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Content Controls/Freedom of Expression / ISP Liability


Freedom of expression is a human right protected under international law. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Similar language appears Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), in Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), and in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

In the age of the borderless Internet, the protection of a right to freedom of expression "regardless of frontiers" takes on new and more powerful meaning.

148 countries have ratified the CCPR

41 countries have ratified the ECHR

For more information, see "Regardless of Frontiers: Protecting the Human Right to Freedom of Expression on the Global Internet" (1998)

Download the PowerPoint Presentation: Content Controls, Freedom of Expression and ISP Liability on the Internet, June 2001

Council of Europe, Declaration on freedom of communication on the Internet (May 28, 2003)

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), The Media Freedom Internet Cookbook [pdf], December 2004 - Voices concern over limitations of access to the Internet and offers "recipes" on how to preserve the freedom of the Net. Aims to help users and governments fight "bad content," for example hate speech, without jeopardizing freedom. Recommendations stress the unique possibilities the Internet offers in tolerance building and awareness raising.

"HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE INTERNET," A Roundtable Discussion hosted by the U.S. Delegation to the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (April 9, 2001) - Comments of Eric Johnson, GIPI Managing Director

The Internet and State Control in Authoritarian Regimes: China, Cuba, and the Counterrevolution by Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2001 Working Papers no. 21 Once thought to be virtually immune from political control, the Internet is in fact susceptible to many forms of content censorship. This paper looks at China's and Cuba's strategies for blocking their citizens' access to material that the governments consider inappropriate. Kalathil and Boas have expanded their paper into a book, "Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule," Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment, 2003. For more information about the book and to read the first chapter, go to

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign monitors efforts around the world to censor or control the Internet. The GILC newsletter is a good source of information about attacks on Internet freedom of expression.

The Open Net Initiative monitors worldwide Internet censorship and surveillance, combining cutting-edge techniques with a networked model of analysis to excavate, analyze, and report filtering and other methods of control most users are unaware of.

11 September 2001 - 11 September 2002: The Internet on Probation, [pdf] Reporters Without Borders (Sept. 2002)

Burning the Village to Roase the Pig: Censorship of Online Media, by Felipe Rodriquez, prepared for a workshop of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [pdf].

From Quill to Cursor - Freedom of the Media in the Digital Era [pdf] - published by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Freimut Duve - a collection of papers from a workshop on freedom of the media and the Internet that was held in Vienna in November 2002.

OSCE Media Representative: "Amsterdam Recommendations on Freedom of the Media and the Internet" [pdf] - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Freimut Duve, has called for the OSCE to take a strong position supporting free flow of information on the Internet. The recommendations were issued at the culmination of a conference in Amsterdam that included presentations by leading experts. June 2003

"The Internet and the right to communicate," by William J. McIver, Jr., William F. Birdsall, and Merrilee Rasmussen - argues that there is a need to address information rights within a comprehensive human rights framework, specifically, a right to communicate - examines the development of a right to communicate and how it can be defined and implemented in the Internet age.

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