The central question to many Internet policy debates is whether Internet intermediaries such as ISPs, content hosts, and search engines should bear legal liability for or obligations to police third-party content. Intermediary liability arises where governments or private litigants can hold technological service providers liable for unlawful or harmful content disseminated by users of those services. Gatekeeping obligations, such as requirements that intermediaries filter or block access to content, can force intermediaries to monitor or limit how users access or post material.
The threat of either liability or gatekeeping obligations reduces intermediaries’ willingness to host user-generated content, leads intermediaries to block even legal content, and inhibits innovation. Limiting such obligations and protecting intermediaries from liability for the expressive actions of third parties expands the space for online expression, encourages innovation in the development of new communications services, and creates more opportunities for local content, thereby supporting development of the information society.