“Transparency-Washing” in the Digital Age: A Corporate Agenda of Procedural Fetishism
Critical Analysis of Law, 8(1) 2021, pp. 39-53
23 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2021 Last revised: 26 Aug 2021
Date Written: 2021
Contemporary discourse on the regulation and governance of the digital environment has often focused on the procedural value of transparency. This article traces the prominence of the concept of transparency in contemporary regulatory debates to the corporate agenda of technology companies. Looking at the latest transparency initiatives of IBM, Google and Facebook, I introduce the concept of “transparency-washing,” whereby a focus on transparency acts as an obfuscation and redirection from more substantive and fundamental questions about the concentration of power, substantial policies and actions of technology behemoths. While the “ethics-washing” of the tech giants has become widely acknowledged, “transparency washing” presents a wider critique of corporate discourse and neoliberal governmentality based on procedural fetishism, which detracts from the questions of substantial accountability and obligations by diverting the attention to procedural micro-issues that have little chance of changing the political or legal status quo.
Keywords: Transparency, Social Media, Media Studies, Digital Environment, Transparency-Washing, Technology Companies, Platforms, IBM, Google, Facebook, Internet Studies, Digital Humanities, Technology Law, Internet Law, Human Rights Law, Human Rights, Privacy, Facial Recognition Technologies
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