Online Platforms as Gatekeepers of Private Information

The growing control that online platforms exert on the moderation of public speech was intensely debated in recent times. Many accused online platforms of having state-like functions, of dictating what political and non-political information citizens read, what news citizens are exposed to or what opinions are and are not allowed. Indeed, online platforms are in a position of power regarding private ‘speech’ and 'information' and its impact on the market, as they design and maintain the online review mechanisms that millions of consumers rely on every day before deciding to enter a contract. Based on the analysis of selected platforms’ terms and conditions and policies on online reviews, and against a EU consumer law framework (including the Digital Services Act), this paper explores to what extent online platforms exert control over pre-contractual information conveyed via online reviews and, therefore, to what extent platforms impact the foundations of transactional decision-making.