Online intermediaries are omnipresent. Each day across the globe, the corporations running these platforms execute policies and practices that serve their profit model, typically by sustaining user engagement. Sometimes, these seemingly banal business activities enable principal perpetrators to commit crimes. Online intermediaries, however, are almost never held to account for their complicity in the resulting harms. This Article introduces the concept of platform-enabled crimes into the legal literature to highlight the ways in which the ordinary business activities of online intermediaries enable the commission of crime. It then focuses on a subset of platform-enabled crimes—those in which a social media company has facilitated international crimes—to understand the accountability gap associated with them. Further, this Article begins the work of addressing the accountability deficit for platform-enabled crimes by adopting a survivor-centered methodology and using the complicity of Facebook (now Meta) in the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar as a case study. It advances a menu of options that survivors, prosecutors, and legislators could pursue in parallel, including amending domestic legislation, strengthening transnational cooperation between international and domestic prosecutors for criminal and civil corporate liability cases, and regulatory action. The Article concludes by acknowledging that no single body of law is equipped to respond to the advent of platform-enabled crimes. By pursuing a plurality of proactive options, however, we can make a vast improvement on the status quo.
Rebecca J. Hamilton, Platform-Enabled Crimes: Pluralizing Accountability When Social Media Companies Enable Perpetrators to Commit Atrocities, 63 B.C. L. Rev. 1349 (2022), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol63/iss4/4