The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School is a leader in the study of the law and policy around the Internet and other emerging technologies.
Whether and when communications platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook are liable for their users’ online activities is one of the key factors that affects innovation and free speech. Most creative expression today takes place over communications networks owned by private companies. Governments around the world increasingly press intermediaries to block their users’ undesirable online content in order to suppress dissent, hate speech, privacy violations and the like. One form of pressure is to make communications intermediaries legally responsible for what their users do and say. Liability regimes that put platform companies at legal risk for users’ online activity are a form of censorship-by-proxy, and thereby imperil both free expression and innovation, even as governments seek to resolve very real policy problems.
In the United States, the core doctrines of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have allowed these online intermediary platforms user generated content to flourish. But, immunities and safe harbors for intermediaries are under threat in the U.S. and globally as governments seek to deputize intermediaries to assist in law enforcement.
To contribute to this important policy debate, CIS studies international approaches to intermediary obligations concerning users’ copyright infringement, defamation, hate speech or other vicarious liabilities, immunities, or safe harbors; publishes a repository of information on international liability regimes and works with global platforms and free expression groups to advocate for policies that will protect innovation, freedom of expression, privacy and other user rights.
Late last month, I posted to SSRN a draft of my forthcoming article, “Notice and Takedown in the Domain Name System: ICANN’s Ambivalent Drift into Online Content Regulation.” The article takes a close look at ICANN’s role in facilitating a new program of extrajudicial notice and takedown in the DNS for domain names associated with accused “pirate sites.” The program is a cooperative, private venture between Donuts, the registry operator for hundreds of new gTLDs in the DNS, and the Motion Picture Read more about A Response to Paul Vixie’s "Notice, Takedown, Borders, and Scale”
My Twitter feed tells me that today is the fifth anniversary of the day the Internet “went dark” in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). For anyone who needs a reminder, SOPA and PIPA were pieces of copyright legislation touted by their proponents as necessary to prevent online piracy and to protect U.S. jobs in the film, television, and music industries. Read more about Remember That Time We Saved the Internet?