The Rise of Private Policy and the Displacement of Public Actors and Standards in the Digital Environment

This paper argues that private actors in the digital environment are displacing and re-articulating public, normative standards through their contractual terms and practical operation. The paper contextualises this trend as part of the ideological legacy of the historical development of the web but argues that it has been specifically enabled by three features of EU law. These are 1) an approach of functional equivalence to laws governing the digital environment, and the actors within it 2) the EU’s neoliberal policy preferences which manifest in a tendency towards the enumeration of economic rather than socially orientated legislative rights protections and 3) the Unions ‘brittle constitutionalism.’ The result of these features and the rise in private standard setting and rights enforcement they generate is an erosion of individual fundamental rights, in particular the rights to privacy and property, which in turn import reductions in individual autonomy and the Rule of Law.