Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms

Intermediary Liability

Cite this article as:
Luã Fergus Cruz and Laila Lorenzon (17/12/2021). Intermediary Liability. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Authors: Luã Fergus and Laila Lorenzon

This entry defines what an ‘intermediary’ is, while mainly referring to a dedicated entry on liability.

In essence, intermediaries are entities providing services that enable internet communication between different users. There is a broad spectrum of actors labeled as internet intermediaries, such as internet service providers (ISPs), web hosting providers, social networks, cloud service providers, domain name registrars, and search engines. Certainly, this is a non-exhaustive list, since there are several types of internet-related services and different organizations and national laws that have their own definitions and categorizations of internet intermediaries (OECD, 2010; OAS, 2011; Article 19, 2013)1 2 3.

‘Intermediary liability’ refers to the legal responsibility of intermediaries regarding both the actions taken and the content generated by users of their services (MacKinnon et al., 2015)4. That is, this type of liability does not concern the legal responsibility related to the platform’s own content or other ancillary issues (e.g., tax payment, labor obligations). Despite not having a binding character, an important document on intermediary liability called Manila Principles (EFF, 2015)5 is still used today by renowned academics who study this topic and by countries as a model to implement fair and democratic digital policies.


  1. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – OCDE. (2010). The Economic and Social Role of Internet Intermediaries. Available at:
  2. Organization of American States – OAS. (2011). Press Release: Freedom of Expression Rapporteurs issue joint declaration concerning the Internet. Available at:
  3. Article 19. (2013). Internet intermediaries: Dilemma of Liability. Available at:
  4. MacKinnon, R. et al. (2015). Fostering Freedom Online: The Role of Internet Intermediaries. Other Publications from the Center for Global Communication Studies. Available at:
  5. Electronic Frontier Foundation – EFF. (2015). The Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability Background Paper. Available at:

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