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IRIS 2012-6:1/2

Parliamentary Assembly

Protecting Freedom of Expression and Information Online

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Tarlach McGonagle

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 25 April 2012 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted Resolution 1877 and Recommendation 1998, both entitled, “The protection of freedom of expression and information on the Internet and online media”. The Resolution sets out a number of lines of action for member states of the Council of Europe, whereas the Recommendation is directed at the Committee of Ministers (CM).

The texts were born, inter alia, out of the PACE’s concern that “the intermediaries of ICT-based media might unduly restrict access to, and dissemination of, information for commercial and other reasons without informing their users and in breach of the latter’s rights” (Resolution 1877, para. 10).

The Resolution calls on member states to protect freedom of expression and information on the Internet and online media in various ways, including:

- Ensuring adherence to freedom of expression and information standards in an online environment, while also protecting privacy and personal data;

- Encouraging self-regulatory initiatives by ICT-based media;

- Ensuring corporate and operational transparency by ICT-based media;

- Implementing CM/Rec(2007)16 on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet (see IRIS 2008-2/2), in particular its provisions on non-discriminatory provision or termination of services to users;

- Holding “intermediaries of ICT-based media responsible for unlawful content, if they are the author of such content or have the obligation under national law to remove unlawful third-party content” (para. 11.5);

- Seeking to ensure that such intermediaries “can be held accountable for violations of their users’ right to freedom of expression and information”.

The Recommendation, for its part, calls on the CM to take account of the Resolution in its own work and to forward it to the relevant national regulatory authorities. It recommends that the CM cooperate with the European Commission and the European Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) in order to ensure the consistent application of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 11 of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights (both of which focus on the right to freedom of expression) in an online environment. It also recommends that the CM promote the signature and ratification of the Convention on Cybercrime and its Additional Protocol against racism and xenophobia.

References
The protection of freedom of expression and information on the Internet and online media, Resolution 1877 (2012), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 25 April 2012 EN
 http://merlin.obs.coe.int/redirect.php?id=15825
 
“The protection of freedom of expression and information on the Internet and online media”, Recommendation 1998 (2012), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 25 April 2012 EN
 http://merlin.obs.coe.int/redirect.php?id=15826