Digital Markets and Structural Violence: the role of competition law

Various concerns have been raised about the impact of AI and the need to imbue ethics and legitimacy in AI design. This paper adopts a novel lens to review the problems associated with data collection and AI decision making in digital markets. It relies on Johan Galtung’s theory of structural violence, which has been very influential in a number of fields. Section II discusses the ‘structural violence’ theory and identifies those attributes that are relevant in the context of digital markets. Section III then discusses the characteristics of digital markets that may be perceived as expressions of structural violence. Section IV questions whether competition law is an efficient tool to address such problems. One suggested solution is the “responsive” remodelling of competition law enforcement, informed by Ayres and Braithwaite’s theory of responsive regulation – and the subsequent development of this theory to embrace restorative justice considerations.