Comparative Platform Governance: Mapping Consumer Protection in Platform Self-Regulation in the United States and the European Union

Investigator:

Catalina Goanta

Abstract:

Social media is becoming a channel for purchase instead of just content discovery. Two decades ago, online transactions were solely performed on marketplaces, such as eBay or Amazon, where consumers and traders
interacted for one purpose alone: to buy and sell items. In the past years, an increasing number of social media platforms have introduced e-commerce features. Facebook launched its own ‘Marketplace’ for peer-to-peer sales, Instagram developed its ‘Checkout’ functionality to
allow users to make purchases directly from the app, and Pinterest introduced the ‘Shop the look’ option to reveal product features, price and a link to purchase. Social media platforms no longer aim to connect people, but to increase conversion rates, and turn likes into sales.
This phenomenon is called social commerce, and it has transformed social media platforms into social marketplaces. Traditional e-commerce platforms have been shaping intermediary liability rules early on in the regulatory history of the Internet (e.g. E-Commerce Directive), yet social media platforms only recently managed to successfully adopt this business model shift, recognized by marketing experts as a game-changer for the digital economy.

These recent developments raise important questions about the applicability of consumer protection rules on e-commerce to social media¬†platforms. Since it is currently unclear what consumer protection standards platforms apply, it is important to map the general terms and conditions of platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook through qualitative content analysis, and further discuss these terms from the perspective of US and EU law.”