By Deborah Brown and Sidra Rizvi (APC) and Kyung Min Kim (Access Now)
The 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is taking place from 18 June to 6 July 2018 in Geneva. Internet rights will be in focus this session, with a number of resolutions, panels and reports focused on the online dimension of human rights issues.
Following is a joint post on these issues by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Access Now, originally published on the APC site:
Resolutions relating to the internet and human rights
- Internet and human rights: Sweden, together with Brazil, Nigeria, Tunisia, and the United States will present the bi-annual resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet, which was first passed in 2012 and established that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online. The 2016 resolution called for bridging the gender digital divide, unequivocally condemned intentional disruptions to internet access, as well as violations and abuse committed against people for exercising their rights online, and called for improving access to the internet and information and communications technologies (ICTs) for persons with disabilities. This year’s resolution provides an opportunity to build on recommendations from the OHCHR report on bridging the gender digital divide, respond to the growing and expanding forms of online censorship as well as threats against people for exercising their rights online, and address security-related dimensions of human rights online, including strong encryption and human rights-based approaches to cybersecurity.
- Online gender based violence (GBV): Canada will focus its annual resolution on accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women specifically on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in digital contexts. The first-ever UN resolution on this issue, it is expected to draw attention to online GBV as a global phenomenon rooted in historical and structural inequalities in power relations between women and men, condemn online GBV in all of its forms, and call on states to take immediate and effective action to prevent and respond to online GBV.
Additional resolutions relevant for internet rights include a resolution on civil society space (led by Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia) and another on the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of peaceful protests (led by Costa Rica and Switzerland).
Each June, the HRC holds an annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women. This year, the discussion is fully focused on the digital dimensions of women’s human rights. The first panel, which will take place on Thursday, 21 June from 16:00-18:00, will focus on the impact of online violence on women human rights defenders, and the second, which will take place on Friday, 22 June from 10:00-12:00, on advancing women’s rights through access to and participation in ICTs. While the persistent and growing gender digital divide means that women are not fully able to take advantage of the internet to exercise their rights, the focus of this year’s annual full-day discussion correctly recognises the importance of the internet for women’s rights, as an enabler of both rights and violations. APC will participate in dialogues during the panel discussions.
Thematic debates will have a substantial focus on the internet with two UN Special Rapporteurs dedicating their annual thematic reports to internet-related issues.
Content regulation in the digital age
The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, will present his report on content regulation in the digital age on Tuesday, 19 June. The report examines the regulation of user-generated content, principally by states and social media companies, but in a way that is applicable to all relevant actors in the ICT sector. The report outlines the applicable human rights legal framework and describes a number of challenges to freedom of expression online posed by states and companies, such as vague laws not rooted in international human rights law, extralegal requests for content removal, non-transparent content moderation, and inconsistent application of terms of service (ToS), among others.
The report warns that opaque forces are shaping the ability of individuals worldwide to exercise their freedom of expression, and calls for radical transparency, meaningful accountability and a commitment to remedy violations. Specifically, it recommends that states should repeal any law that criminalises or unduly restricts expression, online or offline. It also calls for states and intergovernmental organisations to refrain from establishing laws or arrangements that would require the “proactive” monitoring or filtering of content, which is increasingly being proposed as a way of addressing the spread of violent extremist content online. It additionally calls for “smart” regulation, not heavy-handed viewpoint-based regulation, focused on ensuring company transparency and remediation to enable the public to make choices about how and whether to engage in online forums.
The report calls on companies to recognise human rights law as the authoritative global standard for ensuring freedom of expression on their platforms, and to re-evaluate their content standards accordingly. It also calls on companies to open themselves up to public accountability, suggesting a social media council to provide consistency, transparency and accountability to commercial content moderation, as well as mechanisms for appeal and remedy as a way forward.
APC and Access Now contributed to the Special Rapporteur’s report though in-person and online consultations, as well as written input, which is available here and here. APC developed an illustrated summary of the Special Rapporteur’s report on content regulation in the digital age to illustrate key findings and recommendations.
Online gender-based violence
On Wednesday, 20 June the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences will present her report on online and ICT-facilitated forms of violence against women. This report is timely and significant: it comes at a time when women and girls across the world are experiencing harmful, sexist, misogynistic and violent content and behaviour online, and as the internet is increasingly essential for daily life; it is significant as it marks the first time a UN Special Rapporteur has dedicated a full report to the phenomenon of violence against women facilitated by new technologies and digital spaces, and is reflecting on it from a human rights perspective.
