Articles

If the potential of blockchain-driven management is fully realised, what areas in the public, economic, social, political, technological, and business sectors would benefit most?

The rising popularity of crypto-currencies globally has dramatically increased attention to blockchain technology’s capabilities in advancing peer-to-peer transactions and interactions. Namely, blockchain can promote more agile, cost-effective, and intrinsically data-driven project management practices and decision-making in e-governance. These capabilities are translatable not only to the financial and technological sectors but can also promote more efficient public and corporate sector systems. However, there remains a lack of understanding among practitioners regarding how exactly this digital technology could be fully realised removed from the context of crypto-finances. Furthermore, questions remain in terms of what public and corporate values related to government, business actors and decision-makers could harness in various sectors of the economy as part of the implementation process (e.g. public, corporate, social, political, technological or regulatory ones).  An article I recently published in Policy & Internet, titled “Prospects of Blockchain Governance”, addresses recent developments of blockchain-driven governance in various sectors of the economy. It answers the following questions:  How exactly does blockchain technology work?  How could one illustrate schematically the fundamental principles of its work in a practical way that is easily comprehensible for practitioners and project managers in both corporate and public sectors of the economy? What are the critical features of blockchain-driven project management? Why are they essential for public and corporate decision-makers?  What benefits could the blockchain concept bring to different sectors of the economy?  If the potential of blockchain-driven management is fully realised, what areas in the public, economic, social, political, technological, and business sectors would benefit most? Relying on the analysis of rich empirical data provided by experts in the industry across the globe (i.e. those directly engaged in promoting various related decentralised project management tools for a wide range of public and corporate digital ecosystems), the paper provides insider perspectives on the latest blockchain-driven public and project management advancements. Furthermore, it describes the essence of decentralised data governance, how it is intended to be realised by…

Many initiatives have been launched, but some of them fail and/or are abandoned, contributing to mistrust among citizens and consuming scarce resources.

Electronic participation (e-participation) has grown across the world in recent decades and many governments offer a range of opportunities for e-participation. Many initiatives have been launched, but some of them fail and/or are abandoned, contributing to mistrust among citizens and consuming scarce resources. Therefore, it is crucial for policymakers and practitioners to understand what factors contribute to the success and continuity of e-participation initiatives. This blog entry is based on a research paper titled “The success of e-participation. Learning lessons from Decide Madrid and We asked, You said, We did in Scotland” by S. Royo, B. Bellò, L. Torres and J. Downe, recently published in Policy & Internet (P&I). These two initiatives were selected due to their international recognition (software adopted by hundreds of institutions worldwide) and duration (platforms launched in 2015 and 2014, respectively, and active at present). Decide Madrid, developed by Madrid city Council, received the 2018 United Nations Public Service Award and the open-source software developed for this platform (Consul) is the most widely used to enable active citizen participation. We asked, You said, We did is a feature of the platform Citizen Space, designed by the private company Delib, and used by more than 180 organizations. The results show that these two successful initiatives share a top-down approach, a strong leadership and senior management/political support, embeddedness in the formal policy-making processes, high levels of internal and external collaboration with clear accountability relationships and careful consideration of design features. Most of these factors are related to organizational or managerial dimensions, rather than being linked to the institutional context or the ICT component. These are good news, as policymakers should be able to influence on them more easily. Our results also show that support from politicians and senior managers is not only essential in the initial stages of e-participation, but also to provide resources and adjustments in the administrative structures to ensure the long-term continuity of these initiatives. Conversely, some factors highlighted in…

We find that giving citizens an opportunity to have a say in political decisions influences their opinions about local politics—but not all of them are satisfied.

In political discussions, the legitimacy crisis of democracy is a common theme. Even though citizens value the concept of democracy, they are often unhappy with how it is implemented. This issue also extends to the local level, where political decisions directly affect citizens. It is worth noting that whenever a local conflict arises, citizens (and policymakers themselves) often call for more participation as a means to increase the legitimacy of such decisions. As a result, municipalities frequently conduct public consultations and increasingly use the Internet to enable online participation. But what role can these online consultations play in improving legitimacy?  In a recent study published by Policy & Internet, Bastian Rottinghaus and I investigated how participation in local consultation processes affects attitudes toward local politics. To achieve this, we examined participation procedures in which three German municipalities consulted their citizens on local cycling infrastructure. In each case, citizens submitted, commented on, and evaluated proposals through an online platform. After the end of these consultations, we surveyed nearly 600 citizens who had participated in these procedures. Here are some of our key findings: • The participation processes influenced the attitudes of those who participated in these consultations. • For many participants, the positive effect that was hoped for did indeed occur: they were more positive about local institutions (mayor, administration) and local politics as a whole. The decisive factor for the assessment was whether one expected local politics to take the citizens’ proposals seriously and act upon them. In other words, the result of the process was more important to attitudes than the process itself.  • It is worth noting that this also applies to those with negative views of local politics. However, previous experience with local politics also played a role: those who already had a higher level of satisfaction and trust in the municipality became more positive by participating.  • At the same time, participation may reduce satisfaction, especially…

