Humans are social beings. We experience ourselves through others. A lot of communication has now moved to online spaces. As the European Court of Human Rights put it in 2015, the internet provides “essential tools for participation in activities and discussions concerning political issues and issues of general interest” (ECHR 2015). In that sense, it is well accepted that “the internet plays a particularly important role with respect to the right to freedom of expression” (Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe 2018), and that this role relies on private intermediaries’ digital platforms that not just regulate access to the online communication space, but constitute – through their rules – large parts of it.
Given the normative frame for online communication is thus to a large extent defined by private actors, how can states, citizens and users influence the rules which determine the limits of what may be said online? Do rules formulated exclusively by intermediaries exercising their rights ipso facto suffer a legitimacy deficit?
Intermediaries; States; Human Rights; Democracy; Platform Governance; Social Media Councils