Internet Standard Setting
The right to freedom of expression, including the right to receive and impart information and ideas without interference and regardless of frontiers is a cornerstone of democratic society. This is asserted by the Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and apply equally online and offline.
The Council of Europe is conscious that internet provides a unique environment with huge potential for innovating forms of exercising human rights. Therefore it has engaged in standards setting work to address the challenges that human rights may face in that environment to ensure people maximum freedom but also maximum safety, with minimum but necessary constraints. In order to achieve that ambition, it resorts to the co-operation of best experts and follows an open and consultative approach.
They organise the net, manage its flow, put services in place, and facilitate the overall operation of the system. But how do they work? Who controls them, what are their limits? And, more importantly, what impact do they have on the way we exercise our rights and participate in democracy?
The Council of Europe commissioned to the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law a comparative study in respect of filtering, blocking and take-down of illegal content on the internet in the 47 member states of the Organisation. This study describes and assesses the legal framework but also the relevant case-law and practice in the field. It is divided in two main parts: country reports and comparative considerations.
The Committee of Ministers has adopted a recommendation calling on European states to safeguard the principle of network neutrality in the development of national legal frameworks in order to ensure the protection of the right to freedom of expression and to access to information, and the right to privacy.
This recommendation contains a set of network neutrality guidelines on network neutrality in terms of equal treatment of internet traffic, pluralism and diversity of information, privacy, transparency and accountability.
The Council of Europe has elaborated internet freedom indicators which focus on the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of assembly and association and the right to private life. The indicators are intended to provide guidance in conducting a qualitative and objective evaluation of and reporting on the enabling environment for internet freedom in Council of Europe member states. They are not designed to rate the levels of Internet freedom or as a means of comparing countries. They build on the existing and established human rights standards and enforcement mechanisms.
They form the appendix to a Recommendation on internet freedom adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 13 April 2016.
"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression"
Art. 10 European Convention on Human Rights