Protection of Human Rights online: Council of Europe's new guidelines

The Council of Europe adopted on the 8 March 2018 policy guidelines on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries such as search engines and social media. The power of such intermediaries as protagonists of online expression is such that their role and impact on human rights, as well as their corresponding responsibilities, should be clarified.

In its Recommendation on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries, the Committee of Ministers – the executive body of the organisation- therefore calls on states to provide a human rights and rule of law-based framework that lays out the main obligations of the states with respect to the protection and promotion of human rights in the digital environment, and the respective responsibilities of intermediaries. 

The recommendation calls on member states to create a safe and enabling  online environment where intermediaries, users and all affected parties know their rights and duties, to encourage the development of appropriate self- and co-regulatory frameworks, and  to ensure the availability of redress mechanisms for all claims of violations of human rights in the digital environment. 

It also underlines the importance of more transparency being introduced in all processes of content moderation. Media and literacy programmes should be promoted to enable users to enjoy the benefits of the online environment, while minimising their exposure to risks.

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Erika Branca