Commentary: Joint statement on rights in cyberspace does not adequately ensure protections for rights to expression & privacy

Author: Rebecca Mackinnon, Ranking Digital Rights, Published on: 26 September 2019

"What should governments do?", 26 September 2019

On [23 September], 27 countries issued a joint statement on “Advancing Responsible State Behavior in Cyberspace.” It affirms that an “international rules-based order should guide state behavior in cyberspace,” including a commitment to universal human rights standards. [G]overnments must do more than sign statements... [T]hey must ensure that the companies that provide the infrastructure, content moderation, and other services that more than half the world now rely on do not corrode fundamental human rights, especially the rights to freedom of expression and privacy. In order for people to exercise their rights and hold power accountable in our digitally networked age, internet users must be able to know who controls their ability to connect, speak online, or access information; and who has the ability to access and share their personal information... Measures and commitments should include: Conducting human rights impact assessments on proposed legislation; maintaining limitations on liability for third-party content; instituting comprehensive privacy law; reforming surveillance law and practices to comply with human rights standards; and protecting the right to encrypt... [G]overnments should also publish regular reports revealing the volume, nature, and purpose of requests their agencies and branches make to companies... Laws could do much to improve the quality and availability of grievance and remedy mechanisms for internet users... Governments committed to advancing a free and open internet that supports and sustains human rights should work proactively and collaboratively with one another, as well as with civil society and the private sector.

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