The Internet is an area where there has been a tremendous amount of activity, both technological and developmental, but relatively little human rights based thinking. CLD is working with a range of different partners to try to address this shortcoming, particularly in developing policy thinking around freedom of expression and the Internet.
In April 2012 CLD concluded a major research project on human rights and the Internet, releasing a report entitled, A Truly World-wide Web: Assessing the Internet from the Perpective of Human Rights. It analyses the critical role that the Internet plays in the actualisation of fundamental human rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression, and concludes that there is a human right of access to the Internet. The Report also examines the implications of the right to freedom of expression in terms of regulation of the Internet. The Report also examines the need to rethink regulatory regimes, such as laws on defamation and copyright, in order to ensure that they adequately respect the unique nature of online speech.
CLD also published a paper on the Internet and media and defamation which discussed issues such as jurisdiction over defamatory content on the Internet, liability for user-generated content, the ‘reasonable publication’ rule as applied to Internet media, self-regulation and the issue of continuous publication on the Internet. The paper, Online Media and Defamation, was published in the ‘Digital Handbook’, which is part of the Open Society Media Program’s project on Mapping Digital Media.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression hosted a meeting of experts on Human Rights and the Internet in June 2010, in which Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD participated. The meeting came up with some brainstorming ideas about how to ensure protection of various human rights on the Internet, including the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, as well as the issue of access to the Internet as a human right. Following up on this work, the UN Special Rapporteur hosted a series of follow up meetings, several of which included participation by CLD. These meeting contributed to the 2011 Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur, which focused on freedom of expression and the Internet, as well as the June 2011 Joint Declaration by the four specialized mandates of the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission tasking with promoting and protecting freedom of expression.
CLD has also produced a Commentary on the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, providing a detailed analysis of the implications of a range of fundamental human rights for the Internet. The Charter itself was prepared by the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, which in turn arose out of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a tri-partite gathering bringing together civil society, governments and the commercial sector to discuss regulatory issues relating to the Internet. The Commentary reviews the implications of a wide range of human rights for the Internet, including rights of systematic relevance, such as non-discrimination, freedom of expression and privacy, and more thematic rights, such as the rights to education, culture and work.
In June 2010, a report on the Maldives, The Maldivian Digital Communications Environment: Freedom of Expression and the Media, Telecommunications and IT Sectors, was published by CLD and a number of other organisations. CLD played a leading role in preparing the report, which applied the UNESCO Media Development Indicators assessment tool to the digital communications environment.