The Concept of ‘Investment’ in the Digital Economy: The Case of Social Media Companies

In: The Journal of World Investment & Trade
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  • 1 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Paris, France
  • 2 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Paris, France

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Abstract

The digitalization of commercial and private relations has seen the rise of companies – among the most valuable corporations in the global economy – that have operations in nearly every country in the world, while maintaining an almost exclusively digital (online) presence there. Using the example of social media companies, like Facebook and Twitter, this article argues that the component parts of companies’ digital operations, whether viewed as distinct assets or as an economic unit, may qualify as an “investment” in the countries where such companies offer their services, even though digital operations do not conform to conventional understandings of investment activity for purposes of international investment law.