The European Commission has recommended a set of operational measures for states and the Internet industry in an effort to improve their response to illegal online content, including ‘terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement.’ According EU’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, illegal content represents ‘a serious threat to our citizens’ security, safety and fundamental rights’. One of the recommendations in the context of terrorist content is the ‘one-hour rule’: harmful terrorist content needs to be removed within one hour after it has been flagged. After monitoring the response to the recommendation, the Commission will determine whether additional steps, such as legislation, are necessary. The Internet industry has expressed discontent for not having been consulted first, and argued that the one-hour rule might not be workable. According to European Digital Rights, the recommendation risks ‘putting ‘Internet giants in charge of censoring Europe’.
Children’s use of the Internet and mobile technology is increasing, and for many children worldwide there is no clear distinction between the online and offline world. Access to the Internet presents many opportunities for their education, personal development, self-expression, and interaction with others.
Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.
One of the main sociocultural issues is content policy, often addressed from the standpoints of human rights (freedom of expression and the right to communicate), government (content control), and technology (tools for content control). Discussions usually focus on three groups of content: