THE TURN TO TRADE AGREEMENTS IN GLOBAL PLATFORM GOVERNANCE
Keywords:trade agreement, platform governance, intermediary liability, political economy
In the past few years, a growing number of proposals have been developed to govern major platforms for user-generated content through formalized legislation as well as voluntary self-regulatory initiatives. This paper focusses on the increasingly significant use of trade agreements for the governance of these platforms. While trade agreements have been analysed by academics working on internet governance, copyright, and other issues, they still have underexplored implications for national governments that are trying to craft regulation designed to address a host of perceived democratic externalities posed by dominant technology firms and platform providers like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Presenting the first results of an interdisciplinary project bringing together digital communication scholars, internet governance researchers, and international relations academics to look at the nexus of digital governance and international trade, the paper seeks to understand how different political actors are using trade agreements to ‘lock in’ their preferences on platform governance topics like intermediary liability and competition policy. Building on the analysis of major bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, as well as leaked documents from ongoing negotiations, the paper provides a mapping of the issues related to platform governance included in these instruments. Using this dataset, it then analyses the respective positions of various countries on relevant issues in the negotiations, seeking to create a typology of key issues that will provide a starting point for a deeper analysis of key actor strategies.