Digital platforms are ubiquitous today. Their influence reaches every aspect of our lives, from shopping (e.g., Amazon) to online dating (e.g., Zoom), from home delivery of food (e.g., Deliveroo), to finding love online (e.g., Tinder). Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) have reshaped the way individuals today live, learn, consume, vote, and behave. Moreover, digital platforms over the past decade have transformed our economy, society, and politics, often through non- transparent ways. This program aims to provide an introduction to understanding the legal, social, and governance issues posed by digital platforms. The first module of the course will relate to understanding what platforms are, what the relevant business models are, and why Big Tech platforms are particularly important.
The program offers an interdisciplinary introduction to the fundamental concepts of digital platforms from an economic, legal, governance, and policy perspective. In addition, the course aspires to present students with the complexity of the issues relevant to the phenomenon through four case-studies:
- the influence of platforms in the production and circulation of information and its impact on elections and crisis situations (e.g., Covid- 19);
- the economics of platforms (sharing-economy platforms such as Airbnb and gig-economy platforms such as Deliveroo), the public value implications of regulation (e.g., the spill over into the housing market and the impact on the real estate market), and the political implications of regulation (e.g., the impact on the real estate market and the impact on the economy). the impact on the housing market and livability of residential neighborhoods);
- influencers, advertising regulation, and protection of vulnerable consumers;
- online dating platforms, protection of vulnerable users (e.g., seniors), and data protection policies.
Students will also be provided with the tools to understand and critically reflect on the broader social and regulatory implications of digital platforms, as well as the European and international regulatory framework on the point. At the end of the course students should be able to:
- Understand the different concepts related to digital platforms, the main actors, and how they act (e.g., platforms, multi-sided market, algorithms, social media, social media influencers);
- Provide examples of the most relevant digital platforms and how they have contributed to reshaping society;
- Explain the role of social media in politics;
- Define and distinguish misinformation, “fake news,” misinformation;
- Identify challenges arising from the regulation of platforms and more generally of “Big Tech” (e.g. accountability, economic power, discrimination);
- Identify some of the recent international and European policies regarding regulation of digital platforms;
Reflect on the broader political and social implications of the “flatness” of society;
- Discuss different solutions for developing strategies to curb the power of large platforms in the economic and political domains of our societies.