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.
On May 24, 1844, a crowd gathered inside the United States Supreme Court chambers in the basement of the Capitol, eagerly awaiting a demonstration of an amazing new communication technology. They watched as inventor Samuel F.B. Morse successfully sent the first long-distance telegraph message — “What hath God wrought?” — to a railroad station near Baltimore. While earlier demonstrations of the device had successfully sent messages between the House and Senate chambers, long-distance transmission was still an open question.
In Jesner v. Arab Bank, the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court has taken up the question of whether victims of human rights abuses can sue corporations and other legal entities for violations of the law of nations under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).
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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.