Failed Analogies: Net Neutrality Versus 'Search' and 'Platform' Neutrality
12 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 29, 2016
While many have lamented that the term “network neutrality” is boring and unclear, that concept has inspired millions around the world to file comments with national regulators, and led those regulators to take action in much of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Perhaps as a sign of net neutrality’s success in public debate, some thinkers have started borrowing the word “neutrality” for concepts that are supposedly analogous to net neutrality, but really have very little in common with it. The two best-known expressions are “search neutrality” and “platform neutrality” (which apparently also encompasses app store neutrality), all of which have prompted discussion before regulators.
Whatever the potential merit of these two concepts on their own (and there is good reason to doubt their merit), the supposed analogy to net neutrality is flawed and cannot justify them. As I explain in this short paper, net neutrality is a specific concept backed by over a decade of research and debate, descending from common carriage, rooted in the particulars of the economics of Internet networks. Search neutrality and platform neutrality lack rigorous research or debate, are incoherent new concepts unrelated to long-standing legal doctrines, and the economics of “search” and “platforms” are much different from those animating net neutrality.
The only thing that net neutrality has in common with search neutrality and platform neutrality is the word neutrality. As a result, one would have to justify search neutrality or platform neutrality based on different arguments than the arguments that apply to network neutrality.
Keywords: Network neutrality, platform neutrality, search neutrality
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