DSA #5 Data Egalitarianism and the Digital Services Act

Thursday 25 February 2021, 15:00 to 16:00

The DSA aims to address issues of speech and competition. But alongside (or underneath) these primary concerns, the DSA is also a response to growing public frustration over the inegalitarian effects of digital companies in society: economic inequality (as dominant platforms concentrate gains from their outsize market positions into the hands of the few) and social inequality (as the social relations in which people can empower or dominate, uplift or oppress one another, are increasingly materialized in digital form). Debates over the effectiveness of the DSA may gravitate to practical, empirical, and normative ones over its impact on speech and competition, but this talk will focus on its potential egalitarian effects. It will evaluate key provisions of the DSA using egalitarian theories of equal opportunity, democratic equality and distributive equality, to consider what effects the law may have in achieving an egalitarian agenda for reform. The talk will also orient its discussion around the economic incentives that drive much of the activity the DSA seeks to address: ubiquitous data collection from technology companies, to develop behavioral insights into users and exploit such insights for commercial gain.

You can view the seminar recording here.


Salomé Viljoen is a joint postdoctoral fellow at the NYU School of Law Information Law Institute and the Cornell Tech Digital Life Initiative. She is also a former Fellow and current Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Salomé studies how the law governing digital information structures inequality in the digital economy and how alternative legal regimes may address that inequality. Her work focuses particularly on the legal theory of data governance, and how to better align legal protections of personal data with the economic processes that drive their erosion. She also studies the use of economic optimization methods in digital settings.  

This seminar is organised as part of the Digital Services Act (DSA) in Perspective Series on online platform responsibility, organised by the Centre for Digitalisation, Democracy and Innovation (CD2I) at VUB-BSoG, in collaboration with the Chair 'Fundamental Rights and the Digital Transformation' at VUB-LSTS and the Brussels Privacy Hub. Please click here for more information on past and future events in the series.