What Is the Juxtaposition between Silicon Valley and Mount Sinai? Covenantal Principles and the Conceptualization of Platform-User Relations

Nadav S. Berman, Tal Z. Zarsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Over recent decades, several global tech giants have gained enormous power while at the same time generating various disputes with their end-users, local governments, and regulators. We propose that the Jewish concept of covenant can help the above parties, legal scholars, and wider society in addressing this complex legal reality. We present the challenge of disequilibrium between the above four parties against the main points of conflict: the requirement of customer consent; clear contractual provisions upon entry; options for reasonable customer exit; limitations on the platform's ability to exercise unilateral termination; profile-based discrimination; and liability for mere intermediation. We introduce the biblical concept of covenant, and we review its unfolding in Jewish tradition. Further, we conceptualize three main covenantal principles: (1) responsibility - God and humans are both conceived as moral agents; (2) reciprocity - God as a caring law giver, open to human appeals; and (3) reasonability - divine instruction as initially intelligible. We demonstrate how the latter principle of explainability is exercised in the biblical law narratives and how the story of Balaam stresses the significance of moral agency that cannot hide behind mere intermediary claims. In light of this analysis, we revisit the relationship between tech giants and tech users to demonstrate how covenantality offers novel ways to conceptualize the noted conflicts between the parties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-477
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Law and Religion
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Digital Markets Act
  • Digital Services Act
  • Jewish law and theology
  • consent
  • covenant
  • democratic culture
  • law and technology
  • online platform regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Law

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