November 11, 2011

Governance of Social Media & Competition Law

Adam Thierer

Senior Research Fellow

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Adam Thierer spoke on a panel at Michigan State University’s conference on “Governance of Social Media.” The panel focused on emerging competition policy issues affecting social media and social networking sites. Joining Thierer was Joshua Wright of GMU, Nicolas Economides of NYU, and Michael Altschul of the CTIA.

At the event, Thierer presented his forthcoming paper on “The Perils of Classifying Social Media Platforms as Public Utilities,” which is currently out for peer review. Thierer outlined the rising calls for treating social media or social networking sites as public utilities, essential facilities, or natural monopolies. He then briefly discussed some basic law and economics of public utility regulation. Third, Thierer detailed six specific problems with efforts to classify these services as such. Finally, Thierer briefly discussed regulatory proposals set forth by Professors Jonathan Zittrain and Tim Wu to apply traditional antitrust or public utility remedies to social media or information platforms. Specifically, Thierer addresses Zittrain’s call for “API neutrality” (which would apply net neutrality-like principles at the applications and device layer) and Wu’s call for a “Separations Principle” (which would forcibly segregate information providers into three buckets: creators, distributors, and hardware makers).