Ovdaya: Towards Platform Democracy

Aviv Ovadya works in the area of governance of social networks. Some months ago while he was Technology and Public Purpose fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center he published a paper advocating applying sortition for constituting governance bodies for social networks.

Towards Platform Democracy: Policymaking Beyond Corporate CEOs and Partisan Pressure

Aviv Ovadya, Oct. 18, 2021

Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms make incredibly impactful decisions about the speech of billions. Right now, those decisions are primarily in the hands of corporate CEO’s—and heavily influenced by pressure from partisan and authoritarian governments aiming to entrench their own power.

We propose an alternative: platform democracy. In the past decade, a new suite of democratic processes have been shown to be surprisingly effective at navigating challenging and controversial issues, from nuclear power policy in South Korea to abortion in Ireland. These processes have been tested around the world, overcome the pitfalls of elections and referendums, and can work at platform scale. They enable the creation of independent ‘people’s mandates’ for platform policies—something invaluable for the impacted populations, the governments which are constitutionally unable to act on speech, and even the platforms themselves.