A Comparative Lens on Prominence Regulation and Its Implications for Media Pluralism. a Working Paper
20 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 3, 2021
Whilst the media freedom and pluralism implications of content moderation, takedowns, privatised censorship and down-ranking have been widely discussed in recent years, content curation practices like prioritisation, prominence, and discoverability started to raise concerns among policy makers only in the past few years. These are however, two sides of the same coin. The question of whether regulators or governments should create regimes of prominence online, or rather step back from the ongoing process of ad-hoc private construction of these regimes, raises complex questions at the intersection of freedom of expression, media freedom and media pluralism that demand our attention. Such questions are currently being addressed through different regulatory instruments in different countries, as we witnessed an acceleration of the institutionalisation of new prominence and discoverability regimes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Such developments are therefore leading towards an extremely fragmented regulatory landscape that is trying to solve shared challenges of platform governance systems. In this context, the objective of this paper is two-fold. Firstly, the research investigates the legislative measures and regulatory proposals used in different countries to regulate prominence and discoverability online; secondly, it questions the potential implications of such measures for media pluralism, understood as a plurality of content and information from sources independent of private and/or state-interference. To do so empirically, the paper applies a qualitative methodological framework with a document analysis of relevant literature and current legislative proposals and measures from a selected sample of countries. Based on this, this work discusses four approaches to prominence regulation, informed by the policy debates and legislative proposals of four countries, namely, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and China. These countries were purposively selected because they present the most mature proposals in this policy area, and they are used as illustrative national cases that are compared on two dimensions: 1) the criteria used to determine which content and services should be granted preferential treatment and 2) the types of services and devices that should comply with new prominence and/or discoverability obligations.
Keywords: prominence, discoverability, platform regulation, content moderation, content curation, media and digital policy, online audiovisual media industry, broadcasting, media pluralism
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