Symposium: Radical Reforms - Bringing fairness to social media contracts

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Utrecht University and the Verfassungsblog would like to invite you to participate in an in-person symposium on 'Radical Reforms: Bringing Fairness to Social Media Contracts', marking the first annual conference of the European Research Council’s Starting Grant HUMANads (Contract nr. 101041824).  The symposium will take place on 16 and 17 March 2023 in Utrecht. 

Transitioning business models

In a constant search of new ways to generate revenue, social media giants are transitioning from business models that have largely been focusing on (targeted) advertising, to capitalizing on the social transformation of influence. In these new ecosystems monetizing attention and parasocial relations, traditional contractual relationships are altered in ways we do not yet fully grasp. Gratuitous contracts with payment as counter-performance coexist with cascading new digital services around subscriptions, tokens, micro-transactions, and other forms of monetization that allow social media platforms to rely less on advertising business models.

Rethinking social media contracts

Against such an increasingly complex background, even basic questions relating to the expectations of parties (especially consumers) to social media contracts, or the nature and content of their performances threaten existing legal doctrines and fundamental principles aiming to alleviate the balance of power in these transactions, such as fairness or good faith. So what if we rethought social media contracts in a radical way? What values should we aim to prioritize in the relationships between users and social media platforms, and how can they be facilitated?

This symposium launches a provocation to its invited participants, in terms of rethinking social media contracts, whether based on insights from technology, behaviour and/or legal doctrine, to map and address the inherent vulnerabilities of this space and the individuals affected the most therein. The symposium will also feature a keynote around the benefits and pitfalls of personalization as a means to empower weaker parties in social media ecosystems (based on Ben-Shahar & Porat, 'Personalized Law').     

The contributions will be published on Verfassungsblog, as a digital symposium, in early May 2023.    


Thursday, 16 March 2023

9.00-9.30                     Coffee and registration

9.30-9.45                     Catalina Goanta, Contracts and Social Media: A Research Gap (Introduction)

9.45-11.00                   Setting the Scene: The Social Media Ecosystem

  • Jing Zeng, tba
  • Johann Laux, Adjusting the Legal Expectations of Market Participants through Data-Driven Assessments

11.00-12.00                 Personalization on Social Media - Keynote

  • Omri Ben-Shahar, Personalized Legal Order and Social Media
    Moderator: José van Dijck

12.00-13.00                 Lunch

13.00-14.45                 Contract Law Fundamentals for Social Media

  • Laura Aade, The Invisible Contract: Rethinking the Principle of Informality on Social Media Platforms
  • Mateusz Grochowschi, Contract Law and Platform Governance (online)
  • Christoph Busch, Pay to Play: Social Media Meets the Subscription Economy

14.45-15.15                 Coffee break

15.15-17.00                 Consumer Autonomy on Social Media

  • Hans Christoph Grigoleit, Digesting the (Not So) Free Lunches of Social Media – New Challenges to Consumer Autonomy
  • Vanessa Mak, The Contractual Rights and Obligations of 'Prosumers' on Social Media Platforms
  • Felix Pflücke, Platform Governance through Private Regulation: The Case of Financial Influencers

17.00-17.15                 Jacob van de Kerkhof, Wrap-up Day 1

17.15-18.00                 Drinks

Friday, 17 March 2023

8.30-9.00                     Coffee and registration

9.00-10.30                   The Social Media Contractual Ecosystem

  • Niva Elkin-Koren, Contractual Relationships of Digital Platforms and Business Users
  • Chantal Mak, The Protection of Users' Development of Their Digital Identity
  • Giovanni de Gregorio, Monetising from Harmful Content: Rethinking Social Media Contracts

10.30-10.45                 Coffee break

10.45-12.15                 The Implications of Platform Power

  • Sunimal Mendis, Platform power, freedom of speech and copyright enforcement
  • Michael Veale, Platformising Influence
  • Joris van Hoboken, Digital Infrastructure Optimization

12.15-12.30                 Catalina Goanta & Jacob van de Kerkhof, Conclusions

12.30-13.30                 Lunch

Start date and time
End date and time
Quinton House (Nieuwegracht 60, 3512 LT Utrecht)
Entrance fee

Register here!