Digital platforms & groups have too much power


For each service its own platform, in other words, the ‘platform economy’. As aggregators they combine supply and demand acting as online matchmakers, whether or not including secondary services. Similar appearances arise on social media platforms, but there they are called ‘groups’ that all focus on one specific goal or topic. It all sounds very nice and it can also work, but there is also a shadow side to it that we have to shine a light on.

The problem

Within Western democracies we firmly believe in something called ‘trias politica‘. In other words, separation of powers. However, with platforms and groups, the so-called ‘back office’ is the prosecutor, judge and executioner in one. There is always a sense of insecurity that an account can be deleted at the touch of a button and that this action is irreversible nor can’t be repealed.

This is undesirable because it fits more into the picture of a dictatorship than a democracy. Especially the power to permanently close (ban) accounts should not be with the platforms or groups themselves.

The solution

It is a big problem which needs to be tackled in different ways starting with:

Better back office reporting tools for administrators

  • Easier and faster overview of reported messages + filtering by different type of reported messages including violations

  • Be able to see who has reported in order to deter false reports + possibility for explanation to the reporting person

  • Provide an explanation of the violation & associated sanction, if imposed, to the offender

  • Apply a adversarial process before resorting to sanctions

  • Replace permanent bans to temporary suspension (ban) options that vary from 1 day to a maximum of 1 month

  • The obligation of processing the reports within a month

Better reporting tools for users

  • Have the opportunity to provide explanations when reporting

  • Having the ability to upload screenshots or videos to provide context + annotations

  • View the pipeline status of the report

Better tools for the accused/offenders

  • The possibility to view real-time what the reported message is about

  • The possibility of defense (in the context of adversarial process)

  • The possibility to view the duration of the sanction

  • Continue to have garanteed access to crucial aspects such as finances & personal data

  • The suspended account shouldn’t make it impossible to login to other platforms

In short, there is still a lot of work to be done to make and keep the internet more pleasant as well as safer.

The conclusion

Groups & digital platforms have no options (or not fine-grained enough) but to compensate for this they have the most destructive means in their hands, banishment. A far too big of a gap in regards to sanctions that needs to be closed to make the internet a happy place for everyone again.


Time: 6 hours
Written by: Mariƫlle Pax & Robert Velhorst