Networks and gatekeepers: The politics of internet policy in Canada

Wilkinson, Sabrina. 2021. Networks and gatekeepers: The politics of internet policy in Canada. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This dissertation investigates the politics of Canadian internet policy development and the implications of these dynamics for the public interest. Drawing on the political economy of communication and gatekeeping theory, this study finds that heightened risks to the public interest exist in different phases of policy formation, including the issue-identification and framing, consultation, deliberation and decision, and recuperation phases. While these threats are wide-ranging, they often relate to the strategic behaviours of well-resourced groups that advocate for policy positions adjacent or contrary to the public interest, a regulatory process unsuited for robust civil society participation, and the resource constraints of participating public interest groups. An expansive and critical adoption of gatekeeping theory illuminates how gatekeeping in internet policy development encompasses a dynamic and multi-faceted set of actors, behaviours, and tools. In this domain, power is exercised in varied and shifting ways, but there are nonetheless dominant actors who regularly take on the gatekeeper role. An examination of the ways that gatekeepers exercise this power, and the institutions and norms that allow them to do so, offers an innovative approach to the study of internet policy development. There is also novelty in the application of gatekeeping theory to online gatekeepers within the context of internet policy engagement campaigns. Substantial structural reforms to the institutions and processes that characterize Canadian internet policy development, as well as the economic framework they exist within, are necessary for Canada to have a truly equitable communications system. However, improvements to the existing policy environment can offer opportunities for internet policy that more readily reflects the public interest.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


internet policy, political economy, gatekeeping theory, qualitative methods

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


31 January 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

28 Jun 2021 15:05

Last Modified:

31 Jan 2024 02:26


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