Internet freedom, including access to online resources and digital tools, should be protected as essential to the exercise of human rights online, with any restrictions based in law, proportionate, and necessary in a democratic society.
- States parties must not, for example, block or hinder Internet connectivity in relation to peaceful assemblies. The same applies to geotargeted or technology-specific interference with connectivity or access to content. States should ensure that the activities of Internet service providers and intermediaries do not unduly restrict assemblies or the privacy of assembly participants.
- The Assembly calls on social media companies to: 11.1. define in clear and unambiguous terms the standards regarding admissible or inadmissible content, which must comply with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and should be accompanied, if need be, by explanations and (fictional) examples of content banned from dissemination.
- The Assembly recognises universal access to the internet as a key internet governance principle and considers that the right to internet access, with no discrimination, is an essential component of any sound policy designed to promote inclusion and support social cohesion, as well as an essential factor of sustainable democratic and socio-economic development.
- Any request, demand or other action by public authorities addressed to internet intermediaries that interferes with human rights and fundamental freedoms shall be prescribed by law, exercised within the limits conferred by law and constitute a necessary and proportionate measure in a democratic society. States should not exert pressure on internet intermediaries through non-legal means.
- State authorities should obtain an order by a judicial authority or other independent administrative authority, whose decisions are subject to judicial review, when demanding intermediaries to restrict access to content.
- Internet intermediaries should respect the rights of users to receive, produce and impart information, opinions and ideas. Any measures taken to restrict access (including blocking or removing content) as a result of a State order or request should be implemented using the least restrictive means.
- When restricting access to content in line with their own content-restriction policies, intermediaries should do so in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner. Any restriction of content should be carried out using the least restrictive technical means and should be limited in scope and duration to what is strictly necessary to avoid the collateral restriction or removal of legal content.
- Internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference irrespective of the sender, receiver, content, application, service or device. This is understood as the network neutrality principle for the purpose of this recommendation.
- Internet freedom is understood as the exercise and enjoyment on the Internet of human rights and fundamental freedoms and their protection in compliance with the Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- Any national decision or action restricting human rights and fundamental rights on the Internet must comply with international obligations and in particular be based on law. It must be necessary in a democratic society, fully respect the principles of proportionality and guarantee access to remedies and the right to be heard and to appeal with due process safeguards.
- The State recognises in law and in practice that disconnecting individuals from the Internet, as a general rule, represents a disproportionate restriction of the right to freedom of expression.
- Any measure taken by State authorities or private-sector actors to block or otherwise restrict access to an entire Internet platform (social media, social networks, blogs or any other website) or information and communication technologies (ICT) tools (instant messaging or other applications), or any request by State authorities to carry out such actions complies with the conditions of Article 10 of the Convention regarding the legality, legitimacy and proportionality of restrictions.
- Any measure taken by State authorities or private-sector actors to block, filter or remove Internet content, or any request by State authorities to carry out such actions complies with the conditions of Article 10 of the Convention regarding the legality, legitimacy and proportionality of restrictions.
- Media are not required to obtain permission or a licence from the government or State authorities, beyond business registration, in order to be allowed to operate on the Internet or blog.
- Any restriction of the right to freedom of expression on the Internet is in compliance with the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention, namely it: - is prescribed by a law, which is accessible, clear, unambiguous and sufficiently precise to enable individuals to regulate their conduct. The law ensures tight control over the scope of the restriction and effective judicial review to prevent any abuse of power. The law indicates with sufficient clarity the scope of discretion conferred on public authorities with regard to the implementation of restrictions and the manner of exercise of this discretion; - pursues a legitimate aim as exhaustively enumerated in Article 10 of the Convention; - is necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. There is a pressing social need for the restriction, which is implemented on the basis of a decision by a court or an independent administrative body that is subject to judicial review. The decision should be targeted and specific. Also, it should be based on an assessment of the effectiveness of the restriction and risks of over-blocking. This assessment should determine whether the restriction may lead to disproportionate banning of access to Internet content, or to specific types of content, and whether it is the least restrictive means available to achieve the stated legitimate aim.
- Individuals are free to use Internet platforms, such as social media and other ICTs in order to organise themselves for purposes of peaceful assembly.
- The Human Rights Council, (…) 14. Condemns all undue restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression online that violate international law, and notes with concern that such restrictions have a significant impact on women and girls and other individuals who may face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
- Any restriction on the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and right to freedom of association with regard to the Internet is in compliance with Article 11 of the Convention, namely it: - is prescribed by a law, which is accessible, clear, unambiguous and sufficiently precise to enable individuals to regulate their conduct; - pursues a legitimate aim as exhaustively enumerated in Article 11 of the Convention; - is necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. There is a pressing social need for the restriction. There is a fair balance between the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association and the interests of the society as a whole. If a less intrusive measure achieves the same goal, it is applied. The restriction is narrowly construed and applied, and does not encroach on the essence of the right to freedom of assembly and association.
