Working paper Open Access
Discussions of platform governance frequently focus on issues of platform liability and online harm to the exclusion of other issues; perpetuate the myth that ‘the internet’ is unregulated; reinforce the same internet exceptionalism as the Silicon Valley companies themselves; and, by adopting the language of governance rather than regulation, diminish the role of the state. Over the last three years, UK governments, lawmakers and regulators, with expert advice, have contributed to the development of a broader range of regulatory concerns and options, leading to an emergent political economy of advertiser-funded platforms. These politicians and regulators have engaged in a process of sense-making, building their discursive capacity in a range of technical and novel issues. Studying an ‘actually existing’ regulatory process as it emerges enables us to look afresh at concepts of platform regulation and governance. This working paper has a particular focus on the regulatory approach to Facebook, which is presented as a case study. But it engages more widely with the issues of platform regulation through a careful interpretive analysis of official documentation from the UK government, regulatory and parliamentary bodies, and company reports. The regulatory process uncovered builds on existing regulatory frameworks and illustrates that platform regulation is a process, not a finished text.