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Accepted Paper:

How Law Shapes the Platform: An Archive Study Based on Meituan  
Fengsong Hu (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

Based on archival research, this paper reveals that in the continuous interaction with the legal system, platforms learn from it, reposition themselves, and adjust business strategies, thereby while reducing their legal responsibilities,also diminishing their social responsibilities.

Paper long abstract:

China established the Judgement Document Database in 2013 to publish court rulings on legal disputes. Within this database, there are already thousands of legal judgments related to the Chinese platform company, Meituan, a company mainly focus on local life services such as food delivery. These judgments meticulously document how platform companies become entangled in disputes and how judges understand and resolve these conflicts. Based on an analysis of these records, this article explores how the law shapes the self-positioning and business strategies of platform companies. In the early stages of Meituan's development, merchants were unable to independently publish commercial information on the Meituan platform. They had to submit information to Meituan, which would then review and release it. In this scenario, Meituan required more labor, and in the event of merchants publishing false or infringing information, legal disputes arose, requiring Meituan to assume corresponding responsibilities. Through learning from legal disputes, Meituan adjusted its business strategy by transferring the power of publication to merchants, thereby taking on only the responsibility of review. This arrangement allows Meituan to avoid any liability in such legal disputes. The article will present more cases to illustrate how the law shapes Meituan's business operations. In its interaction with the legal system, Meituan continually modify its business strategies, further clarifying its boundaries. While not fundamentally altering the real situation, these adjustments reduce their legal responsibilities and, correspondingly, their social responsibilities.

Panel P036
Digital ethnography and experiences from the Global South
  Session 2