Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms

User Warning

Cite this article as:
Luca Belli (17/12/2021). User Warning. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Author: Luca Belli

In the context of platform governance, a user warning is a message directed to specific users by the platform operator, usually in the form of a notice or other format, aimed at alerting users that there will be an upcoming event that warrants the attention of the user. Such changing situation may be, for instance, the upcoming appearance of explicit graphic content on a news feed or the upcoming alteration of contractual terms of the platforms

User warnings are typically utilized to convey an alert and afford a user the possibility to form an informed choice before proceeding to an activity that may have unwanted and potentially negative consequences. While warnings can be used to raise awareness and propose options to one or more users, they are generally deployed to alert them of upcoming events that may lead to dangers or other unpleasant situations within a particular context.

A well-known but non-Internet-related example of warning that illustrates tellingly the purpose of a notice is provided by the so-called Miranda warnings, also frequently referred to as ‘Miranda rights’, following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona case. Such workings are a type of notification given by police to criminal suspects in police custody advising them that they have the right to refuse to answer questions or provide information to law enforcement as ‘anything you say can be used against you in court’.

Warnings, in the form of contractual notices, are interesting regulatory mechanisms due to their very limited cost of implementation although they have limits in terms of effectiveness1 and may even create additional costs for users without achieving the regulatory goal, as illustrated by the implementation of cookie banners2. In this perspective, Calo (2012)3 notes that regulators, who face limited resources, perceive notice as an attractive regulatory strategy, as it is particularly cheap to implement and easy to enforce; by providing information on their rights and on the service characteristics to users, providers avoid that the regulatory authority ‘overregulate’ on legitimate business interests. As such, the goal of the warning in the form of a notice is to preserve the conditions for innovation and competition, avoiding an excess of rigid regulatory restrictions (Calo, 2012)4 .


  1. Ben-Shahar, O., and Schneider, C. E. (2011). The Failure of Mandated Disclosure, 159 U. PA. L. REV. 647, 658–64
  2. Privacy International. (21 May 2019). Most cookie banners are annoying and deceptive. This is not consent.
  3. Calo, R. (2012). Against Notice Skepticism in Privacy (And Elsewhere). 87 Notre Dame Law Review 1027.
  4. Calo, R. (2012). Against Notice Skepticism in Privacy (And Elsewhere). 87 Notre Dame Law Review 1027.
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By Luca Belli

Luca Belli, PhD, is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, where he heads the Center for Technology and Society (CTS-FGV) and the CyberBRICS project, and associated researcher at Centre de Droit Public Comparé of Paris 2 University. He is co-founder and co-coordinator of the IGF Coalition on Platform Responsibility and Director of the Latin- American edition of the Computers Privacy and Data Protection conference (CPDP LatAm). Before joining FGV, Luca worked as an agent for the Council of Europe Internet Governance Unit and served as a Network Neutrality Expert for the Council of Europe. He is author of more than 50 academic publications which have been quoted by numerous media outlets, including The Economist, Financial Times, Forbes, Le Monde, BBC, The Hill, China Today, O Globo, Folha de São Paulo, El Pais, and La Stampa. Luca holds a PhD in Public Law from Université Panthéon-Assas, Paris 2.

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