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European charter to protect internet users

Sep 27 2011 18:13 Reuters

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Nairobi - The Council of Europe plans to establish an Internet user charter to guarantee the rights of consumers in an era of increasing government attempts to seize control of the Web, its deputy secretary general said on Tuesday.

Internet activists say governments ranging from Egypt to Pakistan have been trying to control the Internet through tactics like filtering and blocking of content and surveillance, making the lives of users and rights campaigners difficult.

“We want to emphasise the development, perhaps in the form of a charter on the rights of Internet users so they can claim openness, universality, access and affordability and possibly to know who to turn to if these principles are not respected,” Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said.

“We have discussed this with our governments and we may embark upon the drafting of a (Internet) users’ charter.”

She told Reuters on the sidelines of an Internet Governance Forum that the ideal situation should involve minimum restrictions by government because the Internet had become an essential tool of communication and commerce.

“There should not be over-regulation. The very principle of the Internet is that it should be free and universal and therefore over-regulation cannot be a good thing,” de Boer-Buquicchio said.

Drafting of the deed will involve member governments, industry and civil society, she said. The Council of Europe brings together 47 states and is mainly concerned with human rights.

States have an interest in embracing the concepts of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in their Internet governance principles, because it helps show the world they are transparent and serious about corruption, she added.

“Showing you are taking measures against this rampant scourge (corruption) which is universal unfortunately ... the confidence that other states or private investors can have is decisive in boosting the economy of a country because people will want to do business,” she said.

The council is revising its 30-year old data protection convention to enhance the laws in the age of the Internet, de Boer-Buquicchio said.
“These principles were drafted in a technologically neutral way which means that even today they are applicable,” she said.

“Nonetheless we are engaged in a revision process because we want to make it even more relevant for the use of Internet.”
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