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Global Challenges to Digital Media Policy and Regulation, Vol. 30 - 2023, No. 2

Guest Edited by Hannu Nieminen, Helena Sousa, and Claudia Padovani

Digital Technology Innovation: Mythical Claims about Regulatory Efficacy

, pages: 145-160

This paper examines myths envisaging a “balancing” of commercial, state and citizen interests through a market-led adjustment process underpinned by regulatory interventions in digital technology markets. It considers how these myths operate to downplay or conceal a persistent commitment to digital innovation that privileges the interests of technology companies and states. The key assumptions of the prevailing imaginary of technology innovation—emphasising investment in artificial intelligence and commercial datafication with harms mitigated by regulatory “guardrails”—are contrasted with an alternative imaginary that pays attention to uneven power relations and their consequences for the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights. Drawing upon Gramsci’s insights into the role of myth, the paper emphasises the need to examine the implementation of regulation and its outcomes if we are to understand how myth operates by concealing outcomes that leave the prevailing imaginary robustly intact. In arguing that myth suppresses possibilities for resistance to the capitalist exploitation of digital technology innovation, the conclusion discusses why a reframing of digital technology innovation processes and their regulation is essential if digital systems are to operate in ways that are consistent with human autonomy, dignity and democracy.

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