Public policy and online social networks: The trillion dollar zombie question
26th Human Behaviour and the Evolution
of Society conference
Workshop on Internet and Evolution of
Prof. Chris Marsden
University of Sussex School of Law
Not a new phenomenon
Pen friending via email from 1980s (+ spam)
MUDs playing online games 1990
Rise of GeoCities and blogging late 1990s
World of Warcraft + MMORPGs 2000
Web2.0 rise of MySpace, SecondLife, Orkut
Broadband: Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Google+
See work of Barry Wellman from 1980s
But what is different –
Ubiquity, big money, wider public policy interest
Obama the Facebook President
Facebook (FBK) a billion users
Avoid AOL, News Corp, Microsoft, Yahoo! decline
Tricky task –buying emerging market leaders
‘Curse of AOL’ – eWorld, Netscape, Bebo
Yahoo! – GeoCities, Flickr
News Corp – MySpace
Microsoft – Hotmail, cable firms
FBK – Instagram, WhatsApp, 3rd party games
Teenage reaction: “I used those apps because they
weren’t Stalkbook!” That’s why they move to SnapChat
Why? WhatsApp is ‘free’
50bilion daily messages
Facebook IM client specific to mobile
1. So why are FBK buying WhatsApp?
2. Is there a market for free messages?
3. Is Facebook a monopoly?
Answers: No, No, No – say “experts”
Who owns the experts?
Unlike European Directive(s)
European regulation – Ireland, Luxembourg
Dublin location – sales tax, regulation, corp. tax
Lux – eBay + Skype
World’s least competent privacy regulators?
Portarlington 30 people, Lux 13
We used to call our undergrads
the ‘Napster generation’
36,000,000 broadband in 2000
Commonists not communists
To your future
Individuals stop use – accounts are zombies?
Not sufficient to permit data deletion
as that only covers the user’s tracks.
Interconnection and interoperability,
more than transparency and
theoretical possibility to switch.
Prosumers interoperate to permit social exit
Lower entry barriers -> increased consumer welfare
Human rights concerns become more critical,
reflecting the mass adoption of the Internet in
countries with serious democratic deficits,
notably in the Middle East and North Africa
concerns far predate the Arab Spring of 2011
Regulatory debate well rehearsed in US &
Europe since birth of the commercial Internet.
Balances against other fundamental rights,
freedom from racial discrimination or violence threats,
rights to private property including copyright
torts such as defamation and trespass in private law
Boyle (2001) condemned Chinese censorship
And US 1st Amendment promiscuous hate speech
“new efforts to establish codes of conduct about
harmful content on . . . this marvellous medium.”
with government to
share our data
• Legal procedures in
• Snowden & Greenwald
• Informal cooperation
• UK took 1 day to pass:
• DRIP Act 2014!
How does this affect competition policy?
Are there 50 ways to leave your online lover?
Silk roads of privacy & anonymity
FBK + Google permanent monopolies?
Privacy rules as social exit barriers?
Why do social networks decline?
Is the visceral nature of offline social networking
responsible for success online
dating sites approximate strong human contact better:
Grindr, Tindr – Twitter?
Bad coding, European data protection and a more
Facebook v. MySpace/Bebo
ASmallWorld was Eurotrash Facebook and failed?
Weinstein’s brush with social networking failure:
Personally identifiable data
EU Data Protection Directive EC/95/46
Ethics of personal data collection
User informed consent and reuse
The unknown unknowns
Networks not shy about leaking:
Infamous Cornell study
30% named Maria
33,000,000 single Marias like Shakira!
10% male following are named Jose.
Most fans from Mexico City, Cairo, Istanbul.
“Prof. Hancock and Guillory did not participate in
data collection [nor] have access to user data.
“Their work was limited to:
analyzing the research results and
working with Facebook to prepare paper
“Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional
Contagion through Social Networks,” Proceedings of
National Academy of Science-Social Science.
“Because the research was conducted
independently by Facebook and
Professor Hancock had access only to results
not to any individual, identifiable data at any time
CU Institutional Review Board concluded that
he was not directly engaged in human research
and that no review by the Cornell Human Research
Protection Program was required.”
“Computer scientists are simply not equipped to
evaluate the legality of research they perform,
“It is important that researchers seek the
assistance of qualified legal experts as they
“Program committees should require that the
researchers identify the legal expert, and
independently contact the named legal expert
in order to verify that they do indeed believe that the
researchers' study did not violate the law.”
EU law often involved – US lawyers competent?
Soghoian, C (2012) Enforced Community Standards For
Research on Users of the Tor Anonymity Network,
Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 7126, pp 146-153
We need new competition analysis
visceral durablity and/or temporary
elements of human
Report to UN General Assembly (La Rue 2011)
regional HR bodies (Council of Europe) best
practices: filtering but no harming free expression
Viviane Reding, European Commission vice president:
“Copyright protection can never be a justification
for eliminating freedom of expression or
Art.17 (2) v. Art.11(1) EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
Blocking the Internet is never an option”