MEPs debating Human Rights for Internet users

By EDRi · June 16, 2010

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Deutsch: [Abgeordnete diskutieren Menschenrechte für Internetuser |]

On 2 June 2010, the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European
Parliament (DROI) hosted a parliamentary hearing on the human rights
implications of new information technologies and communications networks.

Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala, the Chair of the Human Rights
sub-committee, said that European companies should be encouraged to join the
“Global network initiative” and promised to identify possible problems.

Andrew Puddephatt from Global Partners and Associates who presented a study
on human rights and the new technologies at the request of the MEPs, said
the Internet was an “evolving transnational ecosystem shaped by governments,
businesses, technologies” which presented “users themselves with tremendous
opportunities to strengthen human rights protection and significant

He spoke about the dangers of information and communication technologies,
flagging four major areas of concern for policy-making in the transnational
environment: new threats to freedom of expression with peer-to-peer, privacy
and the growing practice of data mining, the aggregation of intellectual
property rights and equality, and the “digital divide”. He also added that
while the Internet had led to the “democratisation of freedom of expression,
taken out of hands of elites to populations as a whole, (…) sophisticated
and sometimes hidden censorships tools” were being used by enemies of human
rights. He advised that EU could pressure countries in international forums,
develop experts on IT issues and offer financial support to NGOs for human
rights issues.

China’s and Iran’s policy of Internet censorship were the two cases
discussed at the hearing.

Lucie Morillon (Reporters Sans Frontiers) presented the increasing levels of
Internet censorship and state dissemination of misinformation through the
Internet (the list of countries with internet censorship has risen to 60).
She called Google’s move in China a “courageous stand” which had launched a
real debate, though in recent months, she said, through their campaign
against “pornography”, the Chinese have been shutting down websites that
have nothing to do with pornography. She also criticized ACTA for provisions
on suspension of access to information and for trying to make “copyright
police” out of intermediaries. She would like to see EU-level legislation to
ensure net neutrality and future trade agreements with provisions to protect
online freedom of expression.

As regarding the situation in Iran, Barry French from Nokia Siemens admitted
that the company had made an error in providing Iran active surveillance
technology for monitoring centres. The European Parliament criticised the
company over this and the way the technology had been used by Teheran to
intercept mobile telephone calls. In 2009 Nokia stopped all work connected
to monitoring centres and started reviewing policies. “We have a
responsibility to help ensure that the communications technologies we
provide are used to support, and not infringe, human rights” said Barry
French at the hearing.

Simon Hampton of Google explained that after sophisticated attacks on Gmail,
(notably what he called increasing censorship and accusations of being in
pornography), in March 2010 Google decided to stop censoring search results
in China and redirected traffic from “” to “”.

Shiyu Zhou of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium said China was the best
example of cyberpolicing, blocking and filtering calling it a “21st
century Berlin wall”. He said that “today the internet and satellite TV are
probably the biggest hope for global information freedom”.

Lithuanian MEP Laima Andrikiene ,Vice-chair of the sub-committee, supported
an initiative for the Council and Commission to bring China to the WTO and
said that the “internet became an important engine for protest and
mobilisation”. She urged the EU to use the United Nations Human Rights
Council to guard against abuses.

Friends & foes of the internet & human rights (9.06.2010)

Presentations from the event (2.06.2010)

Subcommittee on Human Rights (2.06.2010)