- Respect international human rights standards, including those of transparency, when seeking to regulate or influence expression on online media platforms.
- Recognise the right to access and use the Internet as a human right as an essential condition for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
- State mandated blocking of entire websites, IP addresses, ports or network protocols is an extreme measure which can only be justified where it is provided by law and is necessary to protect a human right or other legitimate public interest, including in the sense of that it is proportionate, there are no less intrusive alternative measures which would protect the interest and it respects minimum due process guarantees.
- Smart regulation, not heavy-handed viewpoint-based regulation, should be the norm, focused on ensuring company transparency and remediation to enable the public to make choices about how and whether to engage in online forums.
- The Human Rights Council has strongly condemned the use of Internet shutdowns that intentionally and arbitrarily prevent or disrupt access to information online. Shutting down the Internet is an inherently disproportionate response, given the blanket nature of the act, which blocks multiple other uses of the Internet. As such, it violates the requirement of necessity and proportionality set out in international human rights law.
- During electoral campaigns, a competent impartial electoral management body (EMB) or judicial body should be empowered to require private companies to remove clearly defined third-party content from the internet, based on electoral laws and in line with international standards.
- States have resorted to disproportionate measures such as Internet shutdowns and vague and overly broad laws to criminalize, block, censor and chill online speech and shrink civic space. These measures are not only incompatible with international human rights law but also contribute to amplifying misperceptions, fostering fear and entrenching public mistrust of institutions.
- During electoral periods, the open internet and net neutrality need to be protected.
- The mandate holder has called upon States to ensure that everyone can access and use the Internet to exercise these rights, and that online associations and assemblies are facilitated in accordance with international human rights standards. The Human Rights Council has recognized that although an assembly has generally been understood as a physical gathering of people, human rights protections, including for freedom of assembly, may apply to analogous interactions taking place online.
- Likewise, States should recognize the value of technology to facilitate people’s rights to public participation. The Special Rapporteur welcomes efforts by many governments to establish online platforms through which those interested can submit and collect signatures for petitions on government policies and legislative action.
- In general, the blocking of entire websites is an extreme, disproportionate measure that severely limits the ability to carry out these activities, and therefore undermines the exercise of freedom of assembly and association.
- States should promote and facilitate access to digital technologies, and should not put restrictions on their use for the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Policies and practices should address equal access to the Internet and digital technologies, the affordability, and participation in the digital age for all, so as to bridge the digital divide.
- States should create an enabling legal framework for the right to peaceful assembly and association in the digital age, by: (…) (b) Repealing and amending any laws and policies that allow network disruptions and shutdowns, and refraining from adopting such laws and policies; (c) Revising and amending cybercrime, surveillance and antiterrorism laws and bringing them into compliance with international human rights norms and standards governing the right to privacy, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association.
- Refrain from, and cease, measures such as cutting off access to the Internet and telecommunications services. Access to Internet and mobile telephony services should be maintained at all times, including during times of civil unrest. Access to and use of digital technologies during elections for assembly and association purposes should be specially respected, protected and promoted.
- States should refrain from network shutdowns, which are a categorical violation of international human rights law. They must also ensure that any restriction on blogs, websites, online content and communications platforms is provided by law, and a necessary and proportionate means to protect a legitimate objective.
- States should promote effective access to the Internet and other digital technologies for all parts of population, including by closing digital gaps based on gender, race, ethnicity, disability, socio-economic status and other bases, and putting in place clear requirements and policies to ensure respect for the principle of net neutrality.
- There should be no prior censorship of the media, including through means such as the administrative blocking of media websites or Internet shutdowns.
- States should refrain from adopting unnecessary and/or disproportionate laws criminalising or imposing harsher penalties on online expression than its offline equivalent.
- Internet-based technologies play an increasing role in the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The Internet can be used for forms of online activism related to assemblies, and such activities warrant protection. The Internet and social media may also legitimately serve as a means of facilitating assemblies.
- Legislation and state policies should therefore ensure that the Internet can be used to prepare and organize assemblies and especially to use social media as a medium to mobilize and organize assemblies that later take place offline.
- Access to the Internet and social media should not be blocked before or during assemblies. Since the planning and organization of an assembly is likewise covered by the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, websites and other electronic tools used to advertise and inform about an assembly shall not be restricted or blocked; any attempts to do so would usually constitute a violation of this right.
- States must refrain from using information and communication technology to intimidate, harass or otherwise deter individuals from exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including through the spreading of disinformation, targeted harassment, mass surveillance, and the generalized use of facial recognition technology.
- The right to freedom of peaceful assembly also applies to online spaces and the use of information and communications technology. States must refrain from restricting access to the Internet, specific websites or telecommunication networks for the purpose of preventing peaceful assemblies.
- States should actively promote universal access to the Internet regardless of political, social, economic or cultural differences, including by respecting the principles of net neutrality and of the centrality of human rights to the development of the Internet.