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Models of Legal Liability for Social Networks: Between Germany and Portugal

Part of the Law, Governance and Technology Series book series (LGTS,volume 49)


The development of the Internet and the creation of social networks has given rise to a new kind of legal liability, where such intermediaries would, as a rule, be excluded from it. However, social networks have evolved to a status far different from the first internet service providers, site hosts, or search engines. Their activities have cast many doubts and problems over the traditional exclusion of liability. It is time to ponder a new and adequate liability model for internet intermediaries such as social networks. The present paper builds from the main EU approach exemplified by the Portuguese case and the German approach with its recently adopted law on the liability of social networks. Both cases are seen through the lenses of recent CJEU case law.


  • Social networks
  • Liability
  • Intermediaries
  • Internet
  • Facebook

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  1. 1.

    See article Campos (2018), pp. 160–180.

  2. 2.

    Brogi and Parcu (2014) and Ombelet et al. (2016), p. 9.

  3. 3.

    Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc., 776 F. Supp. 135 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).

  4. 4.

    “CompuServe has no more editorial control over such a publication than does a public library, book store, or newsstand, and it would be no more feasible for CompuServe to examine every publication it carries for potentially defamatory statements than it would be for any other distributor to do so” Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc., 776 F. Supp. 135 (S.D.N.Y. 1991), p. 140.

  5. 5.

    Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services, Inc., 1995 WL 323710, 1995 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 229, 23 Media L. Rep. 1794 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. May 26, 1995).

  6. 6.

    Regarding the passage from a society centred in organisations and social groups to a society centred in networks and the difficulty of “accommodation” of law to the new scenario, see Ladeur (2004).

  7. 7.

    Helberger et al. (2008), p. 265.

  8. 8.

    Howkins (2001), pp. 88–117.

  9. 9.

    Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997), pp. 848–860.

  10. 10.

    Section 230, “[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”.

  11. 11.

    Ardia (2010), pp. 373–506, p. 383.

  12. 12.

    Zeran v. America Online, lnc., 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997).

  13. 13.

    Zenan v. America Online Inc. 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997). Goldman (2017). The main difference herein is between publishers who have a more restrict type of liability and content providers who would have immunity in respect of liability towards third parties.

  14. 14.

    Holland et al. (2015), pp. 7 ff.

  15. 15.

    Urban and Quilter (2006), pp. 4 ff.

  16. 16.

    Soengas (2013), pp. 147–155 and Starbird and Palen (2012), pp. 7–16; Howard et al. (2011) Facebook and Twitter key to Arab Spring uprisings: report.

  17. 17.

    Allcott and Gentzkow (2017), pp. 211–236.

  18. 18.

    Simitis (1989), pp. 157–175.

  19. 19.

    Klonick (2018), pp. 1598–1670.

  20. 20.

    Regarding the problem of confirmation bias and the manner pursuant to which social networks strengthen the trend to surround ourselves of positions that confirm our previous ideas, see Mcintyre (2018), pp. 35 ff.

  21. 21.

    See Balkin (2018), pp. 1159–1210 and Bassini (2019), pp. 182–197 and Quintel and Ulrich (2020), in print, (last pageview on 14.02.20).

  22. 22.

    Balkin (2019) (last pageview on 14.02.20).

  23. 23.

    Cf. Klonick (2018), pp. 1662 ff.

  24. 24.

    Breuer, Staat, p. 192. See also, D. GRIMM, Kulturauftrag, pp. 110 ff.

  25. 25.

    Rossen-Stadtfeld, § 25, notes 2 ff. and 26 ff. See decision from the constitutional court in this regard, BVerfGE 12, 205, p. 260 ff.

  26. 26.

    DB-Drs. 13/7385, p. 16—On the need for a new law.

  27. 27.

    RL 2000/31/EG.

  28. 28.

    BGH, decision of 11 March 2004, Az. I ZR304/01.

  29. 29.

    BGH NJW, p. 150 ff. BGH, ZUM-RD 2013, p. 565. Regarding intermediaries and search sites, see decisions OLG Colonia, K&R 2017, p. 57 ff. In this regard, see Spindler.

  30. 30.

    EuGH, Decision v. 13.05.2014, C-131/12.

  31. 31.

    Decision of 04.10.2019, file no. C-18/18.

  32. 32.

    France has approved a law named “Loi n° 2020-766 du 24 juin 2020, visant à lutter contre les contenus haineux sur internet” and known as “Loi Avia”. Available at (last seen on 14.06.2022).

  33. 33.

    For the translation of the German law into Portuguese and papers about German law, see Abboud, Campos and Jr (orgs) 2018.

  34. 34.

    Approved by Decree-Law no. 446/85, of 25 October.

  35. 35.

    Approved by Decree-Law no. 7/2004, of 1 July.

  36. 36.

    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 (“Directive on Electronic Commerce”).

  37. 37.

    Regarding its importance in the German law of social networks, see Wielsch (2018), p. 75 ff.

  38. 38.

    See Sousa Ribeiro (1998), pp. 530 ff.

  39. 39.

    As regards the regulated self-regulation model within the scope of social networks, see Abboud and Campos (2018), pp. 19–39.

  40. 40.

    See Sousa Ribeiro (1998), pp. 542 ff.

  41. 41.

    See Eifert (2018), pp. 74 ff.

  42. 42.

    The ECL foresees that such supervisory entity is sectorial when a special law foresees it, which does not occur within the field of social networks, thereby, verifying that the competences within this context are of the central supervisory entity, that the ECL indicates as being ANACOM (see article 35(2)).

  43. 43.

    See Eifert (2018), pp. 74 ff.

  44. 44.

    See Abboud and Campos (2018), pp. 19–39.

  45. 45.

    Regarding the possibility to consider the integration of this mechanism in the German law, see Eifert (2018), pp. 81 and 82.

  46. 46.

    “The idea of governance captures the power and scope that these private platforms wield through their moderating systems and lends gravitas to their role in democratic culture. Changes in technology and the growth of the internet have resulted in a ‘revolution in the infrastructure of free expression.’ The private platforms that created and control that infrastructure are the New Governors in the digital era”, cf. Klonick (2018), p. 1663.

  47. 47.

    No cases are, nonetheless, known and we do not know how ANACOM deals with these situations.

  48. 48.

    See Decision from the CJEU 3 October 2019, C-18/18, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek against Facebook Ireland Limited, ECLI:EU:C:2019:821.


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Farinho, D.S., Campos, R.R. (2022). Models of Legal Liability for Social Networks: Between Germany and Portugal. In: Blanco de Morais, C., Ferreira Mendes, G., Vesting, T. (eds) The Rule of Law in Cyberspace. Law, Governance and Technology Series, vol 49. Springer, Cham.

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