Exit To Community: Strategies for Multi-Stakeholder Ownership in the Platform Economy
The platform economy1is facing a crisis of accountability. Large Internet platforms, once regarded as sources of hope for democratic social movements or engines of a promising new economy—or, at worst, just superficial distractions—are now facing serious public scrutiny across the globe. The executives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been called before the U.S. Congress to account for their roles in enabling foreign election interference. Scholars have raised concerns about algorithmic, data-driven business models,2the exploitation of digital labor,3the abuse of market power,4 corporate governance failures,5 manipulation by oppressive governments,6 opacity and arbitrariness in content moderation,7 and corporate surveillance,8 to name just a few in an ever-growing body of literature on the depredations of the platform economy.
Part of the urgency surrounding such concerns lies in the fact that some platforms are near-impossible to escape. Internet users, and societies as a whole, have difficulty opting out of their services.9 Companies like Facebook, for instance, track users across the Web and create shadow user profiles even when the user does not have an account on their platforms.10 Not using such platforms means forgoing essential opportunities for work and social life—even access to basic services.11 By not using social media platforms such as Facebook, people deprive themselves of one of the “most powerful mechanisms” to make their voices heard.12 Conversely, for those who use such services, exit is not a costless exercise, as it involves the irrecoverable loss of social capital, reputational cachet, and assets.13
Morshed Mannan & Nathan Schneider
PhD Researcher, Company Law Department, Leiden University
2019 Research Fellow at the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy, The New School
Assistant Professor, Department of Media Studies, University of Colorado Boulder