LLAW6304 & JDOC6304

General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW6304 / JDOC6304
Course name: Governing Online Platforms: Law, Economics and Politics
Programme offered under: LLM Programme / JD Programme
Semester: Second
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Credit point value: 9 credit / 6 credits

1.2 Course description

Online platforms are at the heart of contemporary concerns with the future of law and governance. They have transformed the structures of individual and collective action in contemporary societies in profound and challenging ways. The forms of power online platforms instantiate fundamentally affect the social perception, if not the construction, of reality itself. Algorithms on which their design decisions are based catalyse biases and inequality. And yet, these same algorithms increasingly become medium and message — the very fabric — of political processes around the world.

That online platforms must be regulated is now clear. But how to do so? Modalities of limitation of public power that emerged in modern times are not naturally extensible to private actors. Competition law, though often pondered as a solution, has a more restricted scope than the plethora of challenges offered by platforms in different realms. More fundamentally, there is the challenge posed by the problem of expertise in a world of increasing complexification and asymmetry of knowledge. In other words, state regulators will increasingly depend on the technologies and expertise owned by the very actors they seek to regulate, a problem which is coupled by the embeddedness of design decisions in artificially intelligent systems that do not lend themselves to easy explainability.

How to move beyond the current predicament is the question that, in different realms, we will be exploring in this course. The course will be divided into two parts, the first more theoretical, the second more applied. From an inquiry into the nature of online platforms in the light of their techno-economic foundations, the course will go on to pursue a more general understanding of the foundations of legal normativity, its relation with technology in general and the Internet in particular, and how such foundations bear specifically on the governance of online platforms.

In the second part, the course will explore more concretely how platforms are regulated in the fields of hate speech and obscenity, defamation, privacy and data protection, competition copyright, among others — before revisiting the general questions at the beginning of the course in light of the regulation of the Internet in China. Basic ideas in each field will be introduced. The approach will be comparative, though particular reference will be made to the law of Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Marcelo Thompson marcelo.thompson@hku.hk TBA By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Have a thorough grasp of major concepts and debates about the interplay between technology and the law, with a particular focus on online platforms;

CLO 2 Be able to think creatively about the normative challenges raised by online platforms and make this knowledge productive for policy analysis and design;

CLO 3 Develop a critical and comparative appreciation of the ways in which different jurisdictions tackle the governance of online platforms in different respects.

CLO 4 Be familiar with a number of substantive topics that will be relevant for further research in this field.

2.2 LLM and JD Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link:

LLM – https://course.law.hku.hk/llm-plo/

JD – https://course.law.hku.hk/jd-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Mid-term essay 25 Mar 2024 35% 1, 2, 3, 4
Take home exam 20 May 2024 65% 1, 2, 3, 4
*Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

To be advised by course convenor(s).

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Seminar: 3 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 ± 5 hours (ie. 150 ± 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

To be advised by course convenor(s).

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: TBA
Recommended reading list: TBA

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/