Social media governance: Can companies motivate voluntary rule following behavior among their users

Social Media Governance Workshop

By: Tom Tyler, Matt Katsaros, Tracey Meares, Sudhir Venkatesh


The question of how to effectively enforce rules on social media mirrors the general question of how to enforce laws in society. One model for both governments and private companies is incapacitation—preventing people from taking particular actions. Using this approach, private companies can exercise control over their sites by removing content that violates their standards and placing restrictions on the account. This parallels the governmental process of removing people who break the law from society through incarceration. The problem in both settings is that people seek ways to get around such controls, trying to hide their actions. It is better if people willingly follow the rules, something referred to as self-regulation. Research with legal authority makes clear that such self-regulation is possible in the case of public legal authority and is linked to the legitimacy of that authority (Tyler, 2006). Our question is whether private companies can have similar legitimacy and can thereby motivate their users to voluntarily follow content rules.