On Friday, both Josh Wright and I spoke on a panel at the Michigan State University’s conference on “Governance of Social Media.” Our particular panel focused on emerging competition policy issues affecting social media and social networking sites. Also joining us on the panel were Nicolas Economides of NYU and Michael Altschul of the CTIA. The video of the panel can be found here and I have also embedded it down below. [My remarks begin around the 23-min mark of the video.]
At the event, I presented my forthcoming paper on “The Perils of Classifying Social Media Platforms as Public Utilities,” which is currently out for peer review. I outlined the rising calls for treating social media or social networking sites as public utilities, essential facilities, or natural monopolies. Next, I briefly discussed some basic law and economics of public utility / essential facilities regulation. Third, I detailed six specific problems with efforts to classify these services as such. Finally, I 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, I address 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). Watch the video for more details and see this for more critiques of the Zittrain and Wu proposals.