Values, Ethics and Participatory Policymaking in Online Communities

Alissa Centivany, Western University

This is a preprint. Please cite the version of record.

Abstract

Drawing upon principles and lessons of technology law and policy, value-centered design, anticipatory design ethics, and information policy literatures this research seeks to contribute to understandings of the ways in which platform design, practice, and policymaking intersect on the social media site Reddit. This research explores how Reddit’s users, moderators, and administrators surface values (like free speech, privacy, dignity, and autonomy), hint at ethical principles (what content, speech, behavior ought to be restricted and under what conditions), through a continuous process of (re)negotiating expectations and norms around values, ethics, and power on the site. Central to this research are questions such as: Who or what influences and/or determines social practice on Reddit? Who participates in decision-making and using what processes and mechanisms? Where do controversies arise and how are they resolved? Generating findings from a particular controversy surrounding the subreddit /r/jailbait, the author illustrates the complexities inherent in these questions and suggests that a participatory policymaking approach might contribute to future research and practice in this area.