Informal summary of session 4 – Freedom supporting human rights


This discussion focused on issues of  applicability of human rights law on the Internet. The importance of the multi-stakeholder approach was underlined by participants.

  • Support for multi-stakeholder approach was expressed. The multi-stakeholder approach could be defined by what it is not – a governments’ only forum. Some governments want to limit the discussion on human rights on the Internet solely to governments.
  • Governments can lead by example by respecting human rights online. They can also re-enforce the role of other actors, such as civil society.
  • 900 million Internet users live in countries where Internet is restricted. There are worrying signals of democratic countries collecting user data requests on a growing number. 42 countries are censuring the Internet, compared to four countries a few years ago.
  • Publishing and sharing of user request data in regularly published transparency reports by governments was seen as a possible step forward towards improved human rights enjoyment online. The importance of countries conforming to the same standards on net freedom was underlined.
  • Need for increased cooperation and organization within civil society in many parts of the world and across continents, when it comes to issues of human rights online.
  • Online media is sometimes under stricter censorship than printed media, as it can be more widely spread and harder to erase.
  • Need for export control of censure and surveillance technology was discussed.

Examples of quotations from participants at the session:

“Old rights and new technology go together.”
Dan Bear
, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US Department of State.

“Companies should not act as enforcers. This would raise a whole range of tricky questions regarding the rule of law, the individual’s right to appeal, etc.”
Niklas Lundblad, Sweden, Director of Public Policy Google Inc.

“If governments curtail freedom of expression offline, I don’t expect governments to respect users rights online.”
Rosebell Kagumire, Uganda, Journalist and Blogger.

“We probably need legislative mechanisms to control export of surveillance technology.”
David Kramer, United States, President Freedom House.

“Internet is awesome. Therefore, it needs to remain free.”
Niklas Lundblad, Sweden, Director of Public Policy Google Inc.

Examples of tweets and other comments from the internet:

  • Could new coalitions outside tradition structures be more effective to increase respect for human rights online?
    Måns Molander, @manmader, Sweden
  • Governance, participation, dialogue, legislation, surveillance: some of the key topics we’re discussing now at #sif12.
    Ximena Jara Mardones, @cronopioaustral, Chile
  • Once you start measuring violations, it can create a commonality. If you dont measure, how do you know #sif12
     @ChiefKMasimba, Zimbabwe
  • Old rights and new technologies can go together, says Dan Baer, us dept of state. Indeed, they do.
    Salil Tripathi, @saliltripathi, UK
  • How do we ensure not only equal representation but also equal participation in a multistakeholder team?
    Lotta Westerberg, @LAMKWesterberg, Sweden