Today, on 7 March 2018, the Council of Europe (CoE), Europe’s leading human rights organisation, adopted a Recommendation on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries that will have a global impact. (The final, almost identical version will be online in a few days.)

“This initiative is very welcome”, said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights. “The Council of Europe has taken a crucial first step towards protecting the pillars of democracy in the digital age.”

The Recommendation is a major milestone towards understanding the obligations of states and of internet companies when it comes to upholding human rights online. At a time when governments increasingly use political pressure on companies to filter and block freedom of expression and companies undermine our privacy online, a clear understanding of the legal framework is long overdue.

While not perfect, the Recommendation is a step in the right direction. As a way of example, its opening paragraph sets the standard that European democracies must respect:

“Any request, demand or other action by public authorities addressed to internet intermediaries that interferes with human rights and fundamental freedoms must be prescribed by law, must be exercised within the limits conferred by law and must constitute a necessary and proportionate measure in a democratic society. States should not exert pressure on internet intermediaries through non-legal means.”

The Recommendation follows more than two years of work in an expert committee and numerous consultations with the 47 Member States, a public consultation, and a joint conference of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). EDRi responded to the consultation took part in several Council of Europe expert meetings at which we were honoured to be invited to participate. We appreciate the inclusion of EDRi’s comments and welcome the transparent process followed by the Council of Europe.

EDRi will work to help promote the Council of Europe’s Recommendation to reduce privatised law enforcement. We want to raise awareness about the need to respect data protection, privacy and freedom of expression online.

Read more:

Draft Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)xxx of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries (an almost identical final text will be published within the next few days)

EDRi response to Council of Europe Recommendation consultation