IGF 2020 WS #288 Future of Intermediary Liability: Identification & Strategy


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 1: Sarjveet Singh, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Rishab Bailey, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Smitha Krishna Prasad, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

What principles, if any, should govern the regulation of intermediaries in order to mitigate online risks and harms? How can nation states balance the competing interests at play in this arena - civil liberties (primarily speech and privacy), state interests in ensuring a healthy marketplace for all ideas, and the right to carry on private business?

The session will focus on attempting to understand the different models and methods of intermediary regulation that are being implemented in different jurisdictions, and the possible strengths and weaknesses of each. 1. Can best practices be identified to deal with issues such as the need to ensure transparency and accountability in content moderation processes? 2. Can certain online harms such as fake news, hate speech, be dealt with in a globally harmonious manner? 3. How can one better ensure that states are able to take measures to protect online rights, without disproportionately impacting rights to privacy and free speech?


GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


The digital ecosystem has undergone significant changes since the introduction of “safe harbour” regimes across the world in the 1990s and early 2000s. While the safe harbour framework has spurred the growth of the digital economy and enabled the democratic exchange of information, concerns such as fake news, hate speech, online harassment and obscenity and the difficulties in investigating and punishing cross-jurisdictional cyber crimes have confronted nation states with complex policy questions regarding the role and responsibilities of online intermediaries. The dominance and reach of large online platforms only amplifies these issues. As nation states are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that online harms can have on individuals and societies, there appears to be a global movement towards the stricter regulation of online intermediaries. In some jurisdictions this has taken the form of modifications to intermediary liability frameworks, while others have seen it fit to implement other substantive or procedural obligations on different types of intermediaries. While online intermediaries have attempted to implement measures to enhance trust and safety in the digital ecosystem, the efficacy and transparency of these attempts has often been questionable. Further, the role played by online intermediaries in enabling a variety of new and emerging harms is also of global concern. The session will bring together experts from around the world to discuss and debate recent attempts at redefining the role of digital service providers and the obligations cast on them.

Expected Outcomes

The session will enable the exchange of knowledge on the following : (a) the different motivations for increasing regulation of intermediaries across the world, (b) the regulatory strategies being adopted to do so, and (c) the different ways in which nation states can address the risks and harms arising from intermediaries while balancing concerns relating to civil liberties, and the impact of regulation on the global Internet ecosystem more generally. This will provide discussants with the tools to engage with and inform policy processes around issues of online content moderation and enforcement of laws. In addition to sharing and analysing global perspectives on these issues, the session will seek to arrive at consensus regarding whether it is desirable and practical to craft global principles to harmonise how countries and service providers approach the issue of intermediary liability, and if so, what best practices can be suggested in this regard.

The session will take place as a roundtable discussion. The topic as well as the questions which are to be addressed will be introduced. Specific time will be allocated to each question to be addressed. After each question is introduced, initially select speakers will be provided an opportunity to provide comments on the question. The discussion will then be open to all participants at the roundtable session.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Intermediaries play a crucial role in the delivery of internet and internet based services to end users. The manner in which intermediaries are regulated has been an important factor in determining whether and how users can exercise their rights to access, freedom of expression and privacy, among others. The principles of intermediary liability, and the regulation of intermediaries are a core aspect of internet governance. Over the past few years, there has been rapid expansion of both the categories of intermediaries, as well as the harms that can be done using their services. This session proposes to use the global platform that the IGF provides to revisit some of these principles of internet governance.

Relevance to Theme: The session will bring together participants from different stakeholder groups and geographic regions to discuss the principles of regulation that are relevant in intermediary liability frameworks. With a majority of participants coming from academic or human rights advocacy organisations, fundamental rights and freedoms will be central to the discussion. At the same time, discussions will benefit from the experiences of intermediaries themselves. The session will facilitate identification of practical and principle based solutions to define the roles and obligations of digital service providers.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.