Wolfgang Schulz is director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research, Hans Bredow Institute, and professor of media law, public law, and legal theory at the University of Hamburg. He is also director of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society in Berlin and is the chair for Freedom of Communication and Information at the German UNESCO Commission.
While many countries have initially opted to give online platforms a “safe harbor,” for speech, we are now witnessing trends to weaken that protection. In Europe, this includes the creation of regulatory regimes that aim at reducing misinformation and that specifically address the role of social media platforms and other information intermediaries. Regulatory attempts such as the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) can serve as an example. The paper analyzes those approaches from a human-rights perspective and argues that the platforms’ ability to assess the context of content plays a major role in determining whether “new school regulation” sets proportional limits to freedom of speech.