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Pro-Democracy Platform Advocacy: Fostering Social Media's Accountability to Dissident Voices under Authoritarianism

Project description

A closer look at social media surveillance

Billions of people around the world are sharing their news and views and engaging in conversations on sites like Facebook and Twitter. While the right to freedom of expression applies in the digital world, social media platforms are under pressure to monitor content posted by users. They need to stop disinformation and remove harmful content. The EU-funded ProPA project will explore the advocacy efforts for protection of pro-democracy content and to what extent it has led to changes in digital platforms’ content moderation rules. It will investigate whether these changes resulted in a more open online civic space for pro-democracy activism. It will also check what limitations remain. The project will focus on Asian pro-democracy movements.


Digital platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have long touted themselves as defenders of freedom of expression, yet their content moderation rules have faced global criticism, amongst others for failing to tackle authoritarian repression of dissident voices. Government trolls successfully run malicious reporting campaigns that result in the platforms’ removal of activists’ posts and accounts. Meanwhile, civil society under authoritarianism lacks means of legal recourse and can only engage in international advocacy to urge social media companies to implement safeguards. To which extent have advocacy efforts for protection of pro-democracy content led to changes in digital platforms’ content moderation rules? Have these changes resulted in a more open online civic space for pro-democracy activism? What limitations remain?
To address these questions and foster platform accountability for vulnerable users, I will work under Prof. Trisha Meyer’s supervision at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) - Centre for Digitalisation, Democracy and Innovation (CD2I) at Brussels School of Governance (BSoG) and Sam Gregory’s secondment supervision at WITNESS Inc. to achieve two main R&I objectives. First, the project will build and test a theoretical model of pro-democracy platform advocacy, based on original evidence from Asian pro-democracy movements and their advocacy toward three social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram). Second, the findings will be turned into two open-access academic articles and three applied innovations, including a best practice guide for pro-democracy activists, a set of policy recommendations for social media companies, and a digital advocacy resource for social media users. I will disseminate and exploit these results via presentations at eight academic and three multi-stakeholder conferences, publications on Open Research Europe platform, and five facilitation workshops with activists and meetings with social media companies.


Net EU contribution
€ 191 760,00
1050 Bruxelles / Brussel

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Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/ Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Arr. de Bruxelles-Capitale/Arr. Brussel-Hoofdstad
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Partners (1)