This study explicates the concept of governance by mainstream online digital intermediaries such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter over extreme user-generated content (UGC)--a.k.a. "content governance."� The study synthesizes First Amendment theory and jurisprudence, as well as theories about the interconnected power roles of individuals and digital intermediaries, to explicate how such content is governed in an environment of global networked communication. Two key questions guide this explication: How and why do digital communication intermediaries respond to extreme UGC? What are the potential implications of their responses for public discourse in a system of networked communication? This study also examines ethical duties that digital intermediaries may have to protect speech or prevent harm. This synthesis of theories is applied to an empirical case-study analysis of how Facebook has changed its community guidelines throughout the 11 years of its existence. This analysis will look at examples of Facebook removing or not removing extreme UGC from its platform. The purpose of this analysis is to assess how the norms of freedom of expression are being negotiated in a networked communication environment facilitated by digital intermediaries.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: Mass Communication. Advisor: Amy Sanders. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 308 pages.
The Free Speech Balancing Act of Digital Intermediaries: An explication of the concept of content governance.
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