TOOLS BEYOND CONTROL: PRIVATE INFORMATION INTERMEDIARIES AND THE WORK OF ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS

Luis Hestres

Abstract


Advocacy organizations have come to rely heavily on a new generation of private information intermediaries that have become synonymous with the contemporary Internet. In the field of Internet governance, private information intermediaries have been defined as “private systems that do not provision actual content but rather facilitate information or financial transactions among those who provide and access content” (DeNardis, 2014, p. 153).

There private information intermediaries can increasingly determine how citizens and activists engage politically online through the technical architectures and policies they choose to implement—a phenomenon that can often disrupt the work of activists. Based on 16 in-depth interviews with present and former online strategists at several U.S. climate change and environmental advocacy organizations, this paper addresses the strategic importance and uses that online strategists assign to different types of private information intermediaries; their experiences using these tools and their responses to such experiences; and their perceived need to use these intermediaries to conduct their work and ability to use alternative tools.


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