Human Rights Council discussion on the right to freedom of expression on the Internet
[Geneva, Switzerland, 01 March 2012] — Speaking this week at the Human Rights Council panel on the right to freedom of expression on the Internet, Markus Kummer, Internet Society Vice President for Public Policy, emphasized the importance of a multistakeholder dialogue to further this objective. In the Internet Society’s first statement in the Human Rights Council, Kummer emphasized that the same standards should be applied to both the online and offline worlds.
The high-level panel discussion focused on the ways and means to improve the protection of freedom of expression online in accordance with international human rights law. Kummer remarked, “There is no doubt that the unique characteristics of the Internet have empowered individuals to seek, receive, and impart information and opinion in unexpected ways and scale. This success is based on an open and collaborative approach to technology development. The core values of the Internet pioneers were deeply rooted in the belief that the human condition can be enhanced by removing barriers to communication and information.”
The success of the Internet is based on an open and collaborative approach to policy, standards, and technology development, as carried out by the engineers of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and other Internet organizations. Without the open standards development, the Internet would not be the powerful catalyst that it is today for access to information, freedom of expression, and innovation. These unique enabling qualities of the Internet must be preserved.
Kummer stated that from the point of view of the Internet Society, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), which includes the right “to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” almost reads like a definition of the Internet, even though it was written a quarter of a century before the development of the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).
The Internet Society expressed concern over increased attempts by some governments to control their citizen's access and use of the global network. While governments have the responsibility to enforce the laws that are in place, they also have the obligation to guarantee fundamental rights. There are many examples of technological measures used to restrict access to content deemed undesirable, without due regard to the potential impact on an individual’s capacity to exercise their fundamental rights.
Kummer continued, “It is our firm conviction that technological shortcuts should not be used to solve societal problems. We would like to re-emphasize that the same rights apply to all individuals, whether online and offline, and that there should not be differentiated treatment depending on the medium used to exercise these rights.”
The Internet Society applauds the Human Rights Council on its efforts to raise awareness of this important issue, and commends the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its co-sponsors for the successful panel on Freedom of Expression on the Internet at the 19th Human Rights Council.
Mr. Kummer’s full statement to the Human Rights Council panel is available on the Internet Society website, http://www.internetsociety.org/humanrightscouncilstatement
For more information on the Internet Society and the importance of preserving an open Internet, visit: http://www.internetsociety.org/internet-invariants-what-really-matters
About the Internet Society
The Internet Society is the world’s trusted independent source of Internet leadership. With its principled vision and substantial technological foundation, the Internet Society promotes open dialogue on Internet policy, technology, and future development among users, companies, governments, and foundations. Working with its members and Chapters around the world, the Internet Society enables the continued evolution and growth of the Internet for everyone. For more information, see: http://www.internetsociety.org
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