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date: 14 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers several different ways in which we can better understand the category of online intermediaries. It does so by acknowledging important scholarly efforts to produce a detailed taxonomy of online intermediaries. An analysis of positive law in a number of countries reveals some lessons about the meaning of the term, as well as alternative legal categories of online actors that might be seen as subsets of, or overlapping with, ‘online intermediaries’. This chapter also pursues a more typological approach to the classification question, while expounding on the important role that Riordan’s functional taxonomy (or those of others) might play. Clearly, law must have regard to empirical reality of how actors behave in constructing categories. But those legal categories are often driven by other considerations, as will be our policy debates. By adopting a somewhat more conceptual approach, this chapter hopes to develop understandings that will allow debate about the liability of online intermediaries across borders and across time, given that the technological features and social role of online intermediaries are constantly evolving.

Keywords: online intermediaries, platforms, online service providers, taxonomy, definition

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