The Politics of Online Media Platforms


January 20, 2010


Tarleton Gillespie


Cornell, Communication Department


If the character of public discourse, long chaperoned by the broadcast networks and major publishers, is now increasingly in the hands of online media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Flickr, then we must ask some quite old questions about how these commercial information providers navigate protecting free speech, meeting community standards, avoiding legal liability for their content, and pursuing their own business imperatives. Though they often make the promise to openly and impartially host all content, they are of course actively making decisions about where the edges of these platforms should be: what should and should not appear, how content should be organized, what should be featured or squirreled away, and how it should be patrolled. And they’re experimenting with both traditional and novel techniques for managing this discourse: not just removal and rating, but also technical mechanisms for marking content or making it inaccessible, and emerging techniques of depending on community governance. My aim is to sketch this array of interventions and see them together as structuring contemporary public discourse, and situate them in the history of commercial obligations around free speech.


Tarleton Gillespie

Tarleton Gillespie is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University, with an affiliation with the Information Science Program and the Science and Technology department. He also serves as a non-residential fellow with the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, and was recently awarded the Young Faculty Teaching Excellence Award at Cornell. Gillespie received his B.A. in English from Amherst, and both his M.A. and his Ph.d in Communication from UC/San Diego.