UN Strengthens Freedom Of Expression Safeguards

(Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog)

At Google, we believe that it is important for the international community to step up in defense of freedom of expression. Many governments around the world are attempting to exert more control over the net. Fortunately, the United Nations is going in the other direction.

In Geneva, the UN’s Human Rights Committee recently emphasized that the protections guaranteed by one of the most important global human rights treaties apply fully in the online world: bloggers, for example, should receive the same protection as journalists.

The Committee’s action represents only the latest sign of how international organisations are stepping up to defend free expression. Earlier this year, the UN’s Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue argued in a report that restricting the flow of online information violates human rights. He has also joined with representatives from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organisation of American States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to issue a joint declaration.

These strong signals are generating positive momentum. After a group of UK parliamentarians leveraged the UN declarations to complain about website blocking plans, their government pulled back. The UN Human Rights Committee offers important safeguards: individuals can directly bring many human rights violations to the committee for redress. It’s up to all of us to use this power to pressure governments to live up to their obligations and safeguard online freedom of expression.