From Data to Attention: Regulating Extraction in the Attention Platform Economy
Rethinking the regulation of advertising-based platform business models such as Facebook/Meta and Google/Alphabet, which I call attention platforms, is an urgent task. Two decades of regulatory apathy and intellectual fragmentation have produced siloed approaches to the regulation of data and content that leave many urgent political, economic and environmental issues unaddressed. In this paper, I argue that current approaches to regulating data and datafication – approaches that regulate control over personal data or that focus on regulating social data – fail to address the most pervasive forms of extraction and harm in the attention platform economy: those that stem from addiction, over-consumption, virality, and fragmentation of the public sphere. Facilitating the emergence of just attention infrastructures, rather than just data infrastructures, should be a priority. This, I argue, requires a move toward more horizontal power to determine attention infrastructures, just advertising and funding systems and attention minimization measures, that is friction and incentives against attention capture.
Elettra Bietti is a joint Postdoctoral Fellow at the NYU School of Law and the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech in New York. Her research is on data law, antitrust law and market regulation as they play out in the platform economy. She recently defended an SJD dissertation "Law, Freedom and Power in the Digital Platform Economy" at Harvard Law School where her primary advisor was Professor Yochai Benkler.
Elettra is affiliated to the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, to the Information Society Project at Yale Law School as well as to Information Society Law Center at the University of Milan. She sometimes advises and collaborates with civil society. Prior to academia, she was a competition and intellectual property lawyer in London and Brussels, handling corporate transactions and patent disputes.
She holds an LLB from University College London (2011), and LLM from Harvard Law School (2012), a Diploma in IP Law and Practice from Oxford University (2016) and an SJD from Harvard Law School (2022).