Youth Policy & Young People

An introductory guide to internet governance: The Council of Europe’s work on internet governance

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As part of our introductory guide to internet governance, Andreas Karsten introduces key organisations and bodies working on the internet, communications and governance, including their overarching aims and where you can find more information. Organisations covered include the United Nations, Council of Europe, UNESCO, and civil society. In this article, Andreas introduces the work of the Council of Europe on internet governance.

The Council of Europe and Internet Governance
The Council of Europe and Internet Governance

The work of the Council of Europe on internet governance centres on human rights issues, most notably freedom of expression, data protection, accessibility and cybercrime.

The Council has recently launched the “No hate speech movement”, a “youth campaign for human rights online” (running 2012-2014). Its major European networking conference will take place in the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg, 7-9 November 2013.

With the Convention on Cybercrime, the Council of Europe created the first (and so far only) binding international treaty on the subject. The convention outlines guidelines for governments wishing to develop legislation against cybercrime. It entered into force in July 2004, has been signed by 51 states and ratified by 40 countries.

Other relevant treaties are the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse(news and monitoring website here), which entered into force in July 2010, has been signed by 46 states and ratified by 29 countries, and the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, which entered into force in October 1985, has been signed by 47 states and ratified by 46 countries.

The judgements of the European Court of Human Rights related to new technologies (latest fact sheet published in October 2013, pdf; research report on the Court’s case law on internet issues, published December 2011, pdf) constitute another main pillar of the Council of Europe’s work on digital governance. The Court maintains further fact sheets on its judgments onArticles 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) and 10 (Freedom of expression) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Conventionis the major European human rights charter binding the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

The Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly have adopted a number of declarations and recommendations related to internet governance, among them:

Declarations by the Committee of Ministers

Recommendations by the Committee of Ministers

Recommendations by the Parliamentary Assembly

The Council of Europe is publishing an “Internet Literacy Handbook”, a guide intended to explain how to get the most out of the Internet and, at the same time, how to protect and maintain privacy. It has developed “Human Rights Guidelines for Internet Service Providers” (pdf)and “Human Rights Guidelines for Online Game Providers” (pdf). The organisation also co-hosts the European Dialogue on Internet Governance, “an open platform for informal and inclusive discussion and exchange on public policy issues related to Internet governance between stakeholders from all over Europe.”

Council of Europe Internet Freedom Conference

Internet Freedom Conference

In May 2009, the Council of Europe organised a conference of ministers responsible for media and new communication services in Reykjavik, for which a background document on internet governancewas prepared and which led to a declaration by the ministers (pdf).In April 2011, an Internet Freedom Conference - From Principles to Global Treaty Law? took place to discuss internet governance principles and to “explore viable options for creating an architecture for multi-stakeholder participation in international Internet-related public policy-making”.

The Council of Europe’s work on internet governance is coordinated by Lee Hibbard and his team on information society and internet governance.

This article was originally published in September 2011 and is being continuously updated, last in October 2013.

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