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Internet intermediaries play an increasingly important role in modern societies. Their actions influence the choices we make, the way we exercise our rights, and how we interact. The market dominance of some places them in control of principal modes of public communication. What are the roles they play? How do they impact human rights, democracy and the rule of law? What are their corresponding duties and responsibilities? The Council of Europe has developed human rights-based guidelines to help member states address this challenge.

The term ‘internet intermediaries’ commonly refers to a wide, diverse and rapidly evolving range of service providers that facilitate interactions on the internet between natural and legal persons. Some connect users to the internet, enable processing of data and host web-based services, including for user-generated comments. Others gather information, assist searches, facilitate the sale of goods and services, or enable other commercial transactions. Importantly, they may carry out several functions in parallel, including those that are not merely intermediary. Internet intermediaries also moderate and rank content, mainly through algorithmic processing, and they may perform other functions that resemble those of publishers. As a result, different regulatory frameworks can apply, respectively, to their intermediary roles and to their other functions.

The Recommendation on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries (CM/Rec(2018)2) is a unique guideline shaping a rule of law-based policy for the relationship between state authorities and intermediaries and their respective human rights obligations and responsibilities, online and offline.

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The Council of Europe expert committee on freedom of expression and digital technologies has finalised a draft recommendation on the impacts of digital technologies on freedom of expression, while the expert committee on combating hate speech has developed guidance on a comprehensive approach to addressing hate speech, including in the online environment. Both documents will be submitted to the Committee of Ministers for adoption in early 2022.

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Following the decision of the Committee of Ministers on 16 March 2022 the Russian Federation is no longer a member of the Council of Europe. The website will be updated as soon as possible to take account of this development.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression"

Art. 10 European Convention on Human Rights

 

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