Anna Marieke Weerdmeester | Personalised Information Gatekeepers: Social Media Platforms’ Responsibilities to Protect European Citizens’ Right to Receive Information | Overarching project: Governing Digital Societies | Utrecht University – Department of Media and Culture Studies | Supervisors: Professor José van Dijck & Professor Janneke Gerards | 1 May 2019 – 1 May 2022 | a.m.weerdmeester[at]uu.nl
This projects investigates the responsibilities of social media platforms, as gatekeepers of information, to protect European citizens’ right to receive information.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, have become increasingly important actors in the facilitation of information on the Internet. As such, they are increasingly being identified as gatekeepers of information (e.g. Helberger, Kleinen-von Königslöw & van der Noll, 2015; Laidlaw, 2015). However, while social media are increasingly classified as gatekeepers, a comprehensive understanding of social media platforms’ role as gatekeepers lacks in the literature. Therefore, their responsibilities as gatekeepers of information have thus far remained unclear.
This is problematic, for social media gatekeeping can threaten citizens’ right to receive information in several ways. Social media platforms’ algorithmic personalisation of content, specifically, could threaten information diversity and manipulate free access to information, thereby influencing individual forum internum and collective democratic deliberation.
Therefore, through an interdisciplinary study building on human rights law, media theory and philosophy, this project investigates the following question: What responsibilities do social media platforms, as gatekeepers of information, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have to protect European citizens’ right to receive information, specifically from manipulation through personalised information filtering?
The project investigates both descriptive and normative questions and makes use of legal analysis based on primary documents and jurisprudence, interviews with stakeholders (such as interest groups and policy-makers) and literature review based on secondary sources.