The Role of Internet Intermediaries in Advancing Public Policy Objectives

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14 Sep 2011
9789264115644 (PDF) ;9789264115637(print)

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This book presents a comprehensive view of Internet intermediaries, their economic and social function, development and prospects, benefits and costs, and roles and responsibilities. Divided into three parts, Part I, The Economic and Social Role of Internet Intermediaries, develops a common definition and understanding of what Internet intermediaries are, of their economic function and economic models, of recent market developments, and discusses the economic and social uses that these actors satisfy. Part II, The Role of Internet Intermediaries in Advancing Public Policy Objectives, examines the roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries in advancing public policy objectives, as well as the costs and benefits of their involvement through a series of case studies. Part III provides a summary of an experts workshop that identified lessons learned and best practices from the experience to date of Internet intermediaries in advancing public policy objectives.
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  • Foreword
    Internet intermediaries – Internet service providers (ISPs), hosting providers, search engines, e-commerce intermediaries, Internet payment systems and participative Web platforms – provide essential tools that enable the Internet to drive economic, social and political development, for example by facilitating aggregation of demand, new models of collaboration, citizen journalism and civic participation. Yet intermediary platforms can also be misused for harmful or illegal purposes, such as the dissemination of security threats, fraud, infringement of intellectual property rights, or the distribution of illegal content.
  • Preface
    Internet intermediaries – service and hosting providers, search engines, e-commerce and Internet payment systems, as well as social Web platforms – are essential drivers for economic and social development. Online e-commerce intermediaries empower users and consumers by offering better access to information, facilitating product and price comparisons, creating downward pressure on prices and bringing supply and demand together, which leads to the creation of new markets. Search engines, portals and participative networked platforms facilitate access to an unparalleled wealth of information and provide opportunities for new innovative activities and social interactions such as citizen journalism and civic participation.
  • Executive summary
    Internet intermediaries provide the Internet’s basic infrastructure and platforms by enabling communication and transactions between third parties. They can be commercial or non-commercial in nature, and include Internet service providers (ISPs), hosting providers, search engines, e-commerce intermediaries, payment intermediaries and participative networked platforms. Their main functions are: i) to provide infrastructure; ii) to collect, organise and evaluate dispersed information; iii) to facilitate social communication and information exchange; iv) to aggregate supply and demand; v) to facilitate market processes; vi) to provide trust; and vii) to take account of the needs of both buyers/users and sellers/advertisers. Related public policy issues concern notably their roles, legal responsibilities and liability for the actions of users of their platforms.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The Economic and Social Role and Legal Responsibilities of Internet Intermediaries

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    • Internet intermediaries
      This chapter proposes a working definition of Internet intermediaries and attempts to identify categories of Internet intermediaries, drawing on official industrial classifications and on regulators’ definition of Internet intermediary activities. It then turns to their role in the creation of value: aggregation of information on buyers, suppliers and products; facilitation of search for appropriate products; reduction of information asymmetries through the provision of product and transactional expertise; matching buyers and sellers for transactions; and trust provision to the marketplace to enhance transactability.
    • Developments in Internet intermediary markets
      This chapter discusses competitive market conditions and the pace of change in the main Internet intermediary sectors. It draws attention to the rapidly evolving nature of the sector’s business models and the blurring of the boundaries of the related national statistics. Following a brief discussion of the effect of the recent economic crisis, it traces trends in the various types of Internet intermediary markets, including online payment.
    • Social and economic purposes of Internet intermediaries
      This chapter looks at Internet intermediaries in light of their role in ICT-related growth and productivity, in managing network infrastructure and in providing access to new applications and to an expanding base of users. It discusses their contributions to entrepreneurship, employment and innovation and their important role in developing users’ trust in the online environment.
    • The legal responsibilities of Internet intermediaries, their business practices and self- or co-regulatory codes
      The liability of Internet intermediaries for content authored by or activities carried out by third parties was one of the earliest issues facing the emerging Internet industry. This chapter traces the evolution of legislation and jurisprudence concerning the liability of Internet intermediaries for hosting or transmitting illegal content in the United States and Europe. It then looks at various market-based, self- and co-regulatory approaches taken by Internet intermediaries that help achieve public policy goals. It highlights the role of experimentation and learning from experience to develop innovative solutions and best practices.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Case Studies in Different Policy Areas

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    • Global free flow of information
      This case study defines the global free flow of information, discusses the censorship issue and describes the Global Network Initiative. It concludes with some of the lessons learned in this area.
    • ISPs and malicious software (malware) security threats
      This chapter discusses the role and practices of Internet intermediaries in protecting information from damage caused by users to their own systems, to intermediaries’ systems or to other systems. It builds on earlier and ongoing OECD work on malware, the economics of malware, and codes of practice for ISPs to increase security. It concludes with some of the lessons learned in this area.
    • Illegal content and child-inappropriate content
      Internet intermediaries generally take steps to protect children against the distribution of child sexual abuse material. Some are voluntary practices based on individual firm policies, some are pursued in voluntary co-ordination with other industry players and with law enforcement authorities, and yet others are required by law. This case study describes efforts by Internet intermediaries to control two types of content risks: graphic images of child sexual abuse and age-inappropriate content in virtual worlds. It concludes with some of the lessons learned in this area.
    • Illegal Internet gambling
      This case study examines the policy options for using intermediaries to control illegal Internet gambling with a focus on Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, France and the European Union. It also describes how one virtual world operator addressed the issue of gambling on its platform. It concludes with some of the lessons learned in this area.
    • Copyright infringement
      This case study reviews voluntary agreements between Internet intermediaries and rights holders and indirect liability regimes for copyright infringement in selected countries. It examines "notice and take-down" and "notice and notice" arrangements and legal requirements or agreements for intermediaries to take deterrent measures against repeat infringers ("graduated response"). Some proposals related to filtering and site blocking are also reviewed. It concludes with some of the lessons learned in this area.
    • Online marketplaces and the sale of counterfeit goods
      This case study looks at ways in which Internet intermediaries deal with counterfeiting, a growing concern in the Internet community. It describes some steps that intermediaries are taking, envisages voluntary best practices and investigates legal obligations. It concludes with some of the lessons learned in this area.
    • Consumer protection in e-commerce payments
      This focus of this case study is the role of payment providers in improving consumer protection in e-commerce transactions. It looks at both traditional and alternative payment providers and examines the measures they employ to protect consumers who engage in online transactions against fraud and their consumer dispute resolution mechanisms. It concludes with some of the lessons learned in this area.
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