This article proceeds as follows: Part II briefly addresses the theoretical arguments regarding the pros and cons of various governance strategies, focusing on the advantages, disadvantages and pitfalls of reliance on private parties. In Part III, the article describes, in general terms, the above-mentioned empirical study, explaining its methodology, the specific challenges to its design and implementation, and how these were met. The discussion specifically centers on a survey taken to establish the nature of social norms. Part IV presents a specific test case: whether pseudonymity should be permitted in social media or should “real names” be mandatory. Part V briefly discusses insights that the “real names” test case might provide for the broader questions regarding justice and fairness in social media governance. The article concludes with yet another context, the “right to be forgotten,” which might provide additional insights into the important research questions this project and others begin to address. It further notes additional extensions of the methodological design this article introduces.
An important caveat is due. While the article strives to argue a normative point as to the fair, just and proper way to govern social media, it draws on empirical findings regarding users’ actual social norms. Clearly, however, there are numerous examples of situations demonstrating descriptive social norms to which can hardly be considered a normative baseline to aspire. In fact social norms embraced by the majority might reflect prejudice, errors and the inability to adapt to social changes. In some instances, especially those pertaining to information privacy, the “crowd” might not be wise at all. For these reasons, the policy implications and recommendations to be derived from the discussion that follows are noted carefully, and must be subjected to additional considerations and scrutiny. Nevertheless, establishing whether governance methods, as applied in these innovative settings, are objectively fair and just, is extremely difficult if not impossible. Thus, reliance on imperfect proxies such as the nature of “social norms” will surely prove constructive. Therefore, examining the differences between these four subsets of governance (“code,” “contract,” “law,” and “social norms”) can provide us with insights into the “justice” of the governance administered by the platform provider and address the nuances of this intriguing reality.
Recommended CitationTal Z. Zarsky, Social Justice, Social Norms and the Governance of Social Media, 35 Pace L. Rev. 154 (2014)
Available at: http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/plr/vol35/iss1/6