Regulating Recommending: Motivations, Considerations, and Principles

48 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2019 Last revised: 30 Jul 2019

See all articles by Jennifer Cobbe

Jennifer Cobbe

University of Cambridge - Computer Laboratory

Jatinder Singh

University of Cambridge -- Dept. Computer Science & Technology (Computer Laboratory)

Date Written: April 15, 2019

Abstract

Internet regulation and 'online harms' are matters of much political and regulatory attention. This debate is beset by issues, including defining 'online harms', respecting freedom of expression, and others. While much of this debate has focused on content hosted by online platforms, comparatively little attention has been paid to the central role of algorithmic personalisation – or ‘recommending’ – by platforms in content dissemination in online environments and the problems to which this contributes. Focusing on recommender systems, i.e. the mechanism by which content is recommended by platforms, provides an alternative regulatory approach that avoids many of the pitfalls with addressing the hosting of content itself. This paper therefore explores motivations and considerations for regulating the use of recommender systems by online platforms. In doing so, this paper establishes a typology of online recommending, sets out various problems and consequences of recommending, and argues that recommending content is not one of the three activities for which information society service providers are afforded liability protections under the E-Commerce Directive. To address the identified problems and fill this legal gap, this paper proposes some principles for future regulation, and discusses approaches to oversight and compliance that could work with these principles.

Keywords: Internet Regulation; Platform Responsibility; Intermediary Liability; E-Commerce Directive; Recommender Systems

JEL Classification: K2; K24; L86; O31

Suggested Citation

Cobbe, Jennifer and Singh, Jatinder, Regulating Recommending: Motivations, Considerations, and Principles (April 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3371830 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3371830

Jennifer Cobbe (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Computer Laboratory ( email )

15 JJ Thomson Avenue
William Gates Building
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

Jatinder Singh

University of Cambridge -- Dept. Computer Science & Technology (Computer Laboratory) ( email )

15 JJ Thomson Avenue
William Gates Building
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

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