Intermediaries such as telecommunications and online service providers perform essential functions in promoting the internet economy. They have enabled e-commerce to become a vital component of the U.S. and global economies, and provide a unique opportunity to leverage American innovation in the international marketplace.
Unfortunately, plaintiffs seeking well-financed defendants frequently attempt to blame intermediaries for the online acts of third parties. U.S. law has endeavored to limit this “kill the messenger” litigation, but foreign jurisdictions have not, and the principle remains under continuing attack in U.S. courts.
If the internet economy is to continue to grow, service provider protections must be an integral component of U.S. domestic and foreign technology policy. Exposing online service providers to legal liability for the actions of users inhibits investment and impedes economic prosperity.
In light of the extraordinary volume of internet communication, imposing liability rules that mandate the review of internet communications represent a barriers to internet commerce, and lead to bad public policy that would encourage Orwellian policing of internet content by intermediaries. Just as U.S. law does not compel commercial shippers to open packages that they carry, online intermediaries must not be obligated to choose between limiting liability and invading user privacy.