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Not all who are bots are evil: A cross-platform analysis of automated agent governance

Author: Makhortykh, M., Urman, A., Münch, F. V., Heldt, A., Dreyer, S., Kettemann, M. C.
Published in: new media & society, 24(4), 964-981
Year: 2022
Type: Academic articles
DOI: 10.1177/14614448221079035

The growth of online platforms is accompanied by the increasing use of automated agents. Despite being discussed primarily in the context of opinion manipulation, agents play diverse roles within platform ecosystems that raises the need for governance approaches that go beyond policing agents’ unwanted behaviour. To provide a more nuanced assessment of agent governance, we introduce an analytical framework that distinguishes between different aspects and forms of governance. We then apply it to explore how agents are governed across nine platforms. Our observations show that despite acknowledging diverse roles of agents, platforms tend to focus on governing selected forms of their misuse. We also observe differences in governance approaches used by platforms, in particular when it comes to the agent rights/obligations and transparency of policing mechanisms. These observations highlight the necessity of advancing the algorithmic governance research agenda and developing a generalizable normative framework for agent governance.

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Connected HIIG researchers

Matthias C. Kettemann

Associated Researcher, Head of Research Group

Amélie Heldt

Associated Researcher: Platform Governance


  • Open Access
  • Peer Reviewed