Robots, the new judges

Digital rights and defences in the networked environment

Project coordinator: Dr Marcella Favale

Project description

Internet platforms, currently labelled by law as ‘intermediaries’, have revolutionized the digital world as we know it. Online purchases, free content, social contacts, are all parts of this scenario. In this picture, internet users are also content creators, but to what extent they are or should be held accountable for what they upload?

Policies intended to protect these emerging market players and technologies were protective, and therefore they did allow them a ‘safe harbour’. But the diffusion of these media and the consequent diffusion of related illegal behaviour has led to a gradual policy change. The bar is likely to be raised by the new legislation: intermediaries, once impartial gate keepers, are threatened to be held accountable in conjunction with their users. To minimise their risks, Intermediaries implement Artificial Intelligence to patrol their services in search of unlawful behaviours. Illegal material -or so perceived by the machine- is therefore promptly taken down. Robots are the police and the judge of this new world, where is notable the absence of a prosecutor and a defence counsel. As a consequence, principles and landmarks of the ‘old’ world (such as due process and limits/exceptions to the rights) are often neglected in this environment. And this includes fundamental rights such as freedom of expression.

The project aims oat providing 1) an overview of mechanisms implemented on the most widespread internet platforms (e.g. filtering devices) and their potential to disrupt a correct balance of rights, and 2) an interdisciplinary (Law and IT) study on the possibility to design internet filtering devices respectful of users’ rights and liberties

This project is part of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence for European Intellectual Property and Information Rights 2018-2021, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission.