Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

Platform Governance: New research network fosters global cooperation

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and its partners are looking to develop a global research network with the aim of bringing scientific expertise more strongly into the discussion and to make a set of debates, which are often centered around Europe and the USA, more global. In March, HIIG and its collaborators will organize a conference seeking to both bring together cutting edge interdisciplinary academic work on all things platform and kickstart a grass-roots network of researchers that spans academia and civil society.

HIIG is co-organizing an event at the end of March with collaborating partner institutions from five continents to address the increasing importance of platforms for our society. Together with the Centre for Media, Technology, and Democracy (Montreal), the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA, Kampala), and a rapidly growing list of other partners, HIIG aims to create a new academic forum for research, networking, and interdisciplinary global collaboration on all aspects of platform power and governance.

The seeds of the initiative emerged from several events, including the online workshop on Empirical Approaches to Platform Governance Research at HIIG in May 2020. The goal of the network is to establish a forum that promotes exchange between disciplines and the linkage between scientific and political debates. Another goal is to create higher visibility for perspectives beyond the often dominant US and European actors. Platforms and the logics behind them are being researched by different disciplines: law and political science, computer science and communication studies are increasingly investigating the emergence, use, meaning, and regulation of platforms as well as the consequences of their proliferation.

The first Annual Conference of the Platform Governance Research Network in Spring 2021 is open to all interested researchers and members of civil society. The conference is divided into two phases: A research phase from 24-35 March 2021, which will feature presentations and cutting-edge research, and a networking phase on 26 March 2021, which is open to all interested in building the network (and helping define and shape its core functions, aims, and governance structure). Submissions are open until 22 February 2021, and registration for participants who do not wish to present work will be open until 15 March 2021.

HIIG will also open the new Platform Governance Archive (PGA) at the conference in late March. While debates around platform governance are becoming increasingly intense and are on the rise on the political and public agenda, it is difficult and costly for researchers and journalists to systematically monitor and study how platforms deal with contentious content over the long term. A research team at HIIG has built and processed a structured collection of thousands of these policies, from T&Cs to privacy policies to community guidelines. On this basis, researchers and journalists will be able to work much more easily on central questions of the current debate. “How do misinformation or hate speech policies differ across platforms and over time? What are the factors that make platforms change their policies? With the archive, we want to provide an important resource for anyone who wants to understand and question the often opaque rule-making power of platforms,” says research director Christian Katzenbach, explaining the goal of the new archive. Until now, researchers, journalists, NGOs, and policymakers have had to laboriously gather these regulations. “The PGA will provide a central access point and individual overviews for platform governance issues,” says Katzenbach.


Press contact: Moritz Timm | phone.: +49 30 200 760 82 |