Over the past three years, the debate about digital technology’s role in society has gone through a remarkable transformation. Following two decades of techno-optimism, during which digital technology — social media, in particular — was left to be governed in a laissez-faire environment, we are now in the midst of a “techlash.” Google, Facebook and Amazon serve billions of users around the globe and increasingly perform core functions in society. The private gains are clear to see — these are among the most profitable companies in history. But in spite of the myriad of benefits offered by platforms, the costs are clear as well: platforms threaten our social fabric, our economy and our democracy. Although calls have been growing for global platform governance, no solution has yet been found.
Given platforms’ unprecedented influence on democracy and the global economy alike, establishing a cohesive framework for platform governance is crucial. First published online, this essay series on platform governance brings together leading thinkers to explore new models for governing digital platforms.