Council of Europe’s Internet Governance Strategy

March 16, 2012

A new Internet Governance Strategy has been adopted by the 47 Council of Europe member states. The strategy was adopted on 15 March. It has been described as one of the priorities of the UK’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

The strategy contains more than 40 lines of action structured around six areas (Internet’s openness, the rights of users, data protection, cybercrime, democracy and culture, and children and young people). The strategy identifies ‘challenges and corresponding responses to enable state and non-state actors together to make the Internet a space which is inclusive and people-centred’. The most interesting statement is that ‘the existing framework of international law, including human rights law, is, as a matter of principle, equally applicable on-line as it is off-line’ – a questionable statement from the point of view of enforcement, but also one which many may seize on to the potential embarrassment of the UK government. 

The aim is for the strategy to be implemented over a period of four years, from 2012 to 2015, in close co-operation with partners from all sectors of society, including the private sector and civil society. 

The Strategy can be found here.

The Executive Summary includes the following:

‘For the Council of Europe, access to the Internet is enabling unprecedented numbers of people to speak out, to impart information and ideas, and to spontaneously assemble. Protecting and preserving the Internet by “doing no harm” to its functioning is therefore vital to secure the online exercise of Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. At the same time, with freedom comes the need for citizens to be adequately informed, enabling them to deal responsibly with services offered via the Internet.
For people to trust the Internet, the protection of personal data and respect for privacy on the Internet are indispensable. The Council of Europe Convention on data protection (“Convention 108”) is the best available instrument to protect and promote data protection worldwide. By modernising it and strengthening its implementation, we can address challenges posed by new technologies.
The opportunities of the Internet also carry risks, such as cybercrime. The Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is the first treaty in this field. Its potential should be fully exploited.
The Internet has a great potential to promote democracy and cultural diversity. Increased data collection through the European Audiovisual Observatory and improved public services through the Internet should be developed.
Making sure that the rights of children and young people are not violated and that their human rights are respected in all areas, including on the Internet, is a priority. We cannot accept images of sexual abuse of children circulating on the Internet. Children must be able to safely play, learn, communicate and develop. They have integrated the Internet and other ICTs into their everyday lives and in their interaction with others. Internet services and new media environments, such as social networks, blogs, chats and messenger services offer great opportunities but can carry risks of violence, abuse or exploitation.
The strategy sets out a coherent vision for a sustainable long-term approach to the Internet. Its success will depend greatly on multi-stakeholder dialogue and support.’