Regulating transparency? Facebook, twitter and the German network enforcement act

Ben Wagner, Krisztina Rozgonyi, Marie Therese Sekwenz, Jennifer Cobbe, Jatinder Singh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Regulatory regimes designed to ensure transparency often struggle to ensure that transparency is meaningful in practice. This challenge is particularly great when coupled with the widespread usage of dark patterns - design techniques used to manipulate users. The following article analyses the implementation of the transparency provisions of the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) by Facebook and Twitter, as well as the consequences of these implementations for the effective regulation of online platforms. This question of effective regulation is particularly salient, due to an enforcement action in 2019 by Germany's Federal Office of Justice (BfJ) against Facebook for what the BfJ claim were insufficient compliance with transparency requirements, under NetzDG. This article provides an overview of the transparency requirements of NetzDG and contrasts these with the transparency requirements of other relevant regulations. It will then discuss how transparency concerns not only providing data, but also how the visibility of the data that is made transparent is managed, by deciding how the data is provided and is framed. We will then provide an empirical analysis of the design choices made by Facebook and Twitter, to assess the ways in which their implementations differ. The consequences of these two divergent implementations on interface design and user behaviour are then discussed, through a comparison of the transparency reports and reporting mechanisms used by Facebook and Twitter. As a next step, we will discuss the BfJ's consideration of the design of Facebook's content reporting mechanisms, and what this reveals about their respective interpretations of NetzDG's scope. Finally, in recognising that this situation is one in which a regulator is considering design as part of their action - we develop a wider argument on the potential for regulatory enforcement around dark patterns, and design practices more generally, for which this case is an early, indicative example.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFAT* 2020 - Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Pages261-271
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781450369367
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes
Event3rd ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, FAT* 2020 - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 27 Jan 202030 Jan 2020

Publication series

NameFAT* 2020 - Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency

Conference

Conference3rd ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, FAT* 2020
CountrySpain
CityBarcelona
Period27/01/2030/01/20

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