Internet communication is handled by intermediaries, including service providers, social networks, and search engines. These intermediaries are routinely asked to take down content, and their handling of these requests varies substantially. As a result of fulfilling their role in providing public internet access, libraries may also receive requests to restrict content. IFLA has joined an international coalition to offer a framework of safeguards and best practices for intermediary liability for third-party content and for the handling of requests to restrict or take down content.

Safeguarding the rights of libraries

The Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability, launched on March 23rd 2015 can be considered by policy makers and intermediaries when developing, adopting and reviewing legislation, policies and practices that govern the liability of intermediaries for third party content.The principles include:

  1. Intermediaries should be shielded by law from liability for third party content
  2. Content must not be required to be restricted without an order by a judicial authority
  3. Requests for restrictions of content must be clear, be unambiguous and follow due process
  4. Laws and content restriction orders and practices must comply with the tests of necessity and proportionality
  5. Laws and content restriction  policies and practices must respect due process
  6. Transparency and accountability must be built into laws and content restriction policies and practices

IFLA has joined a coalition of civil society groups in supporting the Manila Principles by becoming a signatory. Requests for content restriction by intermediaries result in private companies restricting the public’s freedom of expression, freedom of association, and right to privacy, without appropriate accountability mechanisms. Since communities rely on their libraries for access to the Internet, libraries can find themselves in the role of intermediaries and be subject to policy regulations that require filtering or restricting content. The concepts in the Manila Principles relate directly to the work of libraries in their role of providing access to the internet.

Here is what you can do

Organizations and individuals can endorse The Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability or view the list of signatories and see whether an organization has supported the protection of freedom of expression through these principles.

For more information on access to information, current and developing issues please visit our IFLA and Information Society and Copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives webpages.