Should users participate in governing social media? Philosophical and technical considerations of democratic social media




social media, democracy, Facebook, user participation, online voting, expert knowledge


In recent years, a plethora of well-known data scandals has led to calls for alternative forms of social media governance. What challenges of institutional design would have to be met for developing meaningful democratic governance structures for a social media platform? Intertwining philosophical and technological considerations, this article explores the possibility and feasibility of democratically governed social media. We focus on the necessary technological requirements that guarantee secure voting for social media user participation. While we provide several arguments in favor of democratically governed social media from within, we argue that it should not be considered as an alternative to social media regulation from the outside.

Author Biographies

Severin Engelmann, Technical University of Munich

Severin Engelmann is a Ph.D. student at the Professorship for Cyber Trust at the Technical University of Munich (Department of Informatics). With a background in Philosophy of Technology and Computer Science, Severin Engelmann’s research investigates the normative dimensions of large digital socio-technical systems. In particular, he studies how social media platforms and social credit systems (e.g. in China) can become more transparent and accountable.

Jens Grossklags, Technical University of Munich

Prof. Jens Grossklags, Ph.D. holds the Professorship for Cyber Trust at the Department of Informatics at the Technical University of Munich. He studies security and privacy challenges from the economic and behavioral perspectives with a variety of methodologies. Prof. Grossklags received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. He then directed the Security, Privacy and Information Economics Lab, and served as the Haile Family Early Career Professor at the Pennsylvania State University.

Lisa Herzog, University of Groningen

Prof. Lisa Herzog D.Phil. is a professor at the Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Groningen. Her research focuses on economic democracy, political epistemology, and ethics in organizations, drawing on the history of ideas, but also addressing contemporary issues. Prof. Herzog received her PhD from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 2011, and has since then worked at the universities of St. Gallen, Frankfurt, and Stanford.






How to Cite

Engelmann, S., Grossklags, J. ., & Herzog, L. . (2020). Should users participate in governing social media? Philosophical and technical considerations of democratic social media. First Monday, 25(12).