Liability of online hosting platforms: should exceptionalism end?


The report “Liability of online hosting platforms: should exceptionalism end?” explores whether online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, benefit from a liability free pass. Should their liability increase with their growing economic and societal importance? This report provides recommendations for EU rules leading to a safer internet.

With the e-commerce Directive, and other pieces of legislation, the EU has set an elaborate system of rules regarding the responsibility of online platforms. Since 2000, these have gained increasing economic and societal importance. The report  considers if and how this growing importance ought to affect their liability exemption when hosting illegal material (e.g. terrorism content, child pornography, racism, xenophobia, diffusion of copyrighted material without licence or sale of counterfeit goods).

“Many actors participate to the diffusion of illegal material online. The responsibility of a safe Internet should be shared among all these actors. To do so, the law should encourage all parties, including online platforms, to contribute to tackling illegal material”, says Alexandre de Streel, CERRE Joint Academic Director, and Professor at the University of Namur. 



Shared responsability

All actors, including the platforms, should share the responsibility of the detection and the removal of illegal content.


Infrastructure for detection

Online platforms should be required to provide the right infrastructure ensuring the effective and proactive detection of illegal content by using, for example, efficient monitoring systems based on automated detection technology.


Rapid removal

Online platforms should provide their users with easy notification systems for effective and rapid removal of illegal material online. 



For illegal material that justifies a more extensive duty of care, such as terrorism content or child pornography, the rules of the e-commerce Directive should be accompanied by strict effective co-regulation or self-regulation.


“Online platforms provide tremendous opportunities for the Digital Single Market and play a critical role in our society. But they are not just a tool for sharing content; they are and should be considered a driving force in guaranteeing a safe internet for all. It is essential that they provide the right tools to detect and remove illegal content”, concludes the project research team.


Prof. Alexandre de Streel, Prof. Miriam Buiten, Prof. Martin Peitz