UN watchdog calls on tech sector to protect and promote free expression
June 16, Geneva: ARTICLE 19 welcomes the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, calling upon the information and communications technology (ICT) sector to respect human rights. It will be presented and discussed by states and other stakeholders during the UN Human Rights Council's 32nd Session in June 2016 (HRC 32).
In our submission to the report, we emphasised that the Internet has fundamentally changed the way in which people communicate and go about their daily lives, and that understanding the role and responsibilities of private actors is key to protecting freedom of expression online.
“The Internet is the front line in the battle for freedom of expression and civic space,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director at ARTICLE 19.
“The pressures that States and others exert on private actors to control the information people can access and share has received too little attention from the UN, which this report redresses. At the same time, the report makes clear that private sector as well as Internet standard setting organisations managing and maintaining the Internet's infrastructure, can and should do a lot more to protect and promote freedom of expression,” Hughes added.
The Internet is the front line in the battle for freedom of expression and civic space.
The Special Rapporteur's report recognises that it is overwhelmingly private actors who create, maintain and operate the infrastructure and spaces for freedom of expression and access to information. These actors are diverse, comprising an “ecosystem” including telecommunication providers, hardware and software developers, email and social media providers, as well host and search companies. Technical bodies and regulators at the international and national level also play a key role. The Special Rapporteur identifies that while private actors have provided exponential opportunities for free expression, the decisions they take and the pressures they are subject to have a profound impact on the exercise of rights.
The report is intended as an initial mapping of the private actors in the ICT sector that influence freedom of expression, identifies legal and policy issues at the intersection of state and private sector conduct, and outlines areas where further normative guidance will be provided in future reports.
The Oslo Times International News Network