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.
Lawmakers today are increasingly focused on their options for regulating the content we see on online platforms. I described several ambitious regulatory models for doing that in my recent paper, Who Do You Sue? State and Platform Hybrid Power Over Online Speech. This blog post excerpts that discussion, and sketches out potential legal regimes to address major platforms’ function as de facto gatekeepers of online speech and information. Read more about Platform Content Regulation – Some Models and Their Problems
The new EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) has been officially adopted and published. it is now time for member States to start the process of incorporating its provisions into their respective legal and institutional frameworks. Read more about New EU rules on video-sharing platforms: will they really work?
You are CEO of Google. When you wake up tomorrow morning, your general counsel calls you: "we've been sued in the E.U. for copyright infringement! The claim: our search results for Le Parisien and dozens of other newspapers used more than one word and/or beyond a 'short extract.'" Your response: "is this April Fools’ day?" Read more about You've Been Sued In The E.U. For Copying A "Short Extract"!