The Special Rapporteur places online GBV in a broader environment of widespread and systemic structural discrimination and gender-based violence against women and girls, which frame their access to and use of the internet and other ICTs. Emerging forms of ICT have facilitated new types of gender-based violence and gender inequality in access to technologies, which hinder women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of their human rights and their ability to achieve gender equality. Building on APC’s work in this area, the report defines online violence against women as any act of gender-based violence against women that is committed, assisted or aggravated in part or fully by the use of ICTs, such as mobile phones and smartphones, the internet, social media platforms or email, against a woman because she is a woman, or affects women disproportionately.
The report examines the harm experienced by women as a result of online GBV, which can take the form of physical, psychological and economic harm. The harm experienced due to online GBV not only constitutes a violation of women’s right to live free from violence, but also creates a democratic deficit, as women report feeling forced to retreat from the internet, participation in which is increasingly also necessary to participate in public life. The report also unpacks the various manifestations of online GBV; while they are not completely new, they take on some distinct forms owing to the specificity of types of ICT, such as fast-spreading (“viral”) and global searchability, and the persistence, replicability and scalability of information, which also facilitates the contact of aggressors with the women they target, as well as secondary victimisation. Technology has transformed many forms of gender-based violence into something that can be perpetrated across distance, without physical contact and beyond borders through the use of anonymous profiles to amplify the harm to victims. The report examines specific manifestations of online GBV, such as “sextortion”, “doxing”,“trolling” and “revenge porn” .
The Special Rapporteur concludes with recommendations for states and internet intermediaries, as well as for the UN itself. With regard to states, the report calls for accountability measures to ensure they are taking active and real steps to work towards addressing online GBV, in line with their treaty obligations. The report also calls on states to work towards bettering their enforcement strategies for data protection and to provide resources to educate children and women on the dangers of online GBV. The Special Rapporteur calls for accountability for intermediaries with respect to upholding human rights principles as well as for increased transparency and mechanisms for reporting and requesting removal of content. Internet intermediaries should also work towards further and increased protection of their users’ data.
The report further calls for coordinated work amongst relevant Special Procedures and treaty bodies, with the support of the OHCHR and UN Women to tackle human right violations online, in general, and online violence against women, in particular, in their work, reports and recommendations.
To coincide with this unprecedented focus of the HRC on online GBV, APC published a special edition of GenderIT, a collection of articles focused on the various different forms of online gender-based violence and technology-facilitated violence, from the death threats to women journalists and public figures online and via social media to the circulation of rape videos and related extortion of vulnerable women. It has been almost 10 years since the issue was first raised and it has taken arduous and immense effort to build momentum for recognition at the local, national and international level.
Concerns relating to specific governments’ records on internet rights will be raised in the adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports for Burundi, France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Montenegro and the United Arab Emirates.
The Twitter hashtag for the session is #HRC38, and plenary sessions will be live streamed and archived atthis link.
NGO side events relating to internet rights
- 12:30-13:30 Human rights in the USA: Press Freedom, organised by ARTICLE 19, Room XXIV, Palais des Nations
- 13:30-15:00 Defamation: Global Perspectives, organised by PEN International, Room XI, Palais des Nations
- 14:00-15:30 Privacy in the digital age: A dialogue on the challenges and opportunities, organised by the Permanent Missions of Brazil, Germany, and Global Partners Digital, Room XXVII, Palais des Nations
- 16:30-17:30 Violence against women on social media, organised by Amnesty International, Room XXV, Palais des Nations
- 17:00-18:00 Right to education and technology, organised by the International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL), Room XXIII, Palais des Nations
- 10:00-11:30 Content regulation in a digital age, organised by the Permanent Mission of Sweden and ARTICLE 19, Room XXIII, Palais des Nations
- 12:00-13:30 #DalitWomenFight against Caste-Based Violence, organised by Human Rights Watch, the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Minority Rights Group International, Anti-Slavery International and Franciscans International, Room XXVII, Palais des Nations
- 13:00-14:30 Eliminating online, digital, and ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls, organised by the Permanent Mission of Sweden, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, APC and the Due Diligence Project, Room XXIV, Palais des Nations
- 12:00-13:30 Impunity reigns for attacks on free expression in Mexico, organised by ARTICLE 19, Room XXIII, Palais des Nations
- 11:30-13:00 SDG16: Justice, Youth & Tech, organised by International Bridges to Justice, XXIV
- 13:00-14:00 Human rights in the Gulf: Digital rights, organised by CIVICUS, Room XXIV
Reports from this session referencing the internet
A new report from the OHCHR outlines the struggles that civil society faces when working with international organisations, especially access to information, bureaucratic boundaries, and closed meetings. While not specific to internet rights, the recommendations contained within the report are critical for civil society engagement in international and regional organisations, especially as more and more such bodies are addressing internet policy issues.
