The liability of internet intermediaries in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda: An uncertain terrain

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By Alex Comninos (APC)
, October 2012

Intermediary liability refers to when internet intermediaries involved in the transmission processing or storage of electronic data across on the internet are held liable for unlawful content transmitted or stored on their networks. Sometimes intermediaries may find themselves legally liable for content on their networks created by third parties, including content which they did not even know was on their networks.

Depending on relevant national law, liability for online content of third parties “can arise in a number of situations, both legitimate and politicised, including for defamation, obscenity, invasion of privacy, intellectual property infringement, or because the content is critical of the government.”

For governments, intermediaries “represents a potential point of control over content or unlawful behaviour.” This report forms part of a four-country study that investigates the legislative, legal, regulatory, political and economic frameworks that govern the liability of internet intermediaries in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. The study provides an overview of the current situation concerning intermediary liability in these countries and how it has changed in recent years. It explores current and past debates on intermediary liability, situations in which intermediaries may be liable for unlawful content posted or transmitted by third parties, and whether there are any protections for internet intermediaries in the form of limitations on liability. This report provides an overview of the concepts of internet intermediaries and intermediary liability. It then examines the human rights effects of intermediary liability, describes limitations on liability in the US and the EU, and argues for the need for protection for internet intermediaries. Issues relating to intermediary liability in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda are then explored. Finally important conclusions from the research are summaries, and a set of recommendations for all stakeholders affected by intermediary liability is provided.

For more information, visit iia.apc.org or read the country reports on intermediary liability in Africa .

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