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.
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.
Joan Barata is an international expert in freedom of expression, freedom of information and media regulation. As a scholar, he has spoken and done extensive research in these areas, working and collaborating with various universities and academic centers, from Asia to Africa and America, authoring papers, articles and books, and addressing specialized Parliament committees.
Annemarie Bridy is a Professor of Law at the University of Idaho. She is also an Affiliated Fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project and a former Visiting Associate Research Scholar at the Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy. Professor Bridy specializes in intellectual property and information law, with specific attention to the impact of new technologies on existing legal frameworks for the protection of intellectual property and the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Giancarlo F. Frosio is a Non-Residential Fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. Previously he was the Intermediary Liabilty fellow with Stanford CIS. He is also an Associate Professor at the Center for International Intellectual Property Studies (CEIPI) at Strasbourg University. Giancarlo also serves as Affiliate Faculty at Harvard CopyrightX and Faculty Associate of the Nexa Research Center for Internet and Society in Turin. Giancarlo is a qualified attorney with a doctoral degree (S.J.D.) in intellectual property law from Duke University Law School.
Filtering Facebook: Introducing Dolphins in the Net, a New Stanford CIS White Paper
Why Internet Users and EU Policymakers Should Worry about the Advocate General’s Opinion in Glawischnig-Piesczek
White Paper: Dolphins in the Net: Internet Content Filters and the Advocate General’s Glawischnig-Piesczek v. Facebook Ireland Opinion
The law and legal professional ethics require of counsel a duty of candor in the practice of law. This includes a duty to not knowingly make false statements of fact, and to not offer evidence the lawyer knows to be false. These principles are considered essential to maintaining both substantive fairness for participants in the process, and trust in the integrity of the process for those outside of it.
Users of information tools in public contexts are not, of course, subject to the same duties. And publication of false information is generally protected by the First Amendment, unless it falls into one of the defined exceptions. I’m doubtful a law against publication of false information would be sustained.
It is, however, perfectly acceptable for most information technology platforms to adopt such a policy and seek to enforce it as best they can. That is, platforms could create and enforce rules against publication of information known to be false. A recent publication from the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights contends platforms should do so. This post concurs: subject to some limitations, private platforms can and should take a position that use of their services to intentionally or carelessly spread false information violates terms of service.
In the name of “brand safety,” advertisers these days are working hard to better control where their ads appear online. Programmatic advertising with real-time bidding automates the process of online ad buying and ad placement to such an extent that the entire process takes place in the time it takes a web page to load. The process is highly efficient, but a significant downside is that ads sometimes appear alongside controversial content with which an advertiser would rather not be associated. Online pornography is the classic example, but other strains of extreme content—e.g., hate speech, conspiracism, and incitement-to-terrorism—have more recently come into focus for advertisers as threats to brand reputation.
The security of our news and media information systems matters as much as the security of personal and commercial information systems. "Information warfare" shows that harms can arise even when there is no unauthorized access, when tools are used as intended, and when there’s no compromise of user privacy settings. In both cases of cybersecurity and news/media security, the threats are asymmetric, the tools readily available, usable for many purposes, and threats are easily disguised as benign.
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.
On Thursday, Sept. 6, Twitter permanently banned the right-wing provocateur Alex Jones and his conspiracy theorist website Infowars from its platform. This was something of the final blow to Jones’s online presence: Facebook, Apple and Youtube, among others, blocked Jones from using their services in early August. Cut off from Twitter as well, he is now severely limited in his ability to spread his conspiracy theories to a mainstream audience.
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.
""We haven't seen the solution. We only heard very high-level principles by the European Commission and some data that was added by the Department of Commerce, but we need to see the actual documentation to understand exactly what this entails," said Omer Tene, VP of research and education at the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), in an interview."
"If Google rejects a request for removal of a link, the requestor can appeal to his or her country’s regulators or the courts, Keller says. “But there’s no role for the publisher, who put the speech up in the first place and is being silenced” to protest, Keller says.
"As we wrote in our last post, Daphne Keller at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society is writing a series of blog posts raising concerns about how the new rules clash with basic concepts of free speech. She's now written one about the immensely troubling setup of the "notice and takedown" rules included in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
"And lack of awareness may not be the only reason for the apparently low number of appeals, said Martin Husovec, a Slovak-born assistant professor at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society in the Netherlands.
What, if anything, should we do about extremist content on the Internet? What is the role of Internet companies in promoting free expression and privacy around the world? How should we manage data requests from law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, when countries have different privacy protections and different laws?
Stanford CIS brings together scholars, academics, legislators, students, programmers, security researchers, and scientists to study the interaction of new technologies and the law and to examine how the synergy between the two can either promote or harm public goods like free speech, innovation, privacy, public commons, diversity, and scientific inquiry
Recent data-related cases, such as the Google Spain case and the dispute between Microsoft and the US Government over the access to data held by Microsoft in Ireland, highlight flaws in the current thinking on jurisdiction in both private, and public, international law.
The question of what responsibility should lie with Internet platforms for the content they host that is posted by their users has been the subject of debate around in the world as politicians, regulators, and the broader public seek to navigate policy choices to combat harmful speech that have implications for freedom of expression, online harms, competition, and innovation.
In this episode, The Stream speaks with tech industry experts and policy analysts to explore whether the Indian government’s plan will ensure public safety or set a dangerous precedent.
The latest in the EU's string of internet regulatory efforts has a new target: terrorist propaganda. Just as with past regulations, the proposed rules seem onerous and insane, creating huge liability for internet platforms that fail to do the impossible.
Cybersecurity is increasingly a major concern of modern life, coloring everything from the way we vote to the way we drive to the way our health care records are stored. Yet online security is beset by threats from nation-states and terrorists and organized crime, and our favorite social media sites are drowning in conspiracy theories and disinformation. How do we reset the internet and reestablish control over our own information and digital society?