Governing Bad Behavior by Users of Multi-Sided Platforms

39 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2011 Last revised: 28 Jul 2022

See all articles by David S. Evans

David S. Evans

Market Platform Dynamics; Berkeley Research Group, LLC

Date Written: May 3, 2012


Multi-sided platforms such as exchanges, search engines, social networks and software platforms create value by assembling and serving communities of people and businesses. They generally solve a transaction problem that prevents agents from coming together to exchange value. An essential feature of these platforms is that they promote positive externalities between members of the community. But as with any community, there are numerous opportunities for people and businesses to create negative externalities, or engage in other bad behavior, that can reduce economic efficiency and, in the extreme, lead to the tragedy of the commons. Multi-sided platforms, acting selfishly to maximize their own profits, often develop governance mechanisms to reduce harmful behavior. They also develop rules to manage many of the same kinds of problems that beset communities subject to public laws and regulations. They enforce these rules through the exercise of property rights and, most importantly, through the bouncer’s right to exclude agents from some quantum of the platform including prohibiting some agents from the platform entirely. Private control is likely to be more efficient than social control (through laws and regulation) in dealing with negative externalities on platform communities because the platform owner can monitor bad behavior more closely and deal with this behavior more expeditiously than a public regulator. Therefore, the courts and antitrust authorities should exercise caution in finding anticompetitive exclusion when that exclusion is conducted as part of a private governance mechanism for dealing with bad behavior of some platform users that harm other users.

Keywords: multisided platform governance, platforms externalities, platform regulation, private regulation of platforms, platforms and property rights, platform governance and exclusion, platform governance and Facebook, platforms and Section 230

Suggested Citation

Evans, David S., Governing Bad Behavior by Users of Multi-Sided Platforms (May 3, 2012). University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 582, Available at SSRN: or

David S. Evans (Contact Author)

Market Platform Dynamics ( email )

140 South Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60603
United States

Berkeley Research Group, LLC ( email )

99 High St.
Boston, MA 02110
United States


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