How do crowdfunding sites maintain their legitimacy as ‘open’ platforms while avoiding complicity with divisive, injurious, or even outright violent campaigns?

In recent years, far-right and other extremist causes have typically found it difficult to fundraise through online donations. This is largely due to deplatforming efforts, particularly after the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, during which a white supremacist killed a young woman. In response, digital platforms and infrastructure companies made concerted efforts to deny extremists access to fundraising tools. Several retaliatory but short‐lived crowdfunding sites were created, such as the antisemitic GoyFundMe and Hatreon (pronounced hate¬reon). These intentionally antagonistic platforms soon became defunct, usually after payment processors and hosting providers refused services. But what about fundraising campaigns where underlying extremist motives are more difficult to discern? Or where a crowdfunding platform stakes its reputation not on careful stewardship of content to avoid complicity in extremist harms but rather on their refusal to make such determinations, instead privileging ‘free speech’ above all other concerns? These dilemmas arose during the 2022 Freedom Convoy, a month-long occupation of downtown Ottawa where hundreds of truck drivers and other participants created blockades that brought the city to a standstill. Though ostensibly assembled to protest vaccine mandates for truckers crossing the Canada‐US border, the protests rapidly evolved into a broader movement against all COVID‐19 mandates. Concerns were heightened by the organizers’ close association with far‐right interests. As the occupiers swelled into the thousands, fears grew that violence could erupt in ways comparable with the January 6 US Capitol insurrection. The Freedom Convoy was supported via crowdfunding, with campaigns on GoFundMe and GiveSendGo raising enormous sums and attracting donors worldwide. Amid criticisms of their complicity in aiding extremism, GoFundMe and GiveSendGo adopted radically different stances, reflecting a growing and concerning divide between ‘Big Tech’ and ‘Alt Tech’ platforms. In our study, ‘Crowdfunding platforms as conduits for ‘ideological struggle and extremism’, we addressed the following questions: How do crowdfunding sites maintain their legitimacy as ‘open’ platforms while avoiding complicity with divisive, injurious, or even outright violent…

The International Communication Association (ICA) will be hosting its annual Post Conference at the University Sydney, on the topic of digital sovereignty. 

The International Communication Association (ICA) will be hosting its annual Post Conference at the University Sydney, on the topic of digital sovereignty.  Hosted by the Media & Communications discipline at The University of Sydney and the Critical Digital Infrastructures and Interfaces group at Deakin University, The ICA Post Conference 2024 will explore digital sovereignty through a range of inclusive and decolonial approaches to digital platform policy and governance, along with global perspectives on human rights, state power and territoriality under various digital sovereignty regimes. The ICA is currently inviting participants to submit a 500-word abstract on topics that fall within the scope of platforms and infrastructure in a global context.  Selected participants will be invited to present their work at the post-conference and to submit their papers to a special issue of Policy & Internet Journal. Submissions should be sent to sicss.admin@sydney.edu.au by 15 February 2024. Digital sovereignty refers to a countries’ autonomy and control over its digital data, systems and infrastructures. It is a term that has been deployed widely—by liberal states to assert citizens’ rights over the data they produce and by authoritarian states to justify surveilling and controlling their populations. At the same time, flows and forms of digital life offer new constructions of territoriality, governance, and identity, on more personal and humanistic terms. Recent geopolitical crises necessitate a re-thinking of digital sovereignty and its implications for digital policy and international affairs. In contemporary armed conflicts, like in the case of Russia’s war against Ukraine, where battles unfold across all layers of the digital communication spectrum, control over digital data flows has become a key strategic objective. In this context, digital sovereignty can be used to justify policies that facilitate the expansion of state power beyond established territorial borders. At the same time, how critical socio-technical systems are governed and by whom also determines experiences of digital sovereignty. UNESCO’s 2023 Internet for Trust report calls for the inclusion of diverse perspectives in the global governance of digital platforms. While this recommendation is…

A year after the introduction of the Code, we found the legislation was not always successful in meeting its publicly stated purposes; supporting public interest journalism.