The report highlights the important role played by civil society in terms of advocacy, expertise and implementation in its engagement with regional and international organisations. It summarises good practices adopted by some of those organisations in terms of civil society participation, including in relation to accreditation, access to information and accountability mechanisms. The report also identifies the challenges that civil society encounters in its engagement, such as reprisals, lack of transparency and access, and limited diversity in civil society representation. On the basis of international human rights norms, the report recommends that regional and international organisations establish clear and effective channels for meaningful and equal civil society participation and engagement. The report also points to the use of ICTs as cost-effective avenues for information sharing.
Recommendations from this report include urging states to ensure the safety of civil society representatives and encourage their engagement by creating safe environments. The report also calls on states to expand the transparency of decision-making processes and access to public meetings, including by making information available in a timely manner, in relevant languages, with minimum restrictions and by employing new communications tools to maximise outreach, based on explicit policies that comply with human rights.
With his first report since assuming the mandate in March, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Voule, identified key trends and areas of focus for his mandate. Most relevant for internet rights, the Special Rapporteur identified obstructions encountered in the digital space as a significant challenge, and one that he will address in a future thematic report.
The report notes that as the exercise of the rights to associate and peacefully assemble occurs increasingly over the internet, the mandate has warned against regulations and practices that seek to curb the enjoyment of these rights online. While the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely must also be guaranteed online, communications shed light on the threats to the human rights of those associating and assembling online. The Special Rapporteur notes the increased use of the internet, in particular social media, and other ICTs as basic tools which enable individuals to organise peaceful assemblies, and that some states have clamped down on these tools to deter or prevent individuals from exercising their rights.
A number of challenges to the exercise of freedom of assembly and association in digital spaces are highlighted. Examples include prohibitions on the use of private websites, including social networking websites (for example, Facebook and Twitter), for disseminating any information about politics, economics and cultural affairs that is regarded as “general or public”; the imposition of severe and disproportionate penalties on persons charged with writing or publishing fake or defaming information online; the use of overly broad provisions that lack sufficiently clear definitions and permit authorities to criminalise online expression and to gain access to internet data without any judicial control; and the imposition of undue restrictions to the right to freedom of expression and opinion on the internet, among others.
Among the other trends that the Special Rapporteur identifies in his report, the following also include internet-related dimensions: security and counter-terrorism legislation; stigmatisation of and attacks against civil society actors; restrictions targeting particular groups; and limitations of rights during electoral periods.
In his first report since taking on the mandate, the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Obiora Chinedu Okafor, sets out his vision for the mandate and discusses possible thematic priorities. The Independent Expert, who will present his report on Thursday, 21 June, expresses his intention to study and report on questions related to the future of human rights-based international solidarity and cooperation in the areas of technology transfer (or the lack thereof) and the digital space, highlighting the different categories of employment that could be affected by automation and linking these with workforce statistics, and showing the interconnections between technology, innovation and the change in the digital divide.
Looking at technology and innovation and international solidarity in this report, the Independent Expert finds that the pervasive influence of technology forces consideration of how international solidarity, in the areas of access to and use of technology and innovation and technical know-how, can facilitate a much fuller realisation of human rights universally. The Independent Expert notes a widening gap in access to digital technologies between the North and the South, urban and rural areas, rich and poor, and young persons and older persons. Similarly, the rapid advancement of technologies has begun to affect different categories of employment. The report points out that automation and the use of robotics may potentially transform, over the next decades, the ways in which different categories of employment are distributed and result in the loss of several categories of professions, usually comprised of the lower-paid workforce, which in many countries is made up of a significant number of persons from migrant and minority communities, and in which women are often disproportionately represented.
With this first report, the newly appointed Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), Victor Madrigal, provides an overview of violence and discrimination based on SOGI, by exploring the root causes of such violence and discrimination and examining the impact of social prejudice and criminalisation on the marginalisation and exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans and gender non-conforming persons. In this overview the Independent Expert notes that actions of violence extend to private spaces, citing that he received reports about the use by security services of social media and GPS-enabled applications, commonly used by gay persons to connect with each other, in order to locate and arrest them. Several reports also referred to the use of personal data stored in mobile phones, including the history of live communications and messages, to identify other persons suspected of being gay, leading to arrest and detention. The Independent Expert also addresses the issue of the misuse of collected data for discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI. He recommends that states should follow a human rights-based approach to data, taking into consideration the principles of participation, self-identification, privacy, transparency and accountability. The overriding human rights principle of “do no harm” should always be respected.
