UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and the Internet

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression's report explores key trends and challenges to the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet. The Report underscores the unique and transformative nature of the Internet not only to enable individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, but also a range of other human rights, and to promote the progress of society as a whole. It also outlines the growing global trend of restricting freedom of expression and association online.
Chapter III of the report underlines the applicability of international human rights norms and standards on the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the Internet as a communication medium, and sets out the exceptional circumstances under which the dissemination of certain types of information may be restricted. Chapters IV and V address two dimensions of Internet access respectively: (a) access to content; and (b) access to the physical and technical infrastructure required to access the Internet in the first place.
More specifically, chapter IV outlines some of the ways in which States are increasingly censoring information online, namely through: arbitrary blocking or filtering of content; criminalisation of legitimate expression; imposition of intermediary liability; disconnecting users from Internet access, including on the basis of intellectual property rights law; cyberattacks; and inadequate protection of the right to privacy and data protection.
Chapter V addresses the issue of universal access to the Internet. The Special Rapporteur intends to explore this topic further in his future report to the General Assembly.
Chapter VI contains the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions and recommendations concerning the main subjects of the report.
Among others the Report is alarmed by intellectual property rights enforcement and their implication for freedom of information, stress on role of internet intermediaries, highlights importance of universal access policies to bridge the digital divide existing along wealth, gender, geographical and social lines between and within states.
However the Report deals only marginally with violations of women’s freedom of expression and freedom of association online.
Year of publication: 
2011