Daphne Keller is the Director of Intermediary Liability at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society. Her work focuses on platform regulation and Internet users' rights. She has published both academically and in popular press; testified and participated in legislative processes; and taught and lectured extensively. Her recent work focuses on legal protections for users’ free expression rights when state and private power intersect, particularly through platforms’ enforcement of Terms of Service or use of algorithmic ranking and recommendations. Until 2015 Daphne was Associate General Counsel for Google, where she had primary responsibility for the company’s search products. She worked on groundbreaking Intermediary Liability litigation and legislation around the world and counseled both overall product development and individual content takedown decisions.
High Res Photo of Daphne Keller
Most people I talk to think that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies should take down ugly-but-legal user speech. Platforms are generally applauded for taking down racist posts from the White Nationalist demonstrators in Charlottesville, for example. I see plenty of disagreement about exactly what user-generated content should come down -- breastfeeding images? Passages from Lolita? Passages from Mein Kampf? But few really oppose the basic predicate of these removals: that private companies can and should be arbiters of permissible speech on their platforms.*
Alarm bells are sounding around the Internet about proposed changes to one of the US’s core Intermediary Liability laws, Communications Decency Act Section 230 (CDA 230). CDA 230 broadly immunizes Internet platforms against legal claims based on speech posted by their users. It has been credited as a key protection for both online expression and Internet innovation in the US. CDA 230 immunities have limits, though. Platforms are not protected from intellectual property claims (mostly handled under the DMCA) or federal criminal claims.
In its Equustek ruling in June, the Canadian Supreme Court held that Google must delete search results for users everywhere in the world, based on Canadian law. Google has now filed suit in the US, asking the court to confirm that the order can’t be enforced here. Here’s my take on that claim.
The Canadian Supreme Court this morning issued its long-awaited ruling in Equustek. The court upheld an order compelling Google to remove search results for specified websites, not just in Canada, but everywhere in the world.
This essay closely examines the effect on free-expression rights when platforms such as Facebook or YouTube silence their users’ speech. The first part describes the often messy blend of government and private power behind many content removals, and discusses how the combination undermines users’ rights to challenge state action. The second part explores the legal minefield for users—or potentially, legislators—claiming a right to speak on major platforms.
On Tuesday, in a courtroom in Luxembourg, the Court of Justice of the European Union is to consider whether Google must enforce the “right to be forgotten” — which requires search engines to erase search results based on European law — everywhere in the world.
Policymakers increasingly ask Internet platforms like Facebook to “take responsibility” for material posted by their users. Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders seem willing to do so. That is in part a good development. Platforms are uniquely positioned to reduce harmful content online. But deputizing them to police users’ speech in the modern public square can also have serious unintended consequences. This piece reviews existing laws and current pressures to expand intermediaries’ liability for user-generated content.
"It will set governments’ expectations about how they can use their leverage over internet platforms to effectively enforce their own laws globally,” said Daphne Keller, who studies platforms’ legal responsibilities at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and previously was Google’s associate general counsel."
"“Users are calling on online platforms to provide a moral code,” says Daphne Keller, director of the intermediary liability project at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society. “But we’ll never agree on what should come down. Whatever the rules, they’ll fail.” Humans and technical filters alike, according to Keller, will continue to make “grievous errors.”"
"We don’t have nearly enough information to see the big picture and know what speech platforms are taking down. For the most part, we only find out when the speakers themselves learn that their posts or accounts have disappeared and choose to call public attention to it. But the idea that platforms’ rules are biased — and that this undermines democracy — isn’t new, and it isn’t unique to conservatives.
"Any effort to regulate social media companies and search engines would run up against a bevy of constitutional free speech questions. Legally, Trump doesn’t have any authority to change how Google displays search results, said Daphne Keller, director of intermediary liability at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.
“By dictating what a private company does with search results, it legally would be like dictating what The Chronicle does with news reporting,” Keller said. “It would be a First Amendment violation.”"
"“There should be a whole gradation of how this [software] should work,” Daphne Keller, the director of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society (and mother of two), told Quartz. “We should be able to choose something in between, that is a good balance [between safety and surveillance], rather than forcing kids to divulge all their data without any control.”"
Lunch: 1:00 pm
Program: 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Internet platforms like Facebook and Twitter play an ever-increasing role in our lives, and mediate our personal and public communications. What laws govern their choices about our speech? Come discuss the law of platforms and online free expression with CIS Intermediary Liability Director Daphne Keller.
Privacy and free speech aren't fundamentally opposed, but they do have a tendency to come into conflict — and recent developments in Europe surrounding the right to be forgotten have brought this conflict into focus. This week, we're joined by Daphne Keller of Stanford's Center For Internet And Society to discuss the collision between these two important principles.