Also being presented at this session is the report on the previous mandate holder’s mission to Argentina, which notes that violence and discrimination in its various settings can be “exacerbated by the internet and cyberspace, which may be a crucible for hostile elements inciting hatred and violence.” The former Independent Expert recommends strengthening efforts to counter hate speech in regard to incitement to violence and discrimination on the internet through more cooperation with the cyber industry, in partnership with community and other actors. Additionally, he calls for the generation of statistics/data on groups affected by violence and discrimination, disaggregating the numbers by group and sexual orientation and gender identity, and building a federal-provincial data system.
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is presenting two reports on Monday, 25 June, which address the use of the internet to spread racism and xenophobic ideas. The first report (A/HRC/38/53) looks at combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and racial intolerance, particularly in the United States and Europe.
The report notes that as Nazism grows, these groups have increased their use of the internet, technology and social media not only to incite hatred and spread their message, but also as a tool to recruit new members. As social media platforms attempt to combat neo-Nazism and other ideologies of hate, a challenge they face is the variation in national standards prohibiting hate speech. Countries that have legal frameworks that protect speech that is prohibited elsewhere ultimately serve as safe havens for neo-Nazi speech. Consequently, many hate groups host their sites on internet service providers in the United States.
The Special Rapporteur urges states to assist civil society organisations representing the spectrum of populations directly impacted by contemporary manifestations of neo-Nazism and related intolerance, by providing them with the resources necessary to form and sustain diverse and transnational coalitions. She also recommends that states provide resources for research and consultations, including with stakeholders such as private technology and social media companies, in order to deepen international understanding of how technology is aiding the spread of racial and related intolerance. This research should also produce recommendations for concrete steps for combating the advance of neo-Nazism through online technologies. For her next report to the General Assembly on neo-Nazism, the Special Rapporteur calls on states to share information on their concerns and good practices with respect to technology and youth where neo-Nazism is concerned, as outlined in this report.
The second report that the Special Rapporteur will present at this session (A/HRC/38/52) identifies and reviews contemporary racist and xenophobic ideologies, and institutionalised laws, policies and practices, which together have a racially discriminatory effect on individuals’ and groups’ access to citizenship, nationality and immigration status. The report notes the underhanded tactics of ethno-nationalist political leaders and even official government leaders who have been willing to spend millions deliberately to spread “fake news” or false information about refugees and involuntary migrants. These lies are dangerous and even fatal when they raise national resistance to and violence against asylum seekers and migrants, and more generally escalate racial, ethnic and religious intolerance. It also notes that in Western liberal democracies, anxieties about national security and terrorism threats have produced a far-reaching web of surveillance and other practices that result in racial discrimination on the basis of citizenship or immigration status.
The report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, which will be presented on Friday, 22 June, examines the duty of states to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises to whom they provide support for trade and investment promotion. It explores how states can incentivise business respect for human rights in this context, including through withdrawal of trade and investment support in situations where businesses fail to meet their corporate responsibility to respect human rights.
Among the good practices cited in the report are those of export credit agencies, which in Sweden have developed specific policies and portals that address human rights impacts in the telecommunications sector. The Swedish export credit system specifically makes reference to freedom online in documents providing them with annual appropriations. The report asserts that Swedish policies regarding telecommunications provide an interesting model because they focus on a series of impacts that may not be captured by the IFC Performance Standards, which focus on large-scale projects. The development of sector-specific guidance is a welcome addition to the export credit area.
Another example cited by the report is the European Union draft regulation that will add certain cybersurveillance tools to the list of goods and technologies that need to be approved prior to export. The draft regulation introduces the new concept of “human security” to export controls, to prevent the human rights violations associated with certain cybersurveillance technologies. The proposal mirrors amendments to the German Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance in 2015, which made companies that sell surveillance products subject to new mandatory export licence requirements to prevent misuse of surveillance technologies for internal repression.
