Skip to Content

Free Expression

Intermediary Liability: Protecting Internet Platforms for Expression and Innovation

This paper examines the impact of intermediary liability on free expression, privacy, and innovation. Intermediary liability arises where governments or private litigants can hold technological intermediaries such as ISPs and websites liable for unlawful or harmful content created by users of those services. The threat of liability inhibits the willingness of intermediaries to host user-generated content; such liability leads intermediaries to block even legal content and could inhibit innovation. Individual users should be held responsible for their unlawful actions, but if the threat of liability discourages Internet intermediaries from allowing users to communicate in the first place, then the opportunities for even lawful expression will be curtailed and the potential of networked technologies will be diminished. Protecting intermediaries from liability for the actions of third parties expands the space for online expression, encourages innovation in the development of new services, and creates more opportunities for local content, thereby supporting development of the information society. Internet advocates everywhere should urge governments to adopt policies that protect intermediaries as critical platforms for innovation and cultural and civic expression.

UPDATE: A Thai translation can be found here.