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Thursday, October 11 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Global Platforms, Local Censorship: Internet Governance as a Threat to Free Speech

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This panel addresses the theme of transnational materialities directly by examining and critiquing the regulatory mechanisms by which voices from around the globe are both enabled and constrained. Specifically, each of the papers in this panel examines ways in which the affordances of internet infrastructure and platform governance mechanisms are used or abused for the purposes of censorship. The papers reflect contemporary debates and concerns unfolding simultaneously in several current research arenas, including science and technology studies, platform studies, and cultural studies. They focus on the ways infrastructures—whether commercial or governmental—structure speech options. Each reveals links between policies ostensibly designed for other purposes as affecting cultural and political expression. Jurisdictions considered include the European Union, the U.S., Israel, the global South, and Australia. Each of the papers is fundamentally concerned with social equity, and with illuminating and unmasking the mechanisms of power that are encoded into and enforced through these different instruments of regulation.

Speaker 1's work on geo-blocking of streaming media content shows how an ostensibly unified European Union continues to stoke national divisions, reifying physical borders in virtual space for the purpose of maximizing profit for international media companies. It relies upon interviews with value-chain actors in the audio-visual field in the Czech republic to address clashing ethical issues, which affect evolving policies. Speaker 2's work looks deeper into the governance of the internet's infrastructure to reveal how the distribution and maintenance of internet exchange points (IXPs) may serve to exacerbate or lessen economic pressures on the "global South," with significant implications for industrial development and free speech in these regions. The speaker analyses quantitative data on the growth of IXPs and routing data from IXPs in Germany and Brazil, analysing contrasting patterns. The work recontextualizes “infrastructure dependency” in geopolitical terms. The papers by researchers 3 and 4 and by researchers 6 and 7 each look at intellectual property law as a regulatory mechanism for cultural expression in a global context, and form a complementary pair. The papers differently use the same bodies of data from Australia and the U.S. to analyse the effects of the two countries' very different copyright exceptions regimes on creator behavior. The former article contrasts how the different copyright exceptions regimes affect creators' productivity, and limits analysis to quantitative survey data from the two countries. The latter examines underlying similar tropes of Romanticism in creators' rationales for copyright constraints, employing testimony from interviews, workshops and open-ended answers in surveys. Researchers 8,9 and 10 examine one of the most politically contested cultural environments - Israel - to explore the unevenly distributed and opaquely administered limitations on free speech imposed by commercial regulation on platforms. The authors consider interaction between Israeli journalists, celebrities and business and Facebook, tracking a vigorous, ongoing national debate over Facebook's terms of use and moderation policies.

Collectively, these papers all explore the ways in which physical and material identities and politics are reproduced in the regulation and architecture of virtual spaces, and how different virtual architectures have different effects. These papers thus identify problems with a shared goal of addressing them for a goal of global equity.



Thursday October 11, 2018 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Sheraton - Salon 8

Attendees (16)