The Australian recently government found itself the unlikely harbinger of a global trajectory toward more interventionist models of platform regulation with its enactment of the Australian News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code (NMBC) in 2021. The NMBC aims to support public interest journalism by ostensibly compelling digital platforms to bargain with news media organisations for remuneration for news content posted online. The Australian Federal Treasury completed the first review of the NMBC in 2022 and hailed the legislation a success. In a lot of ways, it was. There were 34 deals made amounting to more than AU$200 million across the media sector, which represents about 61 per cent of the market being covered by at least one deal. But is the Code fair or sustainable? More importantly, is the legislation replicable? I was part of a research team that examined policy documents and interviewed news media executives about their experience of negotiating with the platforms, with some findings published recently in Policy & Internet. Our research resonates with global responses to the ‘regulatory turn’ in platform governance, showing both the issues with the more interventionist models of regulation, and the lengths platforms will go to avoid them.  A year after the introduction of the Code, we found the legislation was not always successful in meeting its publicly stated purposes; supporting public interest journalism. We showed that several issues remain unaddressed in the Australian legislation, including: lack of designation forcing platforms to continue to comply with the legislation, registration criteria for news outlets prioritizing legacy media organisations over equally worthy independent news providers, and the most importantly, the unintended extension of platform power into defining which media organisations constitute public interest journalism and should therefore benefit from the legislation. Commercial confidence provisions in the legislation means news organizations and platforms are not required to report how much money they received, how they invested it, nor whether that investment aligned with the NMBC’s aim of supporting…

Through Twitter, diplomats can comment on world events in near-real time, narrate their state’s actions and justify state policies.

Although they are often described as antiquated and change resistant institutions, Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) have proven to be innovative, utilizing new digital technologies towards the obtainment of traditional diplomatic goals. Since 2008, MFAs have launched digital Embassies in virtual worlds, migrated to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter (now X), created digital diplomacy departments tasked with training diplomats, employed big data and sentiment analysis to inform the policy formulation process and launched dedicated smartphone applications. In a recent study, published in Policy & Internet, Elad Segev and I sought to analyze Twitter networks of MFAs. Previous studies suggest that although MFAs operate numerous social media profiles, they are most active on Twitter. Through Twitter, diplomats can comment on world events in near-real time, narrate their state’s actions and justify state policies. Moreover, Twitter enables diplomats to interact with elite audiences including journalists, policy makers and other diplomatic institutions. Indeed, studies suggest that diplomatic institutions follow one another on Twitter and that diplomats view their peers’ Twitter profile as an important source of information. For instance, MFAs may follow peers to identify policy shifts, diplomatic priorities and state’s positions on events shaping the world.  Few studies to date have mapped MFA networks on Twitter or tried to examine which factors contribute to the popularity, or centrality of MFAs in a Twitter network of their peers. It is possible that Twitter networks of MFAs mirror offline networks of diplomacy. In such an instance, one might expect that world powers would attract the most peers on Twitter. Yet it is also possible that Twitter networks differ from offline networks and that MFAs from peripheral states may attract more peers than world powers. In our study, we strove to both map MFA networks on Twitter and identify factors that contribute to the network centrality of an MFA among a network of its peers. To do so, we analyzed the Twitter network…

Political agents utilize digital platforms as alternative venues to solidify their ideological stances, employing rhetorical tactics characterized by substantial emotional impact, disinformation content, and hate expressions against specific individuals or social groups.

The widespread use of social networking platforms has facilitated enhanced communication between users and significantly influenced public opinion due to the vast amount of information readily available. Often, this information is shared anonymously and with immediate effect. Political figures have capitalized on this opportunity to engage with their audience directly, circumventing traditional media outlets. Their objective is to garner the attention of their potential voters by expressing their political perspectives on prominent issues and leaving a lasting impression on public opinion. Like numerous other countries, Spain grapples with political polarization and heightened tensions among actors in the prevailing landscape. During the early 2010s, Spain witnessed a significant increase in politically extreme groups, such as Vox, contributing to heightened political polarization. Political agents utilize digital platforms as alternative venues to solidify their ideological stances, employing rhetorical tactics characterized by substantial emotional impact, disinformation content, and hate expressions against specific individuals or social groups. This approach perpetuates prejudices and stereotypes among message recipients by repeatedly employing denigrant language. This phenomenon happens in a fragmented multi-party system like Spain’s, which comprises an array of national, local, and regional actors, and where the traditional two-party system is losing influence, and such tactics have attained greater significance. Digital platforms have emerged as the primary mode of interaction, facilitated by the echo chamber effect and homophily between users who typically engage in such scenarios. In these situations, political actors applied unidirectional communication to their voters. A form of communication that can involve the dissemination of disinformation and hate speech as tools for their rhetoric. This blog entry is based on a research paper titled “Promotion of hate speech by Spanish political actors on Twitter”, recently published in Policy & Internet (P&I). The study examines the extent and nature of hate speech on Twitter, as expressed by the 16 political groups in Spain’s Congress in 2020. We recognize the limitations of the scope of the paper. However, it…

