Democratic Transparency in the Platform Society

Abstract

Following an host of major scandals, transparency has emerged in recent years as one of the leading accountability mechanisms through which the companies operating global platforms for user-generated content have attempted to regain the trust of the public, politicians, and regulatory authorities. Ranging from Facebook’s efforts to partner with academics and create a reputable mechanism for third party data access and independent research to the expanded advertising disclosure tools being built for elections around the world, transparency is playing a major role in current governance debates around free expression, social media, and democracy. This article thus seeks to (1) contextualize the recent implementation of transparency as enacted by platform companies with an overview of the ample relevant literature on digital transparency in both theory and practice; (2) consider the potential positive governance impacts of transparency as a form of accountability in the current political moment; and (3) reflect upon the potential shortfalls of transparency that should be considered by legislators, academics, and funding bodies weighing the relative benefits of policy or research dealing with transparency in this area.

Publication
In Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field, edited by Nate Persily and Josh Tucker. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press
Date