The power of social media (regulation) : the invisible effect of platform governance on freedom of expression

Thumbnail Image
Groth, Wiebke
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Cambridge Analytica, the Brexit referendum, and the election of Donald Trump; These three famous cases remind every social media user that they need to be sceptical about the information they are shown on their feeds. After the initial shock of these cases, awareness about the potentially detrimental interference of social media grew. Consequently, the question of effective platform governance through enhanced regulation became more widespread. To contribute to this debate, this thesis will explore current social media regulations with a focus on Europe and the EU and discuss their implementation, strengths, weaknesses, and effects on Freedom of Expression. Through painting a comprehensive picture of current platform governance, this thesis was dedicated to the question of how the regulation and moderation of social media platforms affect users’ right to Freedom of Expression. In this field, the investigation of law, and content moderation techniques in combination with an exploratory study to research their adverse effects are a rare find. Thus, the thesis first outlines how Freedom of Expression is protected and can legitimately be restricted. Secondly, it discusses how platforms are governed through policies, their terms of service and the efficacy of their mechanisms. Thirdly, it explores cases of when Freedom of Expression was restricted through methods of digital repression and consequently, how this affects social movements. Lastly, possible solutions and the new Digital Services Act of the EU will be explored. Overall, this thesis found that the current situation is a significant hazard to Freedom of Expression on the internet. The research reflects that overblocking happens regularly and thus, legal speech in our current online environment can be suppressed.
Second semester University: KU Leuven
social media, media, freedom of expression, law, Europe, European Union, internet