Q2/2020 - Freedom Online Coalition (FOC)

Joint Statement on Covid-19, 8 June 2020

During a virtual panel discussion, the FOC discussed a statement on “Covid-19 and Internet Freedom”. The statement draws attention to the risk of the pandemic to lead to restrictions of freedom on the Internet[1]. The discussion was moderated by Andrew Puddephatt and attended by Mikko Kinnunen from the Finnish Foreign Ministry, Robert Destro from the US State Department, Shelley Whiting from the Canadian Human Rights Office and Lisa Vermeer from the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. Finland will take over the presidency of the Freedom Online Coalition in 2021. Denmark joined the FOC as the 32nd member in June 2020.

Mehr zum Thema
  1. [1] FOC Joint Statement on COVID-19 and Internet Freedom, 8 June 2020: „TheThe FOC shares the concerns of people everywhere in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic, including the negative economic impact associated with it, and recognizes government efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus by enacting emergency measures. At the same time, more activities are taking place online than ever before, and we are concerned with the human rights implications of certain measures, practices, and digital applications introduced by governments in response to the crisis. This includes the use of arbitrary or unlawful surveillance practices; partial or complete Internet shutdowns; online content regulation and censorship that are inconsistent with human rights law. We are further concerned with the potential short-and-long-term impact of these actions on the rights of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and privacy rights, even after the pandemic is over. Lack of accountability and lack of effective remedy for violations and abuses of human rights online pose a risk of reduced trust in public authorities, which, in turn, might undermine the effectiveness of any future public response. Violations and abuses of human rights also increase risk of discrimination and may disproportionately harm members of already marginalized and vulnerable communities, including women and girls and other individuals who may face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Human rights violations and abuses online are a direct challenge to the FOC’s goal of protecting and promoting both the exercise of human rights online and an open, free1, secure, reliable, and interoperable Internet. Furthermore, the FOC is concerned by the spread of disinformation online and activity that seeks to leverage the COVID-19 pandemic with malign intent. This includes the manipulation of information and spread of disinformation to undermine the international rules-based order and erode support for the democracy and human rights that underpin it. Access to factual and accurate information, including through a free and independent media online and offline, helps people take the necessary precautions to prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus, save lives, and protect vulnerable population groups. We reiterate that commitments and principles outlined in FOC founding documents remain of the utmost importance. We further emphasize that countries must ensure that measures implemented to address the pandemic are in compliance with international human rights law. Measures should also be limited to what is necessary for the legitimate protection of public health, including by limiting these measures in time only as necessary to address the COVID-19 crisis. Any interference with privacy and other relevant rights and freedoms need also be consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UDHR. This is true whether the restrictions apply to activity online or offline. We welcome the focus on this issue by the UN Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UN Special Rapporteurs and experts“ https://freedomonlinecoalition.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/FOC-Joint-Statement-on-COVID-19-and-Internet-Freedom-1.pdf.