• Onlineharms
  • Regulation
  • Datagovernance
Internet intermediaries and online harms: Regulatory Responses

Authors: Varun Sen Bahl, Faiza Rahman and Rishab Bailey

The role played by Internet intermediaries in enabling or mitigating harmful conduct in the online ecosystem has garnered significant attention in recent policy debates, both globally and in India. In India, proposals to reformulate existing law and policy around this issue have been disaggregated. This paper attempts to examine recent attempts at regulating Internet intermediaries in India, with a view to answer three questions: first, what entities are being sought to be regulated, second, what are the harms that are driving calls for regulation, and third, what obligations are being imposed on Internet intermediaries to mitigate the said harms. We find that regulatory attempts have largely focused on a certain class of platforms in the content layer of the Internet, that are seen as posing significant risks to user safety. There appears to be a gradual move towards imposing greater obligations on certain types of intermediaries - though often the means and methods to do so is questionable. We therefore argue for a re-examination of the statutory framework pertaining to intermediary liability, to enable adoption of a differentiated/calibrated approach to regulating the online ecosystem and to clarify the roles and responsibilities of different types of intermediaries therein.