I have on many an occasion written about the complexities of life on the internet and the difficulties imposed on governments wanting to flex their controlling muscles thereon.
We have recently seen the Bailey report (child protection) and Hargreaves (Intellectual Property) and not so long ago it was The Digital Britain Report (economics), The Byron Report (children) and others, I’m sure before I started commenting.
These reports all look to a greater or lesser extent at how we should conduct our lives in the internet world.
Now, from the United Nations we have the La Rue Report of the “Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression”.
This is very interesting because it works as a counter to some of the forces being unleashed by the other reports mentioned.
For example website blocking is being sought by a number of interest groups including those wanting to protect children from online pornography, those wanting to protect their own private commercial interests and those wanting to protect the rest of us from people with extreme political views.
The United Nations
- comes out against website blocking with the one exception of tightly controlled blocking of child pornography
- emphasises the importance of freedom of expression – you better be really sure about a site’s illegality before doing something about it (ie taking it down/blocking)
- considers the disconnection from the internet, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property right law, to be to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- wants the right to online privacy and anonymity guaranteed
- thinks that ISPs as intermediaries should be protected as mere conduits of data to and from the internet
This is a very important report and worth a read. There is an element of “Magna Carta” about it. Not being a lawyer I am unsure as to where it stands in respect of legality of the points it makes but I’m sure someone can chip in here.
It would also be worth getting some feedback from the UK government as to how it might affect its stance regarding some legislation such as the Digital Economy Act.