What is networked communications governance?

Communication is increasingly regulated by technologies and private organizations, as well as by governments.  Governance by a plurality of actors is known as networked governance.

Regulation of censorship, cultural funding, and privacy increasingly involves information and communication technologies (ICTs): YouTube filtering algorithms censor; crowdfunding sites fund cultural production, and digital technology designs govern privacy.

Private organizations also act as regulators, whether through delegation of regulatory authority, as with the Ontario Film Authority (OFA), a private non-profit that now administers Ontario’s film classification system, or through their roles in designing technologies that regulate.

Networked governance raises important questions about who governs, and how regulators are kept accountable. While some theorists are optimistic that such changes may lead to greater decentralization and democratization, others are pessimistic, arguing that networked governance in the globalized networked information economy is as exploitative and undemocratic as those that came before.

The concept of networked governance provides a framework for descriptively assessing the extent to which private, civil society, and technology sectors, as well as states, act as nodes of governance and, related to that, the extent to which governance is concentrated, dispersed, or democratized.  It also provides a critical framework for normative assessment of networked governance arrangements.