Thursday, 11 July 2019 10:22

IBM favours law to make online platforms liable for content

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IBM favours law to make online platforms liable for content Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

Tech giant IBM has said it favours changes to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make Internet companies accountable for content that their users post on their platforms.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Ryan Hagemann, the company's Government and Regulatory Affairs Technology Policy executive, said IBM would back "reasonable, considered measures to regulate online activities that are clearly illegal".

He said that meant taking a look at Section 230, which right now prevented any provider of an "interactive computer service" from liability for any action that occurred on that platform, irrespective of whether the provider turned a blind eye to the illegal activity or not.

"Courts have found companies that knowingly host illegal content to be exempt from legal liability based on the broad protection that CDA 230 provides," Hagemann said.

"But a measure designed nearly a quarter-century ago to foster an infant Internet needs to keep pace with the enormous social, economic, and even political power that the online world today commands."

In March last year, the US passed a law to crack down on the spread of online content that facilitated trafficking children for sexual exploitation.

IBM said instead of exempting all platforms from liability, any exemption should be conditional on companies adopting a standard of "reasonable care" and acting and adopting preventive measures to curb illegal use of their service.

"The 'reasonable care' standard would provide strong incentives for companies to limit illegal and illicit behaviour online, while also being flexible enough to promote continued online innovation and fairly easy adaptation to different online business models," Hagemann said.

The approach of having precision regulation meant requirements or liability should be focused on those in a position to do something about illegal online content.

"The reasonable care standard should apply precisely and narrowly: to 'providers' of interactive computer services that not only host information but also make that information available to the public and have the technical means, practical ability, and the right to moderate content," Hagemann said.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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