Learning from the laws of the sea, Foucault and regulatory theory: proposing a ‘regulatory harbour’ model for the regulation of social media that serves rather than rules the waves

  • Laura Scaife Practising Lawyer
Keywords: social media, regulatory theory, cyberspace regulation, libetarianism, cyberpaternalism, Foucault, internet, waterfall methodology, agile methodology, governance, hybrid modelling


This paper will make a modest case of the regulation of social media. Improved rule-making comes when the means of securing compliance is shaped having regard to the particular problem at hand, rather than by clinging to the notion that rules shape the world. Through a consideration of the regulation of the sea, this paper has served to illustrate that regulation is possible. In the context of social media, where individuals work constantly on their self-identity and perform self-development though expressive activities in public, the use of social media sites can represent what Foucault described as techniques of the self. This paper proposes a theoretical and methodological approach to thinking about the regulation of social media as conceptualised in an iterative and dynamic model that is characterised by the technologisation of human interaction and increasingly transparent ways of living in an age of ‘technologies of the self ’. This approach will facilitate a more critical, responsive and iterative awareness of the regulation of expressive content in a way that can grow with the technological state of the art, alive to cultural sensitivities and the use of the tools as a vessel for self-development.