Regulating an Infrastructuralised Airbnb: Organisational, Regulatory and Civil Society Challenges and Responses
Oxford Internet, Policy and Politics Conference, 2018
25 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2018
Date Written: September 20, 2018
As some of the most prominent contemporary socio-technical systems, sharing economy digital platforms have quickly become symbiotic with our way of life. Platforms that successfully tread this hallowed path begin exhibiting the infrastructural traits of embeddedness, dependency, ubiquity, invisibility, indispensability and extensibility, and have had an interesting but complex tryst with society, both positive and negative, and resultantly with regulation. Regulatory interventions by policymakers have seldom been able to keep pace with both technological development and scaled platform deployment, with responses being largely seen as slapdash and unfit for purpose, leaving other actors including the platforms themselves to enter the regulatory fray. This paper analyses one such prominent platform, Airbnb, which has in its short history, grown from a humble sharing economy service to a Unicorn, becoming an integral part of global accommodation infrastructure. Through this use case it highlights how sharing economy platforms infrastructuralise, underpinned by data gathering at scale, and the creation of information asymmetries inherent to their design and business models, arguing that understanding and analysing these tensions from a digital infrastructure perspective exposes challenges both familiar to infrastructure scholarship as well as newer ones unique to digital platforms, in ways that can help inform strategies for various stakeholders and the synergies required between them, offering an invaluable lens into the macro-level responses required to address novel regulatory challenges posed. As ways to address some of these, it relies on existing scholarship to present potential contextually relevant solutions grounded in consumer protection and data protection law, information fiduciaries, open APIs and transferrable sharing rights.
Keywords: Platforms, digital platforms, platform regulation, airbnb, sharing economy, law, technology, infrastructure
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