Failed Analogies: Net Neutrality Versus 'Search' and 'Platform' Neutrality

12 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2016

See all articles by Marvin Ammori

Marvin Ammori

Stanford Law School - Center for Internet & Society; Democracy Fund (Omidyar Group)

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

Suggested Citation

Ammori, Marvin, Failed Analogies: Net Neutrality Versus 'Search' and 'Platform' Neutrality (March 29, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Marvin Ammori (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School - Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Palo Alto, CA
United States

Democracy Fund (Omidyar Group) ( email )

1200 17th Street NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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