Because of the economics of online information, thousands who do not know each other can band together in hours, without previous organizational coordination or any persistent central coordination, to affect others and conform society to their idea of the social good. This changes the dynamic of political action and the ability of unaffiliated, lone individuals to respond to social acts where government and the market have not. Through ad hoc volunteerism, the Sinclair participants produced regulatory action against a private party with whom they were not transacting--because they believed government failed to do so. Although ad hoc volunteerism has received sustained attention as a mode of economic production of information, it has received little attention as a mode of private regulation or a cure for government failure. By "private regulation," I mean actions by private actors which deliberately constrain and influence other private actors. Although private regulation is common, often including boycotts, scholars predicted that cheap speech through the internet would weaken, not strengthen, the power of "private speech regulations." [...] This paper analyzes the emerging phenomenon of private regulation through ad hoc online coalitions where the coalitions believe that markets and government have failed. It evaluates the underlying collective action problems and the online cost structures, motivation, and capacity that permit individuals to overcome these problems. It provides a taxonomy of issues and problems in collective action, and how technology affects these issues and problems. Because the paper's primary case study is the Sinclair blogstorm, which targeted speech, many of the paper's conclusions are particularly relevant for private speech regulation, and the paper explicitly considers normative implications of such private regulation targeting speech.
A Shadow Government: Private Regulation, Free Speech, and Lessons from the Sinclair Blogstorm,
Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mttlr/vol12/iss1/1