17.11.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

UNESCO promoted Internet freedom and universality at Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference


On 14 November 2016, Mr Frank La Rue, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, addressed the Opening Ceremony of Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference in Paris and highlighted the importance of promoting Internet freedom and Internet universality for the achievement of 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

In the presence of about 200 multi-stakeholder experts in the area of Internet and jurisdiction, Mr La Rue delivered a strong message that those fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and privacy should be universally protected online and offline, with related international human rights standards being respected during the legislation and jurisdiction processes. He pointed out that optimizing these human rights in digital age is a crucial task for development, which plays an enabling role to achieve all goals as set out in the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development.

To tackle the challenges of restricting freedom of expression in countering terrorism, incitation to violence, harassment, hate speech, etc., Mr La Rue highlighted the outcome of the Rabat Plan of Action, which states that the three-part test involving legality, proportionality and necessity should be applied by States and other stakeholders. Regarding online hate speech, Mr La Rue stressed that the six-part threshold text proposed by Rabat Plan of Action is very useful to identify hate speech from multiple facets including the context, speaker, intent, content and extend of the speech.

Another UNESCO representative, Ms Xianhong Hu, presented UNESCO’s recent adoption of Internet Universality R.O.A.M principles which advocate for a Human-Rights based, Open, Accessible Internet governed by Multi-stakeholder participation. Ms Hu also spoke at the Conference Work Stream on Content and Jurisdiction and shared the initial outcome of a new research on social media and radicalisation. According to this research, there is no clear causal relationship between online propaganda and radicalization of young people and there is no clear evidence about the effectiveness of blocking access and filtering content as the counter-measure of choice. The research thus recommends pro-active and comprehensive counter-measures that are context-sensitive and challenge extremist representations, claims and hate speeches by counter-narratives and grassroots anti-propaganda initiatives both offline and online. The research will be finalized and launched in early 2017.

UNESCO has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders in the area of Internet freedom and Internet governance, including following up with the global multistakeholder policy network Internet & Jurisdiction, which aims to enable transnational cooperation and catalyze operational solution around jurisdiction issues related to data, content and domain name of Internet. This Inaugural conference of Internet & Jurisdiction has been convened at the Ministerial Conference Center of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from 14 to 16 November.

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