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In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

Facebooks Edge Rank Algorithm (Source:

Facebooks Edge Rank Algorithm (Source:

In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), Adam Kramer and others published an article on “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks” with data derived from the world’s largest social network Facebook. The researchers was given the permission to manipulate the Facebook newsfeed in order to test how differences in terms of emotional direction of postings, i.e. more “happier” or more “sadder” updates, impact on people’s status updates. The study delivered two main results: First, emotions are “contagious” in that more happy postings inspired more happy postings and vice versa. Second, fewer emotional posts (in either direction) reduces posting frequency of Facebook users.

The publication of these results has incited furious debates with regard to research ethics, mainly criticizing that Facebook should have asked users to (more) explicitely consent in taking part in such an experiment. Susan Fiske, the Princeton University psychology professor who edited the study for publication, is quoted in an Atlantic article subtitled “It was probably legal. But was it ethical?” as follows:

“I was concerned,” Fiske told The Atlantic, “until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it—and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people’s News Feeds all the time.”

Over at orgtheoryElizabeth Popp Berman agrees that “the whole idea is creepy” but also argues that Read the rest of this entry »

In theory, copyright first and foremost belongs to the creator of any new work. In practice, creators are often forced to give up their copyright completely. Most researchers, for example, who need to publish in high impact journals have hardly any choice but handing over it their copyright to journal publishers. Or, Musicians cannot exclude some of their works from the terms of their copyright collectives to publish them under alternative licenses. By joining a collecting society like the German GEMA you trade certain parts of your copyright for the right to receive royalty payments. GEMA’s terms of service, however, are non-negotiable for individual musicians: like it or leave it. (see “Competition for Copyright Collectives“).

In many sectoral contexts private copyright regimes more or less completely replace the logic of (inter-)national copyright legislation.  Mostly this is due to private standardization and respective network effects: if the individual benefits of adopting a standard depend on the total number of adopters,  “exit” is not an option. People dissatisfied with such a private copyright regime are only left with the possibility of “voice”, thereby revealing the inherently political nature of private copyright regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
January 2019
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