Internet platforms: free speech facilitators or state actors?

Recent European (CJEU Facebook Ireland v. Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, C-18/18) and national courts suggest renewed attention to the debate on horizontal effects of constitutional rights, i.e. the enforceability of freedom of speech vis-à-vis digital platforms. Concerns on the role of these actors have been raised in light of the larger resort to algorithmic techniques for the processing of content and data. The key question is whether, based on their predominant market position and on the alleged nature of “essential facilities” of the services they operate, some Internet platforms can be equalized to state actors. This way, private entities such as SNs and user-generated-content platforms would be subjected to the same obligation to protect free speech applicable to public authorities. The paper argues that such scenario would possibly trigger unintended consequences, calling for a more balanced consideration of the role of modern Internet platforms.