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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

, pages: 145-160[open access]

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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, pages: 161-173[open access]

The metaverse holds a prominent place in debates over the future direction of digital networks. Proponents claim that advances in virtual and augmented reality will shape every facet of social life. This article defines the metaverse, explores the state of the technology, and addresses its public policy significance. It makes use of a political economic perspective focusing on the concepts of commodification and spatialisation. Specifically, it considers how major platform and gaming companies plan to use the metaverse to expand market share. The article also addresses the cultural dimensions of the metaverse as the latest in a series of utopian visions of a digital sublime. It proceeds to take up the social problems associated with the metaverse and concludes by describing the essential policy principles that should guide public authorities in the regulating the metaverse. These principles include acknowledging that current concerns over implementation do not limit future deployment. Moreover, public policy should start by recognising that the metaverse is a public space and not the private property of the major platforms. Finally, policy must address specific social problems deepened by the arrival of the metaverse including crime, privacy, the impact on climate, and data ownership.

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, , , pages: 174-196[open access]

In 2021 and 2022, the European Union (EU) launched a series of proposals aimed at improving internet regulation, benefiting both European industries and services, as well as European consumers or internet users. These measures have been watched from around the globe because they can be seen as a first attempt to create a meta-level regulatory environment for the digital economy that effectively challenges the domination of the Big Tech conglomerates of the US and China. However, even if the new EU regulation proves effective, how effective can they be in challenging the fundamental dynamics of the internet and digital economy that the internet enables? In the present article, we attempt to answer why the EU has been late in regulating social media platforms, which play a central role in the internet-based digital economy. We will base our argumentation on a critical reading of the history of the internet and its regulation from its early days to the 2020s.

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, pages: 197-217[open access]

Media policy analysts of (neo)liberal persuasion have long seen China as an anomaly. This is, however, a narrow perspective, whose explanatory power pales facing the challenge of recent events. Drawing upon International Relations (IR) theories, this article reflects on the contradicting ideas of (neo)liberalism and (neo)realism in digital media policy, while examining US–China tech war and China’s state-directed platform capitalism. It argues that more attention should be paid to neorealist frameworks, especially Mearsheimer’s offensive realism, which sees the world as consisting of billiard balls bumping into each other, pursuing hegemony. How is offensive realism useful in helping understand recent events about China? How is it also limited? Are we returning to an era of billiard balls? What are the implications for digital media policy to transcend platform capitalism and approach platform socialism?

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, pages: 218-235[open access]

The platform phenomenon could be apprehended as an evolutionary process, one that re-institutionalises legacy market systems. This article delves into one such site of media platformisation in India that of the Video-on-Demand (VoD) market. I demonstrate this market being curated by “digital dislocations” in the legacy video business, but equally to involve and impart “digital dependencies” of various sorts in the online media economy. Rather than viewing these twin dynamics as organic developments, I explain their particular renditions in India stemming from the state’s regulatory composition of the VoD business. Here, I view regulation more broadly in terms of the silences, refractions, and interruptions of the state in the digital economy, or in short, its “digital orchestration.” While regulatory omissions testify to the VoD market being grounded in laissez-faire, the interruptions fortify the state’s own ideological and mercantile interests in and through the VoD business.

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, pages: 236-252[open access]

Globally, there is concern about the growing power of technology companies as they pervade private and public spheres of life. Shifting the gaze from the European Union and United Nations where new frameworks for business accountability are emerging, this article discusses the role and impact of private companies taking on public roles in Kenya’s digitalisation and the historical roots of the alliance between the state and private companies. Through case studies, the article discusses an emerging response where individuals and groups are taking up strategic litigation against these private companies.

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, pages: 253-267[open access]

This article analyses the Brazilian PL 2630, so-called “fake news bill,” according to platform regulation approaches focused on speech, data, and market power. This law project was introduced in 2020 with the objective to fight disinformation campaigns in digital platforms such as social media and messaging services. After a multistakeholder debate, the latest version of the bill before the 2022 general elections was presented in the Chamber of Deputies. This article argues that the bill takes different stances with regard to those three basic elements. The bill strongly draws on the dimension of speech, establishing requirements for transparency in content moderation following the highest international standards. On data and market power, however, the bill makes no significant progress, with little contribution, for example, to tackling the surveillance-based business model. This way, it does not touch on structural conditions that shape disinformation campaigns, such as the profit motive of digital platforms. It follows a general pattern of platform regulation, leaving structural features untouched and, this way, eventually undermining stronger efforts against online disinformation.

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, pages: 268-283[open access]

After two decades of regulatory vacuum, powerful digital platforms such as Google and Meta/Facebook, also known as the “Digital Lords” (Brevini Citation2020Brevini, Benedetta. 2020. “Conclusion.” In  Amazon: Understanding a Global Communication Giant, edited by B. Brevini, and P. Swiatek, 65–70. New York: L. Routledge. [Crossref], [Google Scholar]), have faced growing criticism worldwide. They are accused of possessing excessive economic, political, and ideological influence while evading public accountability. Although there have been calls to address their monopolistic market dominance, such as antitrust measures to break their stranglehold on data, the most tangible interventions have focused on policy tools to make the Digital Lords contribute to journalism. With governments hesitant to allocate public funds for public interest journalism, policymakers in various countries are exploring avenues to make these wealthy and tax-avoiding Digital Lords pay for the news they distribute. The “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act” is presently being deliberated in Congress in the United States, with the objective of aiding small and mid-sized news organizations in their negotiations with digital platforms for fair compensation for the utilization of their content. The European Union has implemented a copyright reform granting press publishers the right to be remunerated by Digital Lords for the use of newspapers and magazines. One widely discussed policy tool in this regard is the Australian “News Media Bargaining Code.” This article examines the successes and failures of the code, adopted a year and a half ago, in addressing Australia's journalism crisis and its pressing issues of media diversity and news scarcity. Ultimately, it argues that the Australian Media Bargaining Code exemplifies the progressive privatization of media policy.

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, pages: 284-297[open access]

Despite their absence within dominant policy discourses, radical ideas for structurally reforming information and communication systems are proliferating. This article begins to explore and synthesise several policy proposals for creating ambitious—even utopian—models that better serve democratic societies’ information needs. These initiatives generally aim to decommodify the entire digital media system, thus requiring a holistic approach, with special attention given to discrete layers of content production and dissemination. Within this broader framework, it is necessary that policies attend to the political, economic, and technological specificities of platforms and journalism.

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, pages: 298[open access]

Article title: The Return of Billiard Balls? US-China Tech War and China’s State-Directed Digital Capitalism

Authors: Jack Linchuan Qiu

Journal: Javnost - The Public

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13183222.2023.2200695

When the article was first published online, the following errors were present:

On page 4, “Defensive realism has five assumptions” should have read “Offensive realism has five assumptions”.

On page 11, “Anti Group” should have read “Ant Group”.

These errors have now been corrected in the article.

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