February 13 Tuesday

Beyond Intermediary Liability: The Future of Information Platforms

  • Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 10:00AM - 4:30PM
  • HGS 119
  • Open To The YLS Community Only
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Information platforms (e.g., Facebook, Google, and Twitter) are some of the strongest forces shaping global society today. Information platforms have fueled global social and political movements that have changed the world, from the “Arab Spring” revolutionary movements to the “#MeToo” social movement. Intermediary liability laws allow these information platforms to offer neutral venues for the free flow of communication and information. However, these information platforms are now facing increased legislative threats to intermediary liability protections, particularly in the wake of the 2016 U.S. election and allegations of foreign election interference.

This day-long academic workshop on intermediary liability will feature experts from academia, industry, and civil society. Students interested in attending the workshop may email tiffany.li@yale.edu by February 9. Student workshop attendees will be selected on a lottery basis.


Tiffany Li, Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Information and Intermediaries

Information Platforms & Global Speech Norms
Discussants: Elizabeth Banker, Twitter; Rebecca McKinnon, Ranking Digital Rights

The United States plays a unique role in the intermediary debate. Most major intermediary companies are based in the United States, and the United States has a strong valuation of free speech. Increasingly, governing bodies in the European Union have been calling for intermediaries to moderate content based on E.U. regulations. Meanwhile, restrictive government regimes regularly shut down access to intermediaries and demand that intermediaries take down content based on the speech goals for those regimes. How can or should intermediaries uphold free speech values in a global marketplace? What are the roles and responsibilities of intermediaries in navigating shifting international and transnational norms?

"Content Neutral" Speech Standards

Discussants: Paul Siemenski, Automattic; Morgan Weiland, Stanford University

Intermediaries provide venues for online speech and access to information. However, intermediaries have also been facing increasing regulatory scrutiny in recent years, and there is a growing potential for future regulation that may impact the ability of intermediaries to support online speech. Given the controversial and complicated nature of free speech online, one possible avenue for finding consensus is to focus on standards that are relatively content-neutral (for example, standards for regulating bots, automated content, and political advertisements). Is the development of content-neutral standards a practicable and beneficial path forward? Are there content-neutral principles that can or should be implemented? How will these principles impact intermediary liability?

12:30-1:15 Lunch & Learn: "Community Self-Governance on Wikipedia"
Stephen LaPorte, Wikimedia Foundation

Intermediary Liability in a Changing World
Discussants: Nick Bramble, Google; Anupam Chander, University of California Davis

New technologies, like Artificial Intelligence and Virtual and Augmented Reality, present new challenges to existing intermediary liability frameworks. At the same time, new tech-enabled societal changes are also challenging intermediary roles and responsibilities. In a world where people are increasingly more logged-on than off, how should intermediaries shape the digital public sphere? Are current intermediary liability frameworks sufficient, or will they quickly become outdated? Can we "future-proof" intermediary liability to address the new technologies and new social changes?

Recommendations & Takeaways

Using the draft paper as a point of reference, this session will attempt to synthesize the comments made throughout the day to identify new research aims and produce actionable recommendations.

The Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information is a new research initiative that aims to raise awareness and support intermediary liability protections and open internet principles globally. As part of an ongoing collaboration between Yale Law School and the Wikimedia Foundation, the initiative supports deeper research on policies, legislation, and threats related to intermediary liability and hyperlinking legislation.

Sponsoring Organization(s)


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