Increasing power of private platforms

Private platforms have increasing power to determine all aspects of our access to information, social interactions, and democratic activities. Researchers highlighted the increasing dominance of an increasingly small number of privately-owned platforms over the internet. People who own and control these platforms have a monopolisation tendency linked to the relationship between the mining of user-data and their imperative to make profits. This model of operation is termed “platform monopolies”. The monopolisation tendency makes alternatives to the data-extraction for profit model, for example co-operative, democratised ownership models, hard to start up and survive.

The concentrated power of these platforms shapes not just the wider information context and ability to develop alternative non-extractive models of digital information provision and sharing, but individual’s personal lives also. Platform monopolies affect how and with whom we interact socially through algorithms. A body of literature points to the actions that these people in this companies take that impact human rights, both through the control of personal data and the level of control over what appears in the public sphere.

From this model of platform monopolies flows a series of further threats to democracy. Some relate to the features of the platforms, directly linked to the capture of people's personal data. The collection and on-sale of personal data by these platforms, to both governments looking to undertake surveillance on their own citizens, and private organisations wishing to make profits, erodes public trust in information systems, and curtails the professional work of the media and writers - a key plank in our democracy.