies changed the relationship between information, accountability, and democracy. The literature in democratic accountability has traditionally conflated information access with information curation, focusing on the utility of the former without considering the latter. We examine what is lost in that conflation through an analysis of the Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks, arguing that information is democratically valuable only when and where two processes of curation are triggered. The first is a process of selection (to determine what information should be shared); the second is one of contextualization (to determine how best to share it). Taken together, we argue information must be at least ‘minimally curated’ to be democratically useful. Thus, information platforms ought to be held accountable for decisions about what to distribute, and about how information is presented to the public.
This paper will look at more subtle forms of control, such as news management, misinformation, and flack, and considers the challenges this poses in terms of free speech theory.
The major social networks have caught up with the classic mass media in terms of their importance for shaping public opinion. This has triggered a debate about their digital infrastructure and the extent to which they must comply with free speech standards. My paper will present the arguments for and against a strong fundamental rights approach and the implications for the regulation of social networks. In doing so, I will explore whether the current conflicts over individual speech acts, the “deplatforming” of political actors and the various contestations of platform power give rise to transnational legal standards for freedom of expression on social media platforms.