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Platforms and the Law


Course Information

Platforms are increasingly the subject of intense criticism for a wide range of societal harms. From fake news to dark patterns and social scoring, these digitally mediated facilitators have been accused of everything from ‘threatening democracy’ to ‘usurping user autonomy’. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers have brought forward a series of legislative measures to curb their power and influence while aiming to increase their transparency and accountability to both the private and public spheres.
We will start with the development of the platform as the means to both conduct commerce and to facilitate communication, the three waves of intermediary liability, and an exploration of the ‘platform vs publisher’ debate. In Week 2, we explore the EU’s response to calls for increased platform responsibility for the protection of private rights through its development of the Communication to the Public Right and Articles 13 & Article 17 of the Digital Copyright Act.
We will examine certain characteristics unique to platforms in the digital era; for example, how recommender systems & amplification facilitate fake news, disinformation, and computational propaganda. We will also examine how platforms’ user interfaces can lead to dark patterns and deceptive manipulation.
In the last two weeks of the course, we will focus our time and energies on the emerging models of platform regulation in Europe, such as: command-and-control and/or administrative measures and the duty of care to protect users from online harms. We will examine the EU’s new Digital Services Act as well attempts to constrain ‘platform power’ through merging competition with data protection and e-commerce law under the auspices of a new ‘Digital Markets Act’ and ‘Data Governance Act’ as well as the ‘New Deal for Consumers’.
Finally, the course examines measures within the new Artificial Intelligence Act (as proposed) which specifically targets AI-powered deceptive practices commonly used by digitally mediated platforms that, some have argued, can pose risks to society.
The following topics are likely to be covered (but subject to change):

  • Week 1: Introduction to e-Commerce & ‘The three waves of Intermediary Liability’ in the European Union

  • Week 2: Communication to the Public Right, Article 17, & Digital Copyright

  • Week 3: ‘Fake News & Disinformation’; ‘ ‘political advertising’ and ‘deceptive manipulation’

  • Weeks 4 & Week 5: Models of Platform Regulation: Command-and-Control/Duty of Care/The Digital Services Act/The Digital Markets Act & the Data Governance Act/Artificial Intelligence (Draft) Regulation (AIA)
    Thus, this course will focus on the interplay between concepts like ‘power’, ‘competition’, ‘regulation’, ‘manipulation’ and ‘harms’ as well as ‘amplification’ and ‘algorithmic content curation’ through the lens of the e-Commerce Directive, GDPR, e-Privacy Directive, Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act, Data Governance Act, the New Deal for Consumers, as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and case law from the European Court of Human Rights and the Court Justice of the European Union, but will also draw on other rights-based regimes from around the world.
    Course Objectives
    This course requires students to develop skills understanding policy and policy objectives as well as further advancing their own skills relating to critical analysis of case law, Directives, Regulations, and polycentric legal regimes as well as the importance of regulatory pluralistic approaches to solving some of the more complex problems facing digital platforms. The class is characterized and taught using interdisciplinary, multi-regulatory, extra-legal, and positivistic approaches.
    Academic & Research skills developed include:

  • Advanced legal, policy, and regulatory research skills

  • To explain clear and substantiated research results

  • To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course

  • To actively participate in a discussion following class lectures

  • To be socio-communicative in collaborative situations

  • To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Course Requirement

Master Degree


The timetable of this course will be available for students in Brightspace


More information on this course is offered in Brightspace


Attendance of 80% of the scheduled course lectures is mandatory

Examination Method

  • Individual Paper – 40% of the overall mark

  • Individual Project – 40% of your overall mark

  • Reflective Diary – 20% of your overall mark

Contact information

Programme Coordinator
Ms Patricia Garcia Fernandez
Telephone number: 0031- 71 527 4228

Disclaimer: This course has been updated to the best of our knowledge at the current time of publishing. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the fluctuating changes in lock down regulations all information contained within this course description are subject to change up to 1 September 2021.
Due to the uncertainty of the Covid 19 virus after 1 September 2021, changes to the course description can only be made in the event of strict necessity and only in the circumstances where the interests of the students are not impinged. Should there be a need for any change during the duration of the course, this will be informed to all students on a timely basis and will not be to the prejudice of students. Modifications after 1 September 2021 may only be done with the approval and consent of the Faculty Board”