Regulatory Approaches to Facebook and Other Social Media Platforms: Towards Platforms Design Accountability
Masaryk University Journal of Law and Technology, Vol 13:2, 2019, pp. 219-241
13 Pages Posted: 11 May 2020
Date Written: August 23, 2019
The paper represents a contribution to the ongoing discussion on regulating social media platforms (SMP) and especially Facebook, mostly fueled by a recent series of scandals such as Cambridge Analytica, which highlighted the long existing problem of Facebook’s lack of accountability. In response to the scandal, which coincided with long-expected wide-scale implementation of the EU’s GDPR, Facebook introduced a series of measures on its platform, such as improved traceability of advertisers, or greater power over one’s own data. Besides, Facebook was put under scrutiny of competition law authorities, mainly German Bundeskartellamt. Taking into consideration all the regulatory approaches, the question remains whether sufficiently effective design for holding the SMPs accountable has been established or not. In the paper, we first outline the accountability issues SMPs currently face, namely the data handling and privacy issue, the platforms’ impact on political processes, or related monopolistic positioning. We ascertain that common denominator of these issues is the platforms’ design, which is created to achieve business objectives, while imposing substantial negative externalities on the society. Alongside, we review the platforms’ reactions, i. e. the self-regulatory measures adopted by the platforms in 2017-2018. We specifically focus on the evaluation of the competition law as one instrument of regulating certain aspects of the platforms, especially in light of the recent German Bundeskartellamt decision on Facebook. We claim that most of the measures and current instruments, although improving the shortage of accountability, fall short of addressing the core issue of Facebook’s status – lack of scrutiny over the platform’s design.
Keywords: Abuse of Dominant Position, Accountability, Competition Law, Data Protection, Facebook, Platform's Design, Self-regulation, Social Media Platforms
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