Tech companies and the public interest: How to regulate social media platforms

Social media have recently been criticised for spreading false information and hatespeech, polarising people, promoting populist parties and threatening peace and stability. In an effort to manage the disruptive elements of social media many policymakers, non-governmental organisations and citizens have concluded that social media need to be regulated. Even Mark Zuckerberg has publicly requested: “please regulate us!”

This course engages with the current policy and academic debate about how to regulate social media platforms, focusing on its challenges for democracy and potential solutions. Part I begins with an overview of the problems that pose a challenge to democracy as well as the foundations, infrastructur, and governance of social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter). In Part II invited speakers from industry and academia discuss current controversies and regulatory challenges. To fill the knowledge gap about the empirical situation regarding platform regulation students will conduct a qualitative case study on a country of their own choice as part of the course. Students are encouraged to focus on regions outside of the European Union, although we will closely follow important policy-decisions regarding platform regulation currently being made in Europe under the German Presidency of the European Commission. In order to facilitate knowledge-building on the development of a European approach towards platform regulation students will actively contribute to the website www.digitalservicesact.eu throughout the course.

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