June 20, 2016

Breaking news

Little is known about how to ‘regulate the Internet’…

Outline solutions, however, do seem to have to be found in ex-post mechanisms since Regulation (broadly speaking) understand ex-ante and ex-post mechanisms as a continuum, and since Regulators increasingly concentrate ex-post mechanisms in their hands as an effective way to ensure execution of the ex-ante prescriptions they themselves elaborated.

Ex-ante mechanisms aim at making algorithms more ‘loyal’.

As long as we hope for devices to be trustworthy and to be held accountable for their ‘loyalty’, we give merits to the idea that we probably should “take liability seriously”.                                                                                                                       

On June 14, 2016, the Californian father of one of the victims of the 11/13/2015 Paris attacks filed a suit in a U.S. District Court to prosecute Google, Facebook and Twitter

The legal dispute is clear.

The applicant based its claim to hold the companies liable on the grounds that they let terrorist groups use their networks: “The suit claims the companies “knowingly permitted” the Islamic State group, referred to in the complaint as “ISIS”, to recruit members, raise money and spread “extremist propaganda” via their social-media services”.

Conversely, the defendants unanimously claimed that they had actively implemented ‘policies’ against extremist material, and that they were working with law enforcement entities to improve regulations on the matter. Self-regulation and ethics versus common liability law.

The companies also pointed out the fact that they were not publishers, hence they could not face liability for the material users post on their networks. This is not, however, the issue at stake: the complaint concerns the use of the network not as a mere way to broadcast messages, but as a way to recruit murderers, provide them with convenient tools to communicate and to prepare criminal operations—allegations for which law does not exempt social media companies from liability.

These allegations are worth being ‘taken seriously’, should the law be unclear on whether the companies could be charged indeed, and should the total exemption from liability of such companies pleading for their ‘neutrality’ be the exception rather than the norm.

The question of principle is thus as follows: is exemption from liability of those who hold the ‘digital space’ together really the norm?

If so, their exemption from liability needs to be extended to a scenario that had not been covered by the law yet. If not, then common liability law is the rightful legal basis to assess whether the companies can be found liable or not—provided that a direct causal link between the unlawful act and an actual harm suffered by the applicant can be demonstrated.



The legal dispute is clear.