Policy Studies Technology and Innovation

Applying Multi-Stakeholder Internet Governance to Online Content Management


Chris Riley
Former Resident Senior Fellow, Internet Governance
David Morar
Visiting Scholar, Schar School of Policy and Government

Key Points

The process reached consensus on some points, and greater consensus could be possible with further articulation of each of the propositions and associated consideration.

A multi-stakeholder process will not reach consensus on every issue through any process, as there are asymmetric assumptions and normative considerations, which is to be expected and accepted as inherent to inclusive processes.

The richness of the considerations surfaced through constructive discussion is valuable, and a scaled-up convening such as one led by a government body, if similarly designed to be inclusive and constructive, could add substantial value to ongoing internet governance conversations.


The content moderation policies of online platforms and Section 230 dominate many modern tech policy news cycles. Little wonder, since these laws and rules impose a specific balance of free expression and online harm mitigation with regards to technical freedom and responsibility. Yet, despite the significance and subtlety of such calculations, debates on these issues are too often conducted through op-ed pages and paid advertisements, not through open dialogue. Currently, few processes and structures seek to catalyze constructive dialogue among all of the relevant stakeholders. It is also increasingly clear that the depth required for any level of resolution is far beyond the scope of a single effort.

Against this backdrop, R Street’s multi-stakeholder internet governance project on content management endeavors to make progress toward a shared understanding of foundational content management concepts through an inclusive and bottom-up process. The project sets out to identify a set of concrete and specific intellectual buttresses for further discussion—including proposals that are the subject of active debate—by exploring specific challenges, opportunities and ambiguities.

The full report describes this effort, its philosophy of engagement, and the substantive output developed throughout the process. The hope is that platform managers’ and policymakers’ future actions will benefit from greater insight into the challenges and opportunities associated with content moderation and recommendation.

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