China is perhaps one of the most digitalized societies worldwide. Part of this sweep has been abetted by the rise of large Internet companies that offer key services for everyday social and economic life in the general population.

Digitalization has swept through the global economy worldwide. China is perhaps one of the most digitalized societies worldwide. Part of this sweep has been abetted by the rise of large Internet companies that offer key services for everyday social and economic life in the general population. Such services touch upon social networking sites to enable digital connectivity over geographical distances and time, payment infrastructure to facilitate digital transactions and money transfers, and new platforms to expand video game options and video communication (such as short videos). The prominence of these services has been lucrative for Internet companies.  But their success has also made them a ripe target for regulation. My latest work examined the latest policies that have emerged out of China in response to the growth of Internet companies. Internet companies in China have leveraged their rich balance sheets to acquire or purchase minority stakes in smaller companies deemed conducive to growth. The most salient of these purchases include Tencent’s acquisition of a minority stake in California-based Snapchat and Alibaba’s stake in Chinese streaming platform MangoTV. The two cases capture the growing lengths to which Internet companies would search for new investment targets and engines of growth. Companies were not only looking to acquire competitors, they were also looking to acquire firms beyond the Internet sector and even national borders. This volley of acquisition activity was one of the major legislative battlegrounds for China’s policy crackdown. New policies urged stringent reporting guidelines that covered Internet firm activities across national borders, curbed internal anti-competitive practices, and institutionalized new channels of oversight through a collaboration of government ministries. If balance sheets were the only thing companies needed to acquire without limit, we would see private interests totalize social and economic life, resulting in greater inequality and the recession of government powers (and public interests). These concerns aboutthe growing influence of Internet companies are a story that is not restricted to China.…

In his latest editorial for Policy and Internet, John Hartley argues that a whole-of-humanity effort to meet the challenges of the ‘digital information space’ is impossible, unless we draw from those who have experienced colonialism.

In November 2023, the OECD convened a conference in Paris to ‘identify effective policy responses to the urgent challenges’ member countries face in the ‘information space’. It warned: Today, less than a quarter of citizens say they trust their news media and a majority worry that journalists, governments and political leaders purposely mislead them. In this context, the instantaneous and global spread of information, targeted disinformation campaigns that deceive and confuse the public, and rapidly changing media markets pose a fundamental threat to democracies. As the OECD recognises, ‘a new governance model is needed to establish a whole-of-society approach to fight mis- and disinformation and preserve freedom of speech.’  However, as I argued in a Policy and Internet editorial, a whole-of-humanity effort to meet these challenges is impossible to achieve through incumbent political arrangements.  This quagmire is the result of the ‘information space’ of the Internet being riven by enmities and conflict. Purposeful opposition to this digital ‘New World’ is treated as criminal gangsterism. Anyone who is not one of ‘us’ must be one of ‘them’ – an enemy. As per Ronfeldt and Arquilla, there are plenty: China, Russia, Iran, Wikileaks, criminal cartels (hacking, fraud, ransom), along with religious and nationalist ‘terrorists’ (Palestinians, Kurds, or Kashmiri but not Israel, Türkiye, or India). Andreessen adds accelerationist activists for libertarian sovereignty, while Marwick and others include far-right populists and populism.  However, an additional challenge impedes on universally-inclusive efforts. Namely, the privileged status of OECD countries and their nations that is currently being challenged. According to Frydl, people in OECD countries like to think of themselves as affluent, advanced, and mostly white. However, I argue, as life becomes increasing digitalised, these very people are beginning to learn what it feels like to be messed around, their lives harmed and resources farmed by unaccountable external agents that owe no allegiance to anyone. That is, citizens in OECD countries are somewhat learning what colonialism is through challenges to sovereignty and security delivered via the digital ‘information…