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Setting Rules for 2.7 Billion. A (First) Look into Facebook’s Norm-Making System: Results of a Pilot Study

Author: Kettemann, M.C., & Schulz, W.
Published in:
Year: 2020
Type: Working paper

This paper presents the outcome of a pilot study into the private order of communication developed by a major social network provider, Facebook Inc., and its policy development process. It is part of a broader research focus on the evolution and application, the legitimacy and contestation of norms in private online communication spaces and their public impact, both in terms of individual rights and societal cohesion. With first-of-a-kind access to the internal processes of policy development (norm production), researchers were able to study the development of content-related policies through phases of participant observation, expert interviews, and normative analyses. The first insights developed in this case study already make an important contribution to the understanding of the challenges posed by creating private rules for what are essentially global digital communication spheres, the interactions between rule-making processes within and outside Facebook, Inc., as a popular social media company that sets rules for 2.7 billion users, and the (self)-conception (and production) of legitimacy in norm-development through proceduralization and external stakeholder involvement. Facebook, we find in this case study, is developing its own normative order; its norms (community standards) are closely intertwined with its platform. It is the Product Policy team that is involved in developing norms. This is no accident. National legal systems need to be more intricately connected to the diversified (and still diversifying) order(s) of private communication.

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Connected HIIG researchers

Matthias C. Kettemann, Prof. Dr. LL.M. (Harvard)

Head of Research Group and Associate Researcher: Global Constitutionalism and the Internet

Wolfgang Schulz, Prof. Dr.

Research Director

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