Governments 'filtering, censoring' content


Some governments were using terms like “information security” and “internet management” to try and dress up repression, a US state department spokesman told a Dublin conference today.

Too many governments were filtering, censoring content, taking down sites and perpetuating internet shut downs, Thomas Melia, deputy assistant secretary of state in the US Bureau of Democracy, told the OSCE’s conference on internet freedom being held at Dublin Castle.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms do not change with new technologies, he said. A new set of international treaties was not needed to govern rules online because they are already embodied in international agreements, Mr Melia said.

“What we do to now to ensure open global freedom and rights for those who use it willl have a profound effect on how billions of men and women exercise their fundamental freedoms in decades to come” he added

There was no need for a new set of standards on freedom of expression and the internet because the principles of absolute freedom to hold opinions and disseminate ideas were the same, Frank la Rue, UN special rapporteur on the promotion of the right to freedom of expression told the Dublin conference.

While access to the internet was not a human right it was an essential element needed to exercise a right.

He highlighted that everyone must have access to the internet from developed Europe to the poorest village in East Asia and Africa.

Freedom of expression was a fundamental right which “has to be defended in the internet era”, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said today.

He hoped that what would emerge “in time” from the conference was “an international agreement and understanding that defends freedom of expression on the internet “.

The conference continues until tomorrow.