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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 facilitate communication, the four 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 an increase in 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. 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 harm. We will examine the EU’s new Digital Services Act as well as 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 how platforms’ user interfaces can lead to dark patterns and deceptive manipulation 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 Platform Regulation in the European Union & ‘The four 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 computational propaganda
Week 4: Models of Platform Regulation: Command-and-Control/Duty of Care/The Digital Services Act/The Digital Markets Act & the Data Governance
Week 5: Dark Patterns, Manipulative Platform Design, and e-Commerce

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 in 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

  • 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

  • Written assessment (to be confirmed)

Contact information

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

Disclaimer: Currently these pages are being updated to reflect the courses for 2022 - 2023. Until these pages are fixed as per 1 September 2022 no rights can be claimed from the information which is currently contained within.
Should there be any future changes of the Covid 19 virus which may impinge our teaching and assessment, these could necessitate modification of the course descriptions after 1 September. This will only happen in the event of strict necessity and the interests of the students will be taken into account. Should there be a need for any change during the course, this will be informed to all students on a timely basis. Modifications after 1 September 2022 may only be done with the approval and consent of the Faculty Board and Programme Director.