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On 15 March 2012, the 47 Council of Europe (CoE) member states adopted
an Internet governance strategy to protect and promote human rights, the
rule of law and pluralistic democracy online.
The strategy, which covers 40 lines of action for the period 2012-2015,
refers to 6 major areas: Internet’s openness, the rights of users, data
protection, cybercrime, democracy and culture, and children and young
people. It is meant to identify “challenges and corresponding responses to
enable state and non-state actors together to make the Internet a space
which is inclusive and people-centred” and has in view the international
legal framework, including the human rights law, which is “as a matter of
principle, equally applicable on-line as it is off-line.”
The main action lines of the strategy include the maximisation of rights and
freedoms for internet users, developments in data protection and privacy,
the enhancing of the rule of law and an effective co-operation against
cybercrime, the maximisation of the Internet’s potential to promote
democracy and cultural diversity and the protection and empowering of
children and youth.
The strategy has in view the development of soft law instruments such as
high-level “framework of understanding and/or commitments” to protect the
“Internet’s universality, integrity and openness as a means of safeguarding
freedom of expression regardless of frontiers and Internet freedom,”
protection standards to ensure a free cross-border flow of legal online
content and human rights standards on network neutrality.
Preserving core values such as human rights, democracy and rule of law in
the online environment is vital in the CoE’s opinion as well as the
necessity for citizens to be properly informed in order to use Internet
services responsibly. The strategy has in view that the protection of
personal data and the respect for privacy on the Internet are indispensable.
Another direction considered in the strategy is an increased data collection
through the European Audiovisual Observatory and improved public services
through the Internet so as to better take advantage of the potential of the
Internet for democracy and cultural diversity.
The CoE Convention on data protection (“Convention 108”) is also considered
the best available instrument to protect and promote data protection and
therefore, the strategy has in view its modernisation and the strengthening
of its implementation.
“The strategy’s adoption is the validation by member states that the CoE’s
core values – human rights, rule of law, democracy – for the Internet are a
priority. There is a realisation that the Internet is enabling and affecting
people in many ways, and that there is a need to embrace its influence. The
strategy provides orientation and promotes a holistic and sustainable
approach to the Internet, with people and their rights and freedoms at its
heart. In doing so, it champions multi-stakeholder dialogue as the way
forward for Internet policy making”, said Lee Hibbard, Head of the
Information Society Unit in CoE.
Internet Governance – Council of Europe Strategy 2012-2015 (15.03.2012)
Council Of Europe Passes Internet Governance Strategy (15.03.2012)