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Two New Publications

Just a quick note: I have a new journal article, co-authored with Diana Zulli: “The Digital Covenant: Non-centralized Platform Governance on the Mastodon Social Network.” The abstract is:

The majority of scholarship on platform governance focuses on for-profit, corporate social media with highly centralized network structures. Instead, we show how non-centralized platform governance functions in the Mastodon social network. Through an analysis of survey data, Github and Discourse developer discussions, Mastodon Codes of Conduct, and participant observations, we argue Mastodon’s platform governance is an exemplar of the covenant, a key concept from federalist political theory. We contrast Mastodon’s covenantal federalism platform governance with the contractual form used by corporate social media. We also use covenantal federalist theory to explain how Mastodon’s users, administrators, and developers justify revoking or denying membership in the federation. In doing so, this study sheds new light on the innovations in platform governance that go beyond the corporate/alt-right platform dichotomy.

The paper is also available as a pre-print on H-Commons.

And I also published an op-ed in the Toronto Star this morning. The op-ed discusses the fact that Twitter is blocking links to Mastodon instances, including my own, Scholar.social. However, Twitter is not blocking links to Gab, the alt-right social network that hosts self-identified Nazis. It seems Musk is concerned about competition from well-moderated, tiny Mastodon instances, but not so much from the alt-right.

In the hours since I published the op-ed, things have gotten even more intense, with Twitter starting a policy that bans any promotion of alternative social media (and some big corporate ones, too). The glaring exception? Gab.

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