Within its mandate to promote freedom of expression online and offline, UNESCO has recently presented the new edition of the Internet Freedom Series Publication “Fostering Freedom Online: the Role of Internet Intermediaries” at the RightsCon Southeast Asia, in Manila, Philippines, during 24-25 March 2015.
“UNESCO’s publication on intermediaries serves a broader framework and is a useful resource for civil society to promote online freedom of expression through intermediaries”, said a participant at UNESCO’s session in RightsCon 2015.
With the rise of Internet intermediaries that play a mediating role between authors of content and audiences on the internet, this UNESCO publication provides in-depth case studies and analysis on how internet intermediaries impact on freedom of expression and associated fundamental rights such as privacy. It also offers policy recommendations on how intermediaries and states can improve respect for internet users’ right to freedom of expression.
UNESCO’s research was well received by participants of RightsCon 2015, an annual event widely attended by members of civil society, the technical community and private sector actors to promote an open Internet and digital rights globally and in South East Asia. UNESCO received positive feedback on the publication and useful suggestions from the participants to further this research by including more categories of intermediaries and examining smaller Internet companies in the developing world.
UNESCO also presented the research outcome at a pre-event “Manila principles on Intermediary Liability” on 23 April 2015, and contributed to the drafting process of the Manila Principles led by civil society organizations which was launched during the RightsCon meeting on 24 March 2014. The Manila Principles affirmed that Intermediaries should be shielded by law from liability for third-party content. They also affirmed that online content must not be restricted without a judicial order, with transparency and accountability being built into law and content restriction policies and practices related to Intermediaries.
UNESCO has been pleased to work on this research project on Internet intermediaries with the Open Society Foundations, the Internet Society, and the Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. The current publication covers three intermediary types - Internet Service Providers, Search Engines and Social Media. It will be followed by future studies on other intermediary types, including data processing, web hosting providers, cloud computing services, and domain name registries, as well as online media with substantial user-generated content.
The research also helps to inform UNESCO’s implementation of a comprehensive and consultative multi-stakeholder Internet study as mandated by the Organization’s 37th General Conference Resolution 52. The study, due in 2015, covers UNESCO’s key competence areas of access to information and knowledge, freedom of expression, privacy, and ethical dimensions of the information society, and contains possible options for future actions.
Other publications in the Internet Freedom Series are: