The term “multistakeholder” (MS) is now claimed as a legitimizing feature of various international, Internet-related policy development entities. Civil society in particular tends to demand multistakeholder governance in order to gain entry into decision-making processes otherwise controlled by business or government. While in many ways the advance of MS governance is a good thing, it also means that the term can be applied loosely or even deceptively. We need to ask what multistakeholderism really means in a particular policy environment, and we need to assess critically how these organizations are being set up.
This paper develops a set of criteria that permits us to analyze and contrast multistakeholder initiatives. It then applies those criteria to 3 recent initiatives related to content governance that lay claim to being multistakeholder: the Christchurch Call and its Advisory Network, the Facebook Oversight Board, and the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). In applying these criteria, we recognize that some of these institutions are still evolving and their classification can change. In the three initiatives, we see good-faith efforts to involve multiple stakeholders in each case, sometimes very extensive and multi-layered ones. But there is substantial variance in methods, mechanisms, and influence levels. This paper did not delve into the substantive policy issues associated with content moderation. Those issues are important, and will be taken up in another set of papers.
Keywords: Content moderation; Platform governance; multistakeholder; Christchurch Call; Social media; Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT); Facebook Oversight Board