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Tomer Shadmy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem From Users to Humans: Reimagining Political Freedom in Online Platforms

Major online platforms develop and deploy an array of direct legislative, judiciary and enforcement mechanisms. While platforms authority receives its mandate from private law, it has a tremendous public impact.  The contemporary legal literature that addresses the platforms influence on human rights tends to center on privacy and freedom-of-expression issues, and deals less with the human rights implications of the mere existence of new form of authority. This article analyzes and defines the unique sociotechnical characteristics of this form of power relations and examines their implications for political freedom – both as users individual right and as a social/political construct. The article shows that protecting political freedom in this transnational hybrid setting does not require an initial cataloging of the emerging authority between the private and the public. Instead, I propose the creation of legal structures that will provide users with the abilities and tools to organize and to have collective powers vis-à-vis platforms. The article demonstrates that legal institutionalization of channels for political participation, can be justified in various contexts also in private setting, and not only does not violate constitutional principles but actually fulfills them. Creating legal options for the integration of users’ collective voice within the corporate governance and decision-making mechanisms of big online platforms could assist in mitigating the power disparities inherent in these platforms and in respecting, protecting and fulfilling users’ political rights.

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