Research

Designing for Multiple Centers of Power: A Taxonomy of Multi-level Governance in Online Social Platforms

Horizontal and vertical
levels of governance
on online platforms.

Shagun Jhaver, Seth Frey, and Amy Zhang (2021), “Designing for Multiple Centers of Power: A Taxonomy of Multi-level Governance in Online Social Platforms,” arXiv preprint arXiv:2108.12529 (2021).


Abstract

Many have criticized the centralized and unaccountable governance of prominent online social platforms, leading to renewed interest in governance that incorporates multiple centers of power. Decentralized power can arise horizontally, through parallel communities each with local administration, as well as vertically, through multiple levels of jurisdiction. Drawing from literature from organizational theory, federalism, and polycentricity on analogous offline institutions, we characterize the landscape of existing platforms through the lens of multi-level governance, allowing us to describe how a variety of platforms, including Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube, incorporate decentralization. In particular, we examine how local governance centers, or ‘middle levels’ such as subreddits, Twitter blocklists, and YouTube channels, interact with one another and with a centralized governance system above and end users below. As not all aspects of offline institutions translate online, we discuss challenges unique to online governance and conclude with implications for decentralized governance design in online social platforms.

BibTeX citation

@article{jhaver:2021Designing,
  title={Designing for Multiple Centers of Power: A Taxonomy of Multi-level Governance in Online Social Platforms},
  author={Jhaver, Shagun and Frey, Seth and Zhang, Amy},
  journal={arXiv preprint arXiv:2108.12529},
  year={2021}
}