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Platform Unions

By Charlotte Garden. Full Text.

How should we regulate social media platforms to prevent harmful treatment of users? Regulators, advocates, and scholars have grappled with this problem for years. Many proposed solutions, ranging from improving privacy disclosures, to promoting competition between platforms, to requiring platforms to pay users for their data, are at best incomplete.

This Article begins from the premise that platform problems are collective problems and proposes a collective solution: empowering users to organize platform unions. Much like labor unions give employees a say in in their working conditions even when they lack individual bargaining power, platform unions would facilitate collective bargaining over platform policies. They would turn social media “users” into collective participants who have a say in determining platform policies. After making the case for platform unions, the Article turns to implementation, discussing how labor law informs key questions about the design of platform unions.