The quasi-sovereign attributes of social network sites

PI: Ms. Noa Mor. 

Social Network Sites (SNSs) are becoming key-players in addressing diversified cyber related conflicts. These conflicts may refer to terror, incitement to racial or ethnic hatred, cyber-attacks, bulling and shaming, intellectual property, and civic engagement. As they tackle these complex tasks, or even deal with everyday dilemmas arising in their platforms, SNSs dramatically influence and shape many of the human rights of their users. Such influence is maintained by applying varied practices, including monitoring and surveillance, ex-ante or ex-post censorship, disabling user accounts, and sharing private data with government authorities or with other stakeholders. Other practices may regard the designation of varied architectural and design features that mold the processes of information generation and consumption throughout these sites.

With this immense power and responsibility pertaining human rights, the legal framework that applies to SNSs as private actors, is sometimes insufficient and unequipped. What, then, is the normative basis for enhancing the legal (and moral) toolkit relevant to SNSs' conduct? This research seeks to identify the quasi-sovereign attributes of SNSs, as a basis for articulating the differences between them and "regular" private entities, and to justifying application of certain obligations on SNS's. Thus, the research further strives to explore the implications such quasi-sovereign attributes may have with regard, inter alia, to the norms and principals that ought to govern SNSs' operation, as well as the channels and measures that could promote their adaption.