Platform Governance and Copyright (H2020)
Collaborative project (2021-2024)
Team: Prof. Dr. Christian Katzenbach, Adrian Kopps
Partners: HIIG, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy), University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Funding: EU – Horizon 2020
Social media platforms have become key regulators of the historically tense relationship between freedom of expression and copyright enforcement. Every day, services like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook examine, monetise and remove millions of videos, pictures and texts on the grounds that these contents match existing registered works or violate platform guidelines. Their massive sway over public discourse is (and will remain) the target of global disputes between platforms, governments, the media industry, content producers and users. In the EU, for instance, national governments now have to follow the new “copyright directive”. Approved in 2019 with the aim of reducing the power gap between platforms and creators, the directive has been met with intense controversy over its exact implementation and consequences. Especially Article 17 of the directive (formerly Article 13), which makes platforms responsible for the content they host, has ignited massive protests and fears of censorship.
This project tackles these issues from two complementary perspectives. On the one hand, it investigates the governance structures that social media platforms have devised over time to create a profitable balance between freedom of and control over speech. How do the obscure algorithmic systems that identify and take down contents function? What private rules are used to regulate both these systems and users’ actions? How do platforms adapt to public pressure and regulatory interventions and change their internal rules and guidelines? On the other hand, the project looks into the actual consequences of these governance structures. How do they transform platforms’ informational environments? How are they understood and acted upon by creators and users and how might this change the way their voices are articulated? Are Article 17 and other provisions of the EU directive really massively reducing the availability of diverse content online? Answering these questions is instrumental to understand how diversity and accessibility to knowledge and culture have (or have not) been transformed by a largely novel sociotechnical solution to a centuries’ old problem.
To do so, we conduct extensive document analysis, employ digital methods and interview multiple actors. The project is part of reCreating Europe – Rethinking Digital Copyright Law for a Culturally Diverse, Accessible, creative Europe, a larger, multi-institution initiative funded by the EU H2020 Framework Programme to investigate digital copyright. Key partners include Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy) and University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). The project is part of HIIG’s research focus on platform governance and European platform economies, and it builds on previous projects on freedom of expression in the quasi-public sphere of private platforms and on empirical copyright research.
More information can be found here.