PhD Defense M.L. Stasi
Social media markets: A pro-competitive approach to free speech challenges
- Location: Cobbenhagen building, Aula
- Supervisors: Prof. G. Monti, Prof A. De Streel
The behaviours of big social media platforms have received substantial attention in the public debate over the past decade. Different stakeholders have looked through different lenses and used terms and concepts taken from different perspectives to describe these behaviours. Those who have looked at the impact of these behaviours on users’ freedom of expression have borrowed a number of elements that are usually present in a competition law analysis. However, I argue that the interplay between freedom of expression analysis and competition analysis remains underexplored by scholars.
This thesis is intended as a contribution to filling that gap, which is especially important at this moment as social media markets are at the centre of attention of a variety of regulators and decision-makers.
In the introduction, I briefly describe the two communities that are studying the kinds of harms this work focuses on (i.e. competition harms and freedom of expression violations), and provide a concise literature review of the research these communities have performed. This overview helps to better define the gap and to shape the research questions that I address in the four academic articles that comprise this PhD.
My work focuses on specific behaviours of the largest social media platforms. My primary aims are to explore, in a multi-disciplinary fashion, the challenges involved in the assessment of these behaviours, and to offer possible methodological recommendations for performing such assessments, as well as for identifying possible remedies.
I investigate the potential added value of building a more systemic dialogue between the free expression and competition communities to address harms and market failures in social media markets, and I explore possible routes to solving both freedom of expression and competition related challenges in those markets. I use two case studies to test my arguments, i.e. ‘must-carry’ remedies and content curation activities, and I combine literature review with surveys conducted through semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders.
In the conclusions I offer some reflections on the methodology I used, and the strengths and weaknesses of my proposals. Finally, I identify areas for further research, in an attempt to continue to contribute to the academic debate and improvements to the status quo.