The rise of major transnational digital technology companies has given governments worldwide regulatory headaches. Whereas traditional companies like banks or airlines could largely be managed by a sector specific regulator, a company like Google raises regulatory questions across areas from taxation to national security, and from advertising to child protection.
Governments are starting to take steps to update and reconfigure their regulatory institutions to cope with these multifaceted giants. As this is happening, however, it is possible that high profile national security and taxation priorities might lead to governments simply not building regulatory structures that can intervene to improve citizen engagement outcomes.
Without building such structures, governments and citizens could potentially miss out on various benefits, including:
- Giving citizens new and ultra-fluid ways of engaging with power structures from directly within social media platforms (especially where these would not be profitable for the platform companies); and
- The addition of tools and features within major platforms that are specifically deployed to break down and bridge harmful social divides.
As governments and decision makers rebuild their regulatory regimes to cope with this new era, they should challenge the leadership of these regulators to ensure that they (i) employ at least some of the skills required to engage in the citizen engagement space; and (ii) give those institutions remits that extend to improving and safeguarding the quality of interactions between citizens and decision makers, rather than being limited to security, taxation, and market regulation.