Dedicated to Infringement: The politics of intermediary enforcement in online advertising

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media Studies


Dennis F. Kinsey

Second Advisor

Roy S. Gutterman


Infrastructure studies, Internet governance, STS

Subject Categories

Communication | Communication Technology and New Media


In the wake of recent legislative efforts designed to curb copyright infringement on the web – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) -- governments have increasingly come to rely on private industry (e.g. content providers and third party content networks) to serve as intermediaries for the enforcement of intellectual property rights on the web. Often this form of infrastructure-based content mediation occurs through private ordering and the creation of industry standards and in-house best practices designed to deal with alleged intellectual property infringement. The emergence of these indirect infrastructure-based modes of enforcement (DeNardis, 2012) raises several important questions for innovation, Internet interoperability, and freedom of expression on the web. This study seeks to shed light on this murky area of content mediation by examining how online advertising professionals construct meaning around value-laden concepts like intellectual property rights and how these cognitive constructs go on to influence the shape of the networked public sphere. The study uses a mixed method approach combining Q methodology and focus group interviews to examine cognitive and discursive patterns of meaning-making regarding intellectual property infringement among online advertising professionals, a key industry in this increasingly privatized infrastructure-mediated regulatory environment.


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