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Justice in the Post-public Sphere: The New Challenge for Global Communication Governance

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Global Communication Governance at the Crossroads


The multi-headed hydra of digital capitalism has engulfed the digital public sphere, subordinating social interaction to the economy of algorithmic surveillance and expelling all that is irrelevant to profit. The traditional liberal paradigm of communications governance has proven inadequate in addressing this erosion. The right to communicate is not merely a negative liberty concerned with removing obstacles to free expression, but also, equally, the positive liberty of access and participation in digital agoras. Using Amartya Sen’s conception of justice, this essay explores a roadmap for a global, supra-liberal communicative constitutionalism appropriate to this conjuncture. It elucidates three ground norms: free expression as a positive liberty, the Internet as a global public infrastructure and a people-centred multilateral institutional framework for digital justice.

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  1. 1.

    China switched its position subsequently, advocating for subsuming the IGF into an intergovernmental arrangement within the UN system (Mueller, 2011).

  2. 2.

    For instance, Mark Zuckerberg has called for global regulation covering election integrity, harmful content, privacy and data portability to protect democracy in the digital paradigm on at least two occasions in 2019 and 2020 (Bloomberg, 2020).

  3. 3.

    We use digital capitalism and platform capitalism interchangeably to refer to the economic-political paradigm in which data and digital intelligence resources controlled by huge corporations become pivotal to profit maximisation.

  4. 4.

    Instances of such liberal approaches include the US Communications Decency Act, 1996, the EU E-commerce Directive, 2000 (for communications intermediaries), and voluntary multi-stakeholder efforts such as the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability, 2015.

  5. 5.

    Google has, in the past, been willing to work with both the US and Chinese states in digital surveillance projects, the now-infamous Project Maven and Project Dragonfly (Harding, 2019).

  6. 6.

    In response to the terrorist attacks on the Muslim community in Christchurch in March 2019, the governments of New Zealand and France issued a call for governments and technology companies to adopt a set of voluntary commitments to tackle terrorist and violent extremist content online. Governments from the Global North and South and leading technology companies such as Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Google have joined the call. See

  7. 7.

    This Section draws on IT for Change’s research project, Recognise-Resist-Remedy, which focuses on exploring legal-institutional responses to addressing gender-based hate speech in the online public sphere. See


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Correspondence to Anita Gurumurthy .

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Gurumurthy, A., Chami, N. (2024). Justice in the Post-public Sphere: The New Challenge for Global Communication Governance. In: Padovani, C., Wavre, V., Hintz, A., Goggin, G., Iosifidis, P. (eds) Global Communication Governance at the Crossroads. Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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