removes products announced by a third-party seller after the Council on American-Islamic Relations complaint

8 Jan 2019

The Council on American-Islamic Relations required Amazon to take down products they considered offensive to Muslims, including bath mats, doormats and several household items that had references to Prophet Muhammad. The company decided to remove the products from its website even if in the US the Communication Decency Act provided comprehensive immunity to online intermediaries to similar cases in the past, and the First Amendment protection makes US enforcement bans on offensive materials unlikely.

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Intermediaries play a vital role in ensuring Internet functionality. In several Internet governance areas, such as copyright infringement and spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are considered key online intermediaries. In other areas, such as defamation and the so-called right to be forgotten, the responsibility extends to hosts of online content and search engines.

Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.


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