The Power of Information Intermediaries – Manifestations, Structures and Regulatory Options
In support of the political discourse on services like search engines and social networking services, this report provides a structured view on information intermediaries and possible approaches of regulating them.
Information intermediaries such as search engines, microblogging platforms, app stores or social networking services become increasingly important for the formation of public opinion. They influence the choice and selection of third-party offers, in other words, if and how media services can be perceived. The field of communication science has a differentiated view on this type of service: it should not only be focused on the reception but also look at the establishment of social usage patterns. The report “Power of Information Intermediaries” analyses if and to what extent the current regulation, especially competition law, is adequate to meet the potential influence on the individual and public opinion formation. The authors find that it is simply impossible to develop objective criteria for the abuse of communicative power, and that the term of “search engine neutrality” is only helpful to a certain extent. Furthermore, they find that a complete transparency (a disclosure of algorithms) will not be conducive. They recommend a self-commitment in form of a duty of declaration instead, so that the maxims of programming are focused on the interests of users. Additionally, they discuss a regulation for apps of journalistic/editorial nature in accordance with Article 31 (1), Sentence 1 of the Universal Service Directive (UDRL).