Fading Barriers to Potentially Harmful Information: Moral Responsibilities of Internet Providers

Anton Vedder


Providers have responsibilities relating to the textual information, images and sound recordings, accessible through their services. Apart from the people who, themselves, put information on the net, providers are the only ones who are in a position to fend off certain potentially harmful or offensive information. Furthermore, both the enormous scale on which information and other materials can be distributed through the Internet and the lack of barriers formerly present when people tried to take cognisance of the same kind of information and materials invite us to attribute these responsibilities to the providers.

Finally, three potential objections to this view are expounded and refuted. First, the alleged analogy between Internet providers and transportation companies. Second, the argument that the Internet is to be consid ed as a free zone with complete freedom of expression and freedom to perform experimental activities. Third, the idea that providers have no such responsibilities because they have no special expertise concerning social and moral matters.