IGF 2019 WS #290 The future of the liability regime of online platforms

Organizer 1: Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Rotert Michael, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Jan Penfrat, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Aleksandra Kuczerawy, Technical Community, Eastern European Group
Speaker 4: Arzu Geybulla, Civil Society, Eastern European Group
Speaker 5: Wafa Ben-Hassine, Civil Society, African Group

Policy Question(s): 

Recent proposals and rules around the world are undermining the limited liability protections which have under-pinned the Internet in recent decades. Europe, for instance, has adopted a Copyright Directive with mandatory content filtering mechanisms. The EU is expected to reopen the e-Commerce Directive. In the USA, SESTA/FOSTA entered into law in April 2018. In India, the government’s draft intermediary guidelines introduces short timeframes to remove content. Australia explicitly refrained in 2018 from expanding liability protections outside of a narrow category of intermediaries. Are existing rules fit for purpose? What are the broader societal impact of new rules, e.g. on fundamental rights and democratic principles such as the rule of law?

Relevance to Theme: The limited liability regime applied to online intermediaries is the legal foundation of freedom of expression online, access to information and of the economic development of the digital sector. However, recent laws and policy proposals tend to change this regime as a way to fight against hate speech, terrorist content online and more generally against violence and sexual abuse in the online environment. Discussions on the liability regime of online intermediaries should take place at regional and global levels to ensure consistency and stability, to address the legitimate concerns caused by illegal content online and to protect access to information and freedom of expression online.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Legislations and policy proposals aiming to increase the liability of online intermediaries would profoundly impact the evolution and use of the Internet. It is vital for governments, companies and citizens’ representatives to ensure a balance between the fight against illegal content online, citizens’ fundamental rights and companies’ obligations.

Format: 

Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min

Description: Agenda

1. Highlight current trends on online intermediaries’ liability reforms (20 min): More and more countries are discussing and/or adopting legislation undermining the limited liability regime of online intermediaries, as understood for the past 20 years. We will hear the views from representatives from Europe and Brazil on such discussions/legislations, raising also examples from recent discussions in India.

2. Looking ahead on where such discussions should go (20 min): Building on the state of play described in the first part of the panel, the panellists will then discuss the different approaches taken and which direction, in their opinion, such discussions and legislations should take.

3. Q&A session with the audience (20 min).

Expected Outcomes: (a) Recognise that the limited liability regime of online intermediaries is increasingly challenged across the world.
(b) Contribute to on-going and future multilateral and bilateral dialogues to ensure a balance between the fight against illegal content online, citizens’ fundamental rights and companies’ obligations.

Discussion Facilitation: 

Short two to three minutes presentations made by the speakers will open the discussions. The remaining time of the workshop will be allocated to open discussions, with on spot and online participants encouraged to present their views and possible solutions during the last 20 minutes of the panel.

Online Participation: 

Online and onsite participants will be able to ask questions and participate to the debate during the last third of the panel.

SDGs: 

GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions