Since the enactment of the first safe harbors and liability exemptions for online intermediaries like Google and Facebook, market conditions have radically changed. Originally, intermediary liability exemptions were introduced to promote an emerging internet market. Do safe harbors for online intermediaries still serve innovation? Should they be limited or expanded? These critical questions—often tainted by protectionist concerns—define the present intermediary liability conundrum. Today, safe harbors still hold, but secondary liability is on the rise. In its Digital Single Market Strategy, the European Commission plans to introduce sectorial legislation that would effectively erode liability exemptions for online intermediaries, especially platforms. In an attempt to close a “value gap” between rightholders and online platforms allegedly exploiting protected content, the proposal would implement filtering obligations for intermediaries and introduce neighboring rights for online uses of press publications. Meanwhile, an upcoming revision of the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive would ask platforms to put in place measures to protect minors from harmful content and to protect everyone from incitement to hatred. Finally, the EU Digital Single Market Strategy has endorsed voluntary measures as a privileged tool to curb illicit and infringing activities online. This Essay contextualizes the recent EU reform proposal within a broader move towards turning online intermediaries into internet police. This narrative builds exclusively upon governmental or content industry assumptions, rather than empirical evidence. Also, the intermediary liability discourse is shifting towards an intermediary responsibility discourse. Apparently, the European Commission aligns its strategy for online platforms to a globalized, ongoing move towards privatization of enforcement online through algorithmic tools. This process may advance an amorphous notion of responsibility that incentivizes intermediaries' self-intervention to police allegedly infringing activities in the internet.
This Essay posits that certain structural dynamics, which dominate criminal proceedings, significantly contribute to the admissibility of faulty forensic science in criminal trials. The authors believe that these dynamics are more insidious than questionable individual prosecutorial or judicial behavior in this context. Not only are judges likely to be former prosecutors, prosecutors are “repeat players” in criminal litigation and, as such, routinely support reduced pretrial protections for defendants. Therefore, the authors argue that the significant discrepancies between the civil and criminal pretrial discovery and disclosure rules warrant additional scrutiny and propose the adoption of pretrial civil discovery and disclosure rules in criminal proceedings to halt the flood of faulty forensic evidence routinely admitted against defendants in criminal prosecutions.
The media and academic dialogue surrounding high-stakes decisionmaking by robotics applications has been dominated by a focus on morality. But the tendency to do so while overlooking the role that legal incentives play in shaping the behavior of profit-maximizing firms risks marginalizing the field of robotics and rendering many of the deepest challenges facing today’s engineers utterly intractable. This Essay attempts to both halt this trend and offer a course correction. Invoking Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's canonical analogy of the “bad man . . . who cares nothing for . . . ethical rules,” it demonstrates why philosophical abstractions like the trolley problem—in their classic framing—provide a poor means of understanding the real-world constraints robotics engineers face. Using insights gleaned from the economic analysis of law, it argues that profit-maximizing firms designing autonomous decisionmaking systems will be less concerned with esoteric questions of right and wrong than with concrete questions of predictive legal liability. Until such time as the conversation surrounding so-called “moral machines” is revised to reflect this fundamental distinction between morality and law, the thinking on this topic by philosophers, engineers, and policymakers alike will remain hopelessly mired. Step aside, roboticists—lawyers have this one.
How have law school rankings affected legal education and the lives of admissions officers, deans, and students? Learn more in this interview with Professors Wendy Espeland and Michael Sauder on their book Engines of Anxiety.