Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics

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Multi-sided platforms such as exchanges, search engines, social networks and software platforms create value by assembling and serving communities of people and businesses. They generally come into being to solve a transaction problem that prevents agents from getting together to exchange value. An essential feature of these platforms is that they promote positive externalities between members of the community. But as with any community, there are numerous opportunities for people and businesses to create negative externalities, or engage in other bad behavior, that can reduce economic efficiency and, in the extreme, lead to the tragedy of the commons. Multi-sided platforms, acting selfishly to maximize their own profits, often develop governance mechanisms to reduce harmful behavior. They also often develop rules to manage many of the same kinds of problems that beset communities subject to public laws and regulations. They enforce these rules through the exercise of property rights and, most importantly, through the bouncer's right to exclude agents from some quantum of the platform including prohibiting them from the platform entirely. Private control is likely to be more efficient than social control in dealing with negative externalities on platform communities because the platform owner can monitor bad behavior more closely and deal with this behavior more expeditiously than a public regulator. The courts and antitrust authorities should exercise caution in finding anticompetitive exclusion when that exclusion is conducted as part of a governance mechanism for dealing with bad behavior of some platform users that harm other users.



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