#DeleteFacebook: From Popular Protest to a New Model of Platform Capitalism?

28 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2020

See all articles by Stuart Mills

Stuart Mills

London School of Economics & Political Science

Date Written: February 20, 2020

Abstract

In March 2018, The Guardian newspaper published a series of articles about the subversive use of the social media platform Facebook during various elections in 2016. These articles sparked an online protest against Facebook, centred on the hashtag, #DeleteFacebook. This paper presents an analysis of this movement as a response to the individualistic barter model of platform capitalism. In doing so, this paper argues Facebook’s dominant platform position imbues it with data stewardship obligations which it violated, spawning the hashtag.

By withdrawing oneself from the platform (i.e. deleting Facebook), users were essentially withdrawing Facebook’s access to their data in a sort of ‘negotiation’ with the platform over data protection and stewardship obligations. By collectivising around a hashtag, therefore, this movement can be described as a bottom-up data trust– a form of data ownership where access to data is governed in accordance with the interests of data subjects/users. In turn, the #DeleteFacebook movement can be seen as a response to and rejection of the individualistic barter model of platform capitalism.

However, this paper also presents evidence that – as a data trust – the #DeleteFacebook movement was ultimately unsuccessful at establishing itself as an effective counterweight to Facebook’s dominant platform position. Again, using a platform capitalism framework, this paper argues the movement was structurally disadvantaged due to forces such as network effects, and thus unable to build an effective infrastructure.

Keywords: #DeleteFacebook, Bottom-up Data Trust, Data Stewardship, Platform Capitalism, Protest

JEL Classification: O33, O35

Suggested Citation

Mills, Stuart, #DeleteFacebook: From Popular Protest to a New Model of Platform Capitalism? (February 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3541727 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3541727

Stuart Mills (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science

(PBS), 3rd Floor, Queens House
55/56 Lincoln's Inn
Fields, London, WC2A 3LJ
United Kingdom

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