A Genealogy of Platform Regulation
This paper applies a genealogical methodology to trace the evolution of digital platform regulation efforts and controversies. It connects current efforts to 1990s controversies around the regulation of cyberspace: contestations on the meaning of freedom, law, power and democracy in digital spaces. I isolate three paradigmatic views, or moments, in early Internet regulation discourse: anarcho-libertarian, liberal and critical views. I ask how these three views or moments have influenced and led to a symmetric spectrum of views on how to regulate digital platforms, their power and how to promote freedom and emancipation in digital spaces: libertarian aversion to regulation, liberal perspectives on self-regulation, fiduciary obligations, data protection, competition and utility regulation, and critical accounts of platform governance. The presentation argues that the move from an Internet of networks to an Internet of platforms represents a significant shift: from a hybrid decentralized environment where freedom seemed the norm, to a centralized and privately controlled space where the default is enclosure and digital life is dependent on a few commercial actors. I show that 1990s understandings of digital freedom, power and law are part of an entrenched ideology of market liberalism that continues to enable private power to consolidate opaquely in digital environments. (Paper available for those interested at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3859487)
Elettra Bietti is a joint Fellow at the New York University School of Law and Cornell Tech in New York. She recently received her SJD from the Harvard Law School, and is affiliated with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, Harvard's Berkman-Klein Center and Harvard's Weatherhead Center. Her research is on the law and political philosophy of digital platform regulation, a theme which she tackles from a normative and critical perspective.
The event is part of the Seminar Series “Platform Politics and Policy”.
Researchers from outside the WZB who would like to attend may email the organizer, robert.gorwa [at] wzb.eu, to be put onto the seminar series mailing list.