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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Freedom of expression, the Council of Europe and net neutrality

It has been a momentous month in Europe for net neutrality.
I (little me!) gave the keynote speech at the Council of Europe multi-stakeholder dialogue “Network Neutrality and Human Right ” on 29-30 May in Strasbourg. This dialogue came as a result of the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on network neutrality (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 29 September 2010 at the 1094th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies). The CoE is now working towards a soft law instrument to guide member states in the application of net neutrality rules that support particularly the aspirations of Articles 6/8/10 of the Convention. A short outcomes paper of the major points of discussion will be communicated to the 47 member state representatives of the CoE Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI) to consider and propose further action.
The European Commissioner subsequently on 4 June announced to the European Parliament her intention to introduce specific legislation on network neutrality, to be passed into law before the Parliamentary elections in May 2014. That process will be informed by the work of the CoE, and in fact I spoke directly after the Commissioner at the European Parliament event.
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to the UN OHCHR Frank LaRue has issued a new report referencing net neutrality in his ongoing work on rights online, issued in response to revelations of secret state surveillance amongst the NATO partners.
Fundamental rights are being taken seriously in the net neutrality debate at last? But the terrible events in Istanbul, the European part of Turkey, over the last fortnight - rightly condemned in the strongest terms by the European Parliament and ludicrously blamed on social media by the increasingly dictatorial Erdogan, as well as the revelations of the surveillance-industrial complex approaching its full maturity, suggest that we may be tinkering at the edges...

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