Q: What is Intermediary Liability?
A: Intermediary Liability laws tell Internet companies like Facebook, Google, CloudFlare, or your local ISP what legal responsibility they have for content shared by their users. Well-known laws include the DMCA and CDA in the US; the eCommerce Directive in Europe; and the Internet Civil Rights Framework for the Internet (Marco Civil) in Brazil. An introduction to Intermediary Liability law with an overview of key laws and emerging issues is available here.
Q: Why should anyone but tech companies care about Intermediary Liability?
A: If you use the Internet to speak, look for information, run a business, or maintain contact with friends, then Intermediary Liability laws affect you. These laws make platforms more or less likely to tolerate illegal or offensive material; more or less likely to go overboard and silence lawful and important speech; and more or less likely to give users any kind of remedy when that happens. Intermediary liability laws also have direct consequences for innovation, and can shape online competition by imposing obligations that only large, incumbent companies can comply with.
Q: What current issues relate to Intermediary Liability?
A: Any story about Internet platforms leaving offensive or illegal material online (like terrorist videos on YouTube or harassment of women on Twitter) involves Intermediary Liability. So does any story about removal of lawful speech and information -- like Facebook’s removal of the iconic Vietnam War photo of a young girl, or YouTube’s removal of videos from Syrian human rights activists or right-wing American educators.
Prominent political issues that involve Intermediary Liability include foreign electoral interference and campaign ads, “fake news,” bots and trolls, European terrorism and hate speech laws, copyright “filtering” obligations, the “right to be forgotten,” and Congress’s recent online sex trafficking law, FOSTA.
Important pending cases include the Court of Justice of the European Union’s review of an Austrian ruling against Facebook. The Court will decide whether Austria can order Facebook to take down user content globally based on Austrian hate speech law, and whether Facebook must proactively monitor user speech to ensure that the same material (calling a politician a “lousy traitor” and a “corrupt boor”) does not appear again.
Q: Who uses the WILMap and how?
A: Lawyers representing platforms -- and lawyers thinking of suing them -- consult the WILMap to identify legal obligations and sources of law. Academics, public interest organizations, and reporters rely on it to track developments and understand important new cases or legislation around the world. Policymakers considering new legislative proposals use it to find precedent and models. Anyone concerned about online speech and platform responsibility can use it to see how thinkers and lawmakers around the world have responded to today’s most pressing questions -- and to advance the conversation through newer and better ideas.
Q: How can I contribute to the WILMap?
A: If you want so suggest any changes and contribute to the WILMap with new content or an update, you can contact us here. You can use the same channel if you are an Intermediary Liability expert that wants to join our team of contributors.
Q: What is new in the WILMap May 2018 launch?
A: The WILMap has long offered summaries of case law, statutes, proposed laws, and other developments around the world. The new version offers substantially expanded content, including new topic overview pages. (But we are always looking for more - please let us know if you are an expert who might contribute to fill in any gaps!) It also has improved tools, including advanced search functionality and visual representation of global development through mapping “layers.” Examples include:
Map visualization tools showing developments such as expansion of the Right to Be Forgotten
Advanced searches for things like court decisions on defamation and personality rights or more granular things like UK copyright rulings involving ISPs.
Q: Where else can I learn about Intermediary Liability developments?
A: These great databases track related developments:
- Internet and Jurisdiction Retrospect Database - https://www.internetjurisdiction.net/publications/retrospect
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression - https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/
Raw data for research on content takedown can be found in company transparency reports and the Lumen Database. Other useful links and projects are:
- Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability - https://www.manilaprinciples.org/
Takedown Project - http://takedownproject.org/