Internet Filtering Across Europe Poses Threat to Freedom of Speech

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Internet - Sputnik International
In a new report by the Council of Europe, it has been revealed that some EU member states maybe preventing the access of online information, which could impact human rights and freedom of expression.

The publication of the study, which contains 47 country reports and a comparative assessment, analyzes legal framework in various areas including child abuse, national security, protection of intellectual property rights, deformation and unlawful processing of personal data across the Council of Europe member states.

The study has shown that states have taken a varied approach to addressing illegal internet content. Some have looked at existing criminal and civil legislation, while others have introduced specific regulations with procedures for blocking and removing illegal content online. Certain states have relied upon self-regulation by the private sector, which had led to companies introducing rules and applying their own terms and conditions to block websites or remove content deemed unlawful.

Human Rights Breach

One such example is Turkey, where regardless of the decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights they still practice banning access to websites. Over 110,000 websites are currently blocked in Turkey. On the 18th and 27th March 2014, two separate administrative decisions were made to try and block YouTube and Twitter. This according to the report shows that Turkey’s amended Law No. 5651 still does not comply with the European Court requirements.

In both cases the European Court decided that banning Twitter and YouTube was a clear violation of someone’s freedom of expression.

"Social media platforms provided by the internet are indispensable to individuals for expressing, sharing, spreading and communicating information and ideas. It is, therefore, evident that the state and administrative bodies must demonstrate great sensitivity in regulations and practices with regard to social media, since these have become one of the most effective and widespread methods not only for imparting thoughts but also for obtaining information," the Constitutional Court said in a recent report.

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The Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has urged European governments to ensure they have clear and transparent legal frameworks and procedures in this area, as well as appropriate safeguarding which will allow for freedom of expression as well as access to information, which complies with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Governments have an obligation to combat the promotion of terrorism, child abuse material, hate speech and other illegal content online. However, I am concerned that some states are not clearly defining what constitutes illegal content. Decisions are often delegated to authorities who are given a wide margin for interpreting content, potentially to the detriment of freedom of expression. On the basis of this study we will take a constructive approach and develop common European standards to better protect freedom of expression online," said Secretary General Jagland.

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