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September 28 Friday

Intermediaries and Private Speech Regulation: A Transatlantic Dialogue Workshop

  • Friday, September 28, 2018 (All Day)
  • Baker Hall Room 405
  • Open To The YLS Community Only
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“Intermediaries and Private Speech Regulation: A Transatlantic Dialogue” is an intimate academic workshop co-hosted by the Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information and the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society.

Limited audience seats will be reserved for YLS students and ISP community members. Email tiffany.li@yale.edu if you would like to attend.

This event will convene leading experts from the U.S., the U.K., and the E.U., to discuss the issue of private speech regulation and the connections between platform liability laws and fundamental rights, including free expression. The event will be held under Chatham House Rule. Please see below overview for more information on the event.

Workshop Overview

Governments around the world are increasingly turning to private Internet platforms as de facto regulators of Internet users’ speech. In the US, newly enacted legislation expands Internet intermediaries’ liability for users’ communications for the first time in two decades. In the EU, the Commission has proposed making social media companies proactively monitor and remove user communications relating to terrorism. Pressure to combat violent extremism has already led to troubling errors -- including platforms removing political speech, videos posted by human rights organizations, and ordinary users’ discussions of Islamic religious topics.

What limits, if any, do Constitutional and Human Rights frameworks place on laws that will, foreseeably, lead private platforms to silence lawful speech? Can states effectively bypass limitations on their own authority by deploying private companies without appropriate safeguards? In the US, few courts have had to confront these questions in the Internet age. Older cases, though, held that poorly formulated liability rules for “analog intermediaries” such as bookstores could violate the First Amendment.

Courts and thinkers outside the US have brought increasing attention to these questions in recent years. The Supreme Courts of India and Argentina both rejected intermediary liability rules that would incentivize cautious platforms to silence large swathes of lawful speech. The European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice of the European Union have both identified users’ expression and privacy rights as limiting factors for platform liability rules. The prevailing political winds in Europe, however, favor ever increasing platform responsibility for eliminating unlawful content.

This event will bring together a transatlantic group of scholars of Constitutional and Human Rights Law to discuss connections between platform liability laws and fundamental rights, including free expression. It will be particularly timely in light of likely litigation challenging the constitutionality of FOSTA -- the first US law in twenty years to substantially expand platforms’ legal responsibility for user speech and developments in Europe around ‘illegal content online’. 


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