The report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice takes stock of the first six years of its mandate, highlighting the successes, lessons learned, limitations and main challenges faced in the struggle for women’s rights and empowerment. It examines opportunities to strengthen the international women’s human rights machinery, focusing particularly on its role in forging strategic partnerships and alliances and creating enabling environments to advance women’s human rights. In this reflection exercise, the Working Group observes that in recent years, women demanding dignity and rights have marched worldwide and have increasingly used social media to take action. Technology has enabled new forms of women’s political expression and engagement. Movements denouncing gender-based violence against women, such as #NiUnaMenos and #MeToo, have swept much of the globe, following decades of advocacy from women’s rights movements demanding an end to violence against women in environments that normalise discrimination against women. Gender-based violence is one of the worst manifestations of such discrimination. The Working Group will examine emerging strategies for advancing women’s right to equality, such as the increasing use of technology to mobilise and connect women’s movements and the accountability of men and other actors for women’s rights.
The UN’s first-ever report on the human rights situation in Kashmir covers allegations of widespread and serious human rights violations in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, notably the excessive use of force by Indian security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties from July 2016 to April 2018. The report notes that the Kashmir region experienced frequent communications blockages during this period, as the state government suspended mobile and internet services on multiple occasions. The authorities justified the complete bar on mobile internet facilities that affected nearly seven million people in Kashmir for between five to seven months “as [a] preventive measure to avoid any law and order problems and passing of rumours by miscreants/anti-national elements.”
The state authorities also reportedly attempted a complete communications blackout in the Kashmir Valley in mid-August 2016, cutting broadband internet services for between three to six days, along with virtually all the mobile phone networks in Kashmir. The Doctors Association Kashmir said the indefinite communications blackouts had a profound impact on the right to health and right to life as civilians struggled to access medical services without phone or internet connections. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and other international human rights experts have reiterated that the shutting down of entire communications networks cannot be justified under international human rights laws.
The report notes that restrictions on access to the internet continued in 2017, with 32 suspensions in 2017, compared to 10 in 2016. On 17 April 2017, the state government imposed a ban on social media networks and mobile services following widespread protests. In a 2017 press statement, the Special Rapporteurs on promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and on the situation of human rights defenders called for an immediate revocation of this ban while observing that “the internet and telecommunications bans have the character of collective punishment and fail to meet the standards required under international human rights law to limit freedom of expression.”
The report recommends that the Human Rights Council consider the findings of this report, including the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. It also recommends that the authorities in India investigate all blanket bans or restrictions on access to the internet and mobile telephone networks that were imposed in 2016, and ensure that such restrictions are not imposed in the future.
In a blistering report on his mission to the United States, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, identifies the key poverty-related problems, and includes among them disparities in internet access. Beyond the physical aspects of poverty seen in the US, the report, which will be presented on Thursday, 21 June, notes that access to the internet was a striking issue within impoverished regions of the country. For example, 48% of rural West Virginians lack access to high-speed broadband compared to 39% nationally, yet the government has no plans in place to improve access. In addition, collecting data on homelessness has been an issue because information technologies like coordinated entry systems have been put into place to solve this problem. In doing this, people must take part in an intrusive survey that essentially makes them give up their human right of privacy for their human right of housing. New technologies are assisting in reducing poverty levels in the US, especially artificial intelligence in fields like healthcare, criminal justice, and economic inclusion. Although these technologies are helping with the reduction of poverty levels, the negative effects of these technologies on the lives of the poor are largely being ignored. The Special Rapporteur seeks to stimulate deeper reflection on the impact of new technologies on the human rights of the poorest.
In addition to her thematic report focused on online GBV, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women conducted a mission to Australia, during which she examined gaps and challenges in fulfilling the obligations of the state to eliminate violence against women, its causes and consequences, and recommends measures for preventing and combating violence against women in the country.
The Special Rapporteur welcomes the work undertaken at the federal level on the impact of the use of technology on women and children. The report notes that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has expanded its responsibilities to tackle the issue of online violence, including online abuse and so-called “revenge porn”, which are on the rise. The Special Rapporteur was informed of proposals that would introduce new telecommunications offences, such as revenge porn, into the criminal law, falling within the jurisdiction of the federal government (as an amendment to the Criminal Code Act of 1995). She notes with appreciation such developments, as well as other initiatives spearheaded by the federal government on proposed civil penalties, which could act as an alternative for victims who find pursuing criminal action too distressing and too slow. For safe housing and service delivery, she also welcomes initiatives with the private sector, such as the one undertaken by the federal government with telecommunications company Telstra to provide free mobile phones to women entering shelters and to assist them in safely using them.
The Special Rapporteur recommends that the government expand the definitions of family and domestic violence to cover all forms of gender-based violence against women, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, violence in residential settings and online violence and harassment.
The latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus notes that the government has not addressed a number of entrenched, long-standing, and systemic human rights challenges, and asserts that in fact, these shortcomings have worsened, especially the situation of the media, political pluralism and legal provisions. In a potentially grave development, at the end of the reporting period, the National Assembly passed on first reading a bill on amendments to the law on the mass media and other legal texts, which, if promulgated, would eliminate all remaining freedom of expression online.
The draft amendments would provide for additional administrative fines of up to €500 and €5,000 respectively for individuals or entities that produce or disseminate information while not registered as journalists or media outlets. Under other amendments to the law on the mass media, web-based outlets would be subjected to the existing state-run, permission-based registration procedure for print media. Any online publication, including social media, could therefore be banned if it were not run by registered journalists, and the author or publisher would be held liable under the above-mentioned amendments. The publishing entity might be closed down without a court order, and the decision would not be appealable.
The bill on amendments to the mass media law would also oblige online media outlet owners to introduce pre-moderation for all online discussion platforms, and would extend the authorities’ control over online discussions by allowing them to require, without any court order, platform owners to provide them with any data related to postings within five working days. If adopted, the amendments would perfect the systemic curtailing of freedom of expression, and allow the authorities to legally block the only remaining public space for free debate, the internet.
The report also documents ongoing violations of freedom of expression online, such as the temporary blocking of independent websites, without having to resort to a court decision, in order to pressure the persons running them. Bloggers and their followers are frequently harassed and closely monitored through a heavy-handed and costly system of surveillance. The Rapporteur recommends that the government allow the existence of nationwide independent media, and end harassment against journalists.
Universal Periodic Review
The following outcomes of UPR reviews which include recommendations relating to the internet and human rights are being adopted at HRC38.
France received the following recommendations, which it will respond to during HRC38:
- 145.166 Take all measures to guarantee freedom of expression on the Internet, in accordance with article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Haiti).
- 145.96 Take the necessary measures to punish hate speech, in particular on the social media, against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community (Argentina).
- 145.174 Bring all legislation concerning communication surveillance into line with international human rights standards (Liechtenstein).
- 145.175 Ensure that all communication surveillance requires a test of legality, proportionality and necessity (Liechtenstein).
Burundi received a number of recommendations relating to respecting freedom of expression and the safety and independence of the media, civil society organisations, and human rights defenders, which it will respond to during HRC38, including:
- 137.169 Investigate all alleged reports of violence against, and intimidation, harassment and surveillance of, human rights defenders, and conduct prompt and impartial investigations with a view to holding the perpetrators accountable (Ghana).
- Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Luxembourg
Luxembourg received the following recommendations, which it will respond to during HRC38:
- 106.51 Put an end to and eliminate all forms and manifestations of discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia and hate speech in the media, especially against the Muslim community and ensure that the social media and Internet access providers ban hate speech (Islamic Republic of Iran).
- 106.52 Introduce into the constitution a provision guaranteeing the right of all individuals to equal treatment and ensure a remedy for cases of discrimination and hate speech, including in the media and on the Internet, and broadcast it without secrecy, providing statistics about it (Syrian Arab Republic).
- 106.99 Take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of hate speech in the media and on the Internet (Russian Federation).
- 106.128 Adopt legislative and other measures to ensure the prompt removal of online images of child abuse from Internet hosting services registered in Luxembourg (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).
Montenegro received a number of recommendations relating to media freedoms and the safety and independence of journalists, which it will respond to during HRC38, including:
- 106.11 Shield media from political interference by strengthening independent oversight for the agency for electronic media and the public broadcaster’s governing council (United States of America).
The United Arab Emirates received the following recommendations, which it will respond to during HRC38:
- 141.120 Uphold freedom of expression in traditional and online media by removing from relevant laws the restrictions on expressions critical of State officials and institutions and the related administrative and judicial penalties (Canada).
- 141.123 Amend the cybercrime law, the anti-terrorism law and provisions of the Penal Code restricting freedom of expression, in order to bring them into conformity with international standards (Sweden).
- 141.125 Demonstrate greater respect for freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, including by allowing individuals to criticize the Government and hold peaceful demonstrations, and revising the cybercrime law to be consistent with principles of free expression (United States of America).
Liechtenstein received the following recommendation, which it will respond to during HRC38:
- 108.61 Harmonize the domestic legislation on communication surveillance with international human rights standards and, in particular, ensure that every case of communication surveillance is justified, necessary and proportionate (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela).