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.
Despite Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s 2013 campaign promises to lighten internet censorship, little has changed in the way of content filtering or bloggers’ arrests during his first year in office.
The European Union Committee of the UK Parliament released a report on the implications of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) recent Google Spain decision: "EU Data Protection Law: a 'Right to be Forgotten'?". Read more about UK Parliament's Committee Labelled the "Right to be Forgotten" as Misguided and Unworkable
A discussion paper from the Australian Government titled "Online Copyright Infringement" leaked a few days ago. The paper included proposals to amend Australian copyright law and force ISPs to monitor copyright infringment. Under the proposal, ISPs may be requested to help to prevent Australians from infringing copyright by blocking peer-to-peer traffic, slowing down internet connections, passing on warnings from industry groups, and handing over subscriber details to copyright owners.