Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms


Cite this article as:
Richard Wingfield (17/12/2021). Content. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Author: Richard Wingfield

This entry: (i) sets out the way that the term ‘content’ is used in common parlance and (ii) provides examples of existing regulation which define the term (or synonyms of it).

Use in common parlance

There is no universally agreed definition of the term ‘content’; it does not appear in any major international instruments. At its broadest, the term can be considered to refer to the visual and aural elements of the internet that users experience via websites and applications. This would include all of the text, images, videos, animations, and sounds that a user can see, hear or otherwise access. In recent years, the term ‘content’ is also increasingly used to refer to a specific visual or aural element, with the term ‘piece of content’ referring to such an element. This could be a particular post that a user has uploaded to a social media platform, or an image or video uploaded or shared.

Existing regulation

While ‘content’ is the term used in common parlance, it is not the only term used – at least so far in regulation that sets out rules relating to online content. New Zealand’s Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 and the USA’s Communications Decency Act both use the term ‘content’ (although neither defines it). The UK’s Draft Online Safety Act (published in 2020) also uses the term ‘content’, and defines it as

anything communicated by means of an internet service, whether publicly or privately, including written material or messages, oral communications, photographs, videos, visual images, music and data of any description.

Australian Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 uses the term ‘material’ instead, noting that ‘material’ can be audio material, visual material, or audio-visual material. The European Union’s E-Commerce Directive (2000)1 uses the term ‘information’, but without defining it, although its proposals for a Digital Services Act (published in 2020) use the term ‘content’ in the context of ‘illegal content’. 


  1. Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market.EU Directive on electronic commerce, OJ L 178/1, 17.7.2000. Available at:
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By Richard Wingfield

Richard is Head of Legal at Global Partners Digital, an international human rights organisation working to enable a digital environment underpinned by human rights. Richard oversees the organisation’s legal, policy and research function, building its understanding of the application of international law to internet and digital policy, developing its policy positions, and monitoring trends and developments across the world. Richard also oversees the organisation’s engagement in key legislative and legal processes at the national, regional and global levels, as well as its engagement with the tech sector.

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