Speech by Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General
of the Council of Europe
European Dialogue on Internet Governance Conference
June 14, 2012 – Stockholm
Dear Minister Hatt, Dear Director General Marby,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be here in Stockholm today and to be able to address the Fifth edition of the European Dialogue on Internet Governance.
We have with us today over 600 representatives from civil society, business, governments, parliaments and international organisations.
All here, to openly discuss the most pressing issues on Internet public policy.
At the heart of our vitally important meeting is a central question of democracy: the relationship of the individual to the state.
How should it evolve at a time of rapid change? Where do the dangers lurk?
These problems can only be puzzled out by broadly-based and competent discussion. We at the Council of Europe understood a long time ago that in order to set ambitious – yet achievable – standards, it is necessary to involve everyone who will be implementing them.
Human rights, freedom of expression, privacy rights: this is the bread and butter of our Organisation. On-line and off-line.
The rights of individuals to share their views freely, to hold their leaders accountable and practice their religion – these rights are universal. It makes no difference whether they are exercised in a public square or a Facebook profile.
There cannot be separate rules for the Real World and the so-called ‘Virtual World’.
Access to the Internet must be respected as an integral part of everyone’s right to freedom of expression and access to information.
Access to the Internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
I want to use this opportunity today to discuss three urgent threats that the international community is facing regarding internet governance: threats to our human dignity; threats to our security; and threats to our privacy.
But before I do so, I would like to say a few words on the central theme of our conference: “Who sets the rules for the internet?”
It is clear for all of us that the power of individuals to communicate and connect has expanded in the last few years.
The World Economic Forum estimates that over two billion people are now online, nearly a third of humankind. There are 325 billion websites, 100,000 tweets per second and 48 hours of video clips uploaded to YouTube every minute.
The events of the Arab Spring reminded us of the growing appetite for information.
A growing appetite for equality and for representative democracy.
The rise of electronic and social media has boosted the ability of
cyber-activists to come together as a catalyst for change, to use the internet as a tool to counter heavy-handed governments.
New technologies have galvanised people to think and act more freely. In brutal societies such as Syria, activists and journalists increasingly operate websites rather than offices. They rally followers rather than staff.
What does this tell us?
One thing is for certain. New governance models in a plugged-in world will no doubt entail greater demands for transparency and accountability.
This brings us to the first of three threats: the threat to our human dignity. The challenge to keep the Internet free and open for all.
Around the world, repressive regimes are building cyber fortresses, pushing through measures that restrict free expression and curb fundamental rights.
The number of governments that censor Internet content has grown from four to forty in ten years. And this number is on the rise, unfortunately.
In some of these cases, the censorship is unashamedly blatant.
Ten days ago, on the twenty-third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, Chinese censors blocked internet access to the terms: “twenty-three”; “candle” and
In other cases, in parts of Europe, internet censorship is more subtle. But it is just as unacceptable.
Access to the Internet has become essential for enjoying democratic freedoms. Citizens should enjoy a maximum of rights while being subject to a minimum of risks. This is one of the biggest challenges we are faced with today.
We need an open, inclusive and safe environment. We must avoid unnecessary restrictions that can smother innovation and hinder the free flow of information and knowledge.
I therefore urge European governments to refrain from filtering Internet content for reasons other than those mentioned in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The second threat I would like to address is cybercrime and the threat to our security.
Over the past year, there have been numerous cyber-attacks: against the private-sector, against governments, against civil society organisations, against political opposition groups – in Belarus, for example.
There have been major cases of data theft and espionage. From online theft of credit-card numbers and bank-account details to hacking of trade secrets.
This is a serious issue that undermines European competitiveness. Not only does it cost our continent jobs and impede growth, it also saps our continent’s entrepreneurial vigour.
The online threats to our security come in various forms.
Just as the Internet and social media played a positive role during the Arab Spring, it also cast a shadow over the London riots.
With freedom, comes responsibility.
We cannot ignore the dark side of the internet.
I say this also as a Norwegian, who remembers the tragic events in Oslo and Utöya almost a year ago.
What we say and write has consequences. Hateful words can deepen divisions and provoke violence. On the internet, this power is magnified.
Connection technologies can benefit the human-rights activist and the extremist alike. It is up to all of us to make sure that these technologies are used for good rather than ill.
Part of the problem is that cybercrime evolves fast and law making is slow.
The Council of Europe supports countries worldwide in the implementation of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Ten years after its adoption, the Budapest Convention still represents the only accepted international treaty to protect freedom, security and human rights online.
So far, the Budapest Convention has proven its worth. Over the past decade, the Convention has, for example, triggered legislative reforms on all continents and helped increase police and judicial co-operation.
But we cannot do it alone.
Governments should seize the opportunities that the Budapest Convention offers. It is in everyone’s interest to increase the number of Parties to the Convention.
Only by working together – and by together I mean businesses, international and multi-state organisations and individual states – will there be effective responsibility, freedom and protection of our human rights when going online.
An important – and relatively straight-forward – starting point would be to raise the awareness of all stake-holders.
Many companies are breached by hackers walking down virtual hallways, looking for a single unlocked door. That proverbial unlocked door can lead into an entire data network.
Companies should start thinking ahead and locking their doors. Even simple measures — like training exercises and regular threat assessments — can help protect companies.
The third, and final, threat that I would like to mention is just as important: the threat to our privacy.
New technologies also create new risks to our privacy.
The list is long: geo-location, profiling, cloud computing, biometric data.
The creation of a secure environment is vital for the long-standing success and the social acceptance of new technologies.
Too much transfer of personal data could lead to resistance if the change is not managed in a way which represents people’s rights and freedoms.
Only by guaranteeing the protection and respect for human rights online will people trust and feel confident in a hyper-connected world.
The Council of Europe has for over thirty years been at the forefront of the protection of privacy. Convention 108 – which aims to secure the right of privacy for every individual – remains as valid today as it was three decades ago.
We are now in the process of modernising the Data Protection Convention. This is still a work in progress, but the Convention’s conceptual backbone is already clear.
A revamped Convention will do several things:
It will ensure that Council of Europe principles remain in sync with technological developments.
It will reinforce its follow-up system.
It will maintain technologically neutral provisions, ensuring compatibility with EU regulations.
A modernised, updated Data Protection Convention will reaffirm, yet again, its potential as a global standard.
The co-operation we have with civil society, the private-sector and international organisations represented here today is vital to sculpt a sustainable Internet governance framework.
I look forward to hearing your views and to a constructive EuroDIG debate.