- Elgar European Law series
Chapter 4: Speech and content regulation
The Internet was born with a promise of bringing a world without national boundaries, where content is supplied and consumed at a low cost from the periphery. Such an Internet was supposed to be free of national control as it was assumed that content placed on it either cannot or will not be regulated.1 Although this proved to be illusory the exact extent to which the Internet is controlled remains controversial.2 By content regulation we understand various state-initiated efforts to control the substance of the Internet rather than its technical aspects. In other words, content control may be defined as an effort to ensure that certain types of information on the Internet are not seen, or are seen by certain groups of users only or under certain circumstances. In broadest terms, this is simply the question of whether a particular content can legally be put on the Internet in a jurisdiction, the circumstances under which this can be done, the regime for enforcing it and the consequences of breach. The measures through which content is controlled may involve public law, such as criminal or administrative, or private law, such as the law of defamation or intellectual property law, or hybrid branches, such as media and telecommunications law. In this chapter, content regulation is looked at through a number of issues which are conceptually connected and which are chosen for their practical importance. The first is control of illegal and harmful content. The second is free speech and defamation. The third is copyright infringement.
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