Start 01.09.2023 - End 31.08.2025

ProPA - Pro-Democracy Platform Advocacy: Fostering Social Media's Accountability to Dissident Voices under Authoritarianism

Pro-Democracy Platform Advocacy: Fostering Social Media's Accountability to Dissident Voices under Authoritarianism (ProPA) is a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship – European Fellowship, granted to Mai Van Tran.

Digital platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have long touted themselves as defenders of freedom of expression, yet their content moderation rules have faced global criticism, amongst others for failing to tackle authoritarian repression of dissident voices. Government trolls successfully run malicious reporting campaigns that result in the platforms’ removal of activists’ posts and accounts. Meanwhile, civil society under authoritarianism lacks means of legal recourse and can only engage in international advocacy to urge social media companies to implement safeguards. 

To which extent have advocacy efforts for protection of prodemocracy content led to changes in digital platforms’ content moderation rules? Have these changes resulted in a more open online civic space for pro-democracy activism? What limitations remain?

To address these questions and foster platform accountability for vulnerable users, Mai Van Tran will work under Prof. Trisha Meyer’s supervision at the Centre for Digitalisation, Democracy and Innovation (CD2I) of the Brussels School of Governance (BSoG) and Sam Gregory’s secondment supervision at WITNESS Inc. to achieve two main R&I objectives. 

First, the project will build and test a theoretical model of pro-democracy platform advocacy, based on original evidence from Asian pro-democracy movements and their advocacy toward three social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram). Second, the findings will be turned into two open-access academic articles and three applied innovations, including a best practice guide for pro-democracy activists, a set of policy recommendations for social media companies, and a digital advocacy resource for social media users. 

The Brussels School of Governance is a partner in ProPA. Our team will host Mai Van Tran during her Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship.