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

A.H. Vedder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientific


In this paper, I argue that 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. I expound and refute three potential objections to this view. First, the alleged analogy between Internet providers and transportation companies. Second, the argument that the Internet is to be considered 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthicomp 99
Subtitle of host publicationLook to the Future of the Information Society. Proceedings of the 4th ETHICOMP International Conference on the Social and Ethical Impacts of Information and Communication Technologies. (CD-Rom)
EditorsA. D'Atri, A. Marturano, S. Rogerson, T. Ward Bynum
Place of PublicationRome
PublisherLuiss CeRSIL
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)8890039604
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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