Internet Policy by Numbers - Corporate Advocacy in the Internet Industry
Posted: 24 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 22, 2013
This paper contributes to extant research on the role of corporate actors in political affairs by investigating how companies at the forefront of the Internet industry (Google and Facebook) shape policy processes. Starting from the question: ‘what resources and relations are mobilized for purposes of corporate advocacy in the Internet industry?’ and based on interviews with policy directors at Google and Facebook, participant observations in multi-stakeholder dialogues initiated by the UN and documentary research, the paper explores the policy issues and the various advocacy forms and forums involved in corporate attempts to shape the global governance of the Internet (Flyverbom, 2011).
The paper roffers insights into an emergent industry’s attempt at shaping global Internet politics, including issues of ‘intellectual property rights,’ ‘net neutrality,’ ‘Internet freedom,’ ‘an enabling policy environment’ and ‘user empowerment’ and foregrounds the growing importance of numbers, calculations and ‘big data’ in corporate advocacy. Whereas more traditional forms of corporate political activities revolve around exerting pressure through networks and lobbying regulatory bodies to ensure appropriations, policy maintenance, policy changes or new policies that benefit corporations (Lux, Crook and Leap, 2012), what we see in the Internet industry is an increasing reliance on numbers, quantifications and data, in combination with design-based forms of advocacy such as user controls, engagement in multi-stakeholder dialogues, as well as other subtle attempts at shaping political affairs.
The empirical investigation serves as the basis for a conceptual and contextual embedding of ‘policy by numbers’ in the Internet industry in relation to prevalent forms and understandings of corporate advocacy. The chapter thus contributes to our understanding of the ongoing re-organization of corporate influence in the political arena by showing how new industries and objects of governance are both shaped by and able to shape established forms of corporate political advocacy, public-private relations and transnational governance regimes.
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