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Platform governance

Platform Governance refers to the rules, regulations, and framework within which digital platforms in our society are managed. This includes social networks, online services, digital marketplaces, or messaging services, for example. These digital platform ecosystems facilitate the exchange of information, goods, and services in our daily lives. As an integral part of our modern communication, they also have a profound impact on public discourse and economic processes. In our research on sustainable platform governance, we therefore examine how entrepreneurial goals, individual rights, and societal values can be harmonised in these online communication spaces. This includes questions related to online platform regulation, competition law, freedom of speech, individual autonomy, and (democratically anchored) decision-making.


How do we communicate online? Who determines the rules for online discourse? The digital transformation of communication processes has given rise to a new form of public discourse, influenced in part by the rules and designs of social media and other digital platforms.

Good platform governance

One of the main challenges in creating a legitimate platform governance model is to strike a balance between promoting open communication and curbing problematic content, such as disinformation, hate speech, or scams. Within our research, we examine how such rules can be established, enforced, and democratically safeguarded. We also consider how algorithms and community guidelines influence the behavior and interactions of users within digital platform ecosystems. How can rules and practices be established to allow users to communicate safely and freely? How can digital platforms remain innovative and market-oriented while also contributing to the well-being of society?

The EU has also introduced (or is on the verge of introducing) a series of new regulations for online platforms, including the Digital Services Act (DSA), the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the Data Act (DA), and the AI Act. In interconnected projects, we investigate the impact of these normative platform governance approaches on the online discourse environment. What law prevails in these digital platform ecosystems? Is it the law of the platform operators or that of the EU and national states? And what about outside of Europe?

We are particularly interested in phenomena like online hate speech or the influence of recommendation algorithms and automated communication. The focus is on how the power of digital platforms affects individual and societal decision-making processes and social cohesion.

From the HIIG Channel

IN a nutshell

José van Dijck: Europe & responsible platform societies

The struggles of digitalisation between competing ideological systems and actors raise questions of responsibility.

Digital Salon

Lost in regulation

How can the tension between free expression and disinformation on social media platforms be resolved?

Insights & Power

Internet scientists meet platform decision-makers

How can the tension between free expression and disinformation on social media platforms be resolved?

From the Press

Feature with Matthias C. Kettemann on independent monitoring bodies for social media.

Feature with Matthias C. Kettemann on the revolution in the German streaming landscape.

Feature with Wolfgang Schulz on how platforms should be shaped by society.

From the HIIG BLOG

Content moderation on digital platforms: A more intensive horizontal effect of freedom of expression?

To what extent should private companies be bound by freedom of expression? Investigating a more intensive horizontal effect of fundamental rights.

Twitter needs to be handled with care

Turning back time for Content Moderation? How Musk’s takeover is affecting Twitter’s rules

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter is bringing platform governance to the centre of the media spotlight. But (how) have Twitter's content policies changed so far?

Digital Democracy needs deliberation

Designing Digital Democracy

Designing rules for digital democracy is difficult. But new ideas for more democracy on platforms through deliberative elements are being piloted. How promising are they?

Social Media Councils can help to force digital platforms into responsibilty

Social Media Councils: An effective means of holding digital platforms accountable?

Social Media Councils may align public values with platform governance if platform economic incentives are taken into account.

Content Moderation – What can stay, what must go?

How can rules for algorithmic content moderation in Social Networks look like? This guest article by Alexandra Borchardt examines researcher's suggestions.

You can see an empty platform and tracks leading around the corner, pointing the way to the future.

Drilling down on diversity in the European platform economy

The Platform Alternatives research team looks back on two years of research into the European platform economy and tells which insights have surprised them the most so far.