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Global Policy Weekly – January 6, 2012

CDT’s Global Policy Weekly highlights the latest Internet policy developments and proposals from around the world, compiled by CDT’s Global Internet Freedom Project. Subscribe to Global Policy Weekly by clicking the RSS icon on the right.

Council of Europe: On December 7th, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on the protection of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association with regard to privately operated Internet platforms and online service providers. The declaration identifies these privately-owned platform as an important part of today’s public sphere, notes some of the vulnerabilities of such a system, and concludes “It is therefore necessary to affirm the role of these actors as facilitators of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly and association.”

In response to an open letter published by a set of free expression groups, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has issued a statement of the Coalition Government’s position on freedom of expression and the Internet.
Spain passes anti-Internet piracy law
Spain’s new law, known as the Sinde law, empowers rights holders to report websites that allegedly host infringing content to a government-run “intellectual property commission.” According to the BBC, the Commission will have ten days to “decide whether it wants to take action against an infringing site or the ISPs providing infrastructure to it, and the case will then be passed to a judge to rule on whether the site should be shut down.” 

With parliamentary elections approaching in March, Iran has imposed measures that seek to curb Internet expression. New regulations require that Internet cafés store personal information about customers and associate this information with a list of the websites visited by each customer; Internet cafés are additionally required to install security cameras. Internet users have also observed severe slowdowns in Internet speed. Iran also appears to be testing a nationwide intranet, raising concerns that it might be seeking to remove itself from the global Internet.

Belarus has issued new regulations that both restrict the use of the Internet by local businesses and create new monitoring obligations for internet cafés.
Europe: Europe’s “Clean IT Project,” whose participants include Europol, the UK’s Home Office, Germany’s Ministry of the Interior, and national counter-terrorism coordinators for the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain, is working to develop plans for combatting terrorism online. A draft document issued by the Project recommends that users, ISPs, websites, search engines, and others voluntarily adopt measures that will facilitate law enforcement efforts. For example, the document recommends that service providers “offer users easy to use flagging systems.” 

OECD: On December 13th, the Council made a formal Recommendation on the Principles for Internet Policymaking, which incorporated the full communiqué from the June 2011 meeting. The OECD also released a report on broadband access in OECD countries, finding that the continuing increase in broadband subscriptions over the past year has been driven largely by wireless broadband. The OECD Directorate for Science, Technology, and Industry also released a paper entitled Regulation of Transborder Data Flows under Data Protection and Privacy Law: Past, Present, and Future. Additionally in this series of papers on the Digital Economy is a paper on Digital Identity Management for Natural Persons: Enabling Innovation and Trust in the Internet Economy – Guidance for Government Policy Makers.

Council of Europe: The Council of Europe has released its 2012-2013 Budget and Action Plan.  Under the Rule of Law pillar, within the Common Standards and Policies subject, they will pursue a “new programme line [that] will group the activities relating to media and freedom of expression together with those relating to the Internet.” The Plan further states that “[i]n the biennium the priority will be given to the development of standards and policies related to the information society including Internet governance, data protection and media which form a new programme line entitled Information Society and Internet Governance.” See pages 86-90 of the linked document.