Critical Data Studies A Cross-College Collaboration

Glossary: Platform

Although there are many conceptions of “platforms,” there is no one single definition. According to Tarleton Gillespie, there are many ways to define a platform. However, they all have one thing in common: the image of something that raises everyone and/or everything to a higher level and “promises to support those who stand upon it” (Gillespie, 350). Youtube’s use of the word “platform” allows itself to be viewed under the connotations behind the word -- “neutral with regards to activity” along with “progressive” and “egalitarian” (Gillespie, 352). From the outside, Youtube appears to be a flawless “platform” whose goal is to give equal support to user-generated content (UGC) as well as all content creators. However, the fact that people are quick to dismiss any potential ill intent demonstrates the power behind Youtube’s self description of “platform.” Youtube is a for-profit organization, which means the algorithms embedded in this “platform” are profit-oriented and favor videos that are more popular. The opposite also holds true: not only does Youtube’s algorithms limit viewership of potentially controversial videos, but they actively seek to demonetize controversial content creators to ensure they are not associated with such controversial UGC. Yet, all of this is hidden by Youtube’s (self) depiction as a platform, which allows it to separate itself as a neutral third party. Ultimately, Youtube is just one of many examples of the hypocrisy behind so-called neutral platforms and is proof that platforms are social constructs.




Gillespie, Tarleton. (2010). The Politics of ‘Platforms’. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347-364.


Student Editors: Matthew Der, Haoyuan Chen and Jia-Lin Chen. We would like to thank additional student editors who would like to remain anonymous for their contributions.