01 October 2010

Policing Content in the Quasi-Public Sphere

(Open Net Initiative)
Online conversations today exist primarily in the realm of social media and blogging platforms, most of which are owned by private companies. Such privately owned platforms now occupy a significant role in the public sphere, as places in which ideas and information are exchanged and debated by people from every corner of the world. Instead of an unregulated, decentralized Internet, we have centralized platforms serving as public spaces: a quasi-public sphere. This quasi-public sphere is subject to both public and private content controls spanning multiple jurisdictions and differing social mores. This paper will highlight the practices of five platforms — Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and Blogger — in regard to Terms of Service (TOS) and account deactivations. It will highlight each company’s user policies, as well as examples of each company’s procedures for policing content.