Friday February 25 Tarleton Gillespie on "The Private Governance of Digital Content, or how Apple intends to offer you ‘freedom from porn"

You are cordially invited to the next Information Society Project speaker series event, scheduled for Friday, February 25, at 12:10 p.m. in Room 120 of Yale Law School.  This week we will be joined by Tarleton Gillespie, who will discuss “The Private Governance of Digital Content, or how Apple intends to offer you ‘freedom from porn.”

About the Talk: “The Private Governance of Digital Content, or how Apple intends to offer you ‘freedom from porn.”

Digital intermediaries like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter are emerging as important new curators of public discourse.  These major online media platforms, social networking sites, and mobile technology providers all make decisions about what can be said and done on their sites and devices.  This is, of course, not surprising.  But the particular character of these decisions, and where, how, and why they make and enforce these rules, have real consequences for the contours of public expression in a digital age.  As more and more of our public discourse, cultural production, and creative interactions with others move online, and this handful of massive, privately-owned digital intermediaries continue to grow in economic and cultural power, it is crucial that we examine the ‘curatorial’ choices they make about the content they host.

Beyond the specific rules being imposed, the techniques they use for enforcing these policies can have their own implications.  They curate in particular ways, and they embody a relationship to content to the site’s users and to policymakers.  Some of these techniques, such as rating content and restricting access to it based on the age of the user, or trying to cultivate informal social norms of propriety and healthy debate, are like those long practiced by broadcasters and publishers.  Others are specific to digital platforms, either because they address the specific challenges and opportunities of user-generated content, or because they take advantage of the particular technical features of the information environment to identify, assess, and restrict content in ways that could not be done in an analog medium.  In this presentation Tarleton will catalog these emerging modes of private governance of content, and discuss the implications of these policies and interventions for the character of online public discourse.

About Tarleton Gillespie:

Tarleton Gillespie is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University, affiliated with the Information Science program and the Science & Technology Studies department, and the author of the book Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture.  He is also a non-residential fellow with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society at the Stanford Law School.