Get access

Policy and Participation on Social Media: The Cases of YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia


Corresponding author: Laura Stein; e-mail:


This article examines media participation in the domain of user policies. I adapt Arnstein's typology of participation as a tool for recognizing specific participatory forms and the levels of power they afford. Applying this tool to user policy documents highlights an important dimension of how social media platforms position user participation and the common policy mechanisms structuring and delimiting participation online. While YouTube and Facebook policies offer minimal participation over site content and governance, Wikipedia offers maximal participation. Moreover, understanding the terms of participation inscribed in user policies facilitates both more informed choices about user involvement in online platforms and advocacy for more equitable usage terms in policy, law, and practice.