Cybercrime: a threat to democracy, human rights and the rule of law


A threat to democracy, human rights and the rule of law

The extraordinary development of information technology has obvious consequences for ''traditional'' organised crime. While the use of data processing systems and networks is undeniably a step forward for society, it also makes it more vulnerable.

Terrorist groups, pornographers and paedophile networks, illegal traffickers in weapons, drugs and human beings, money launderers and cybercriminals exploit this vulnerability. The expansion of new communication tools makes it easier for them to develop their activities.

The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which entered into force in July 2004, is the only binding international treaty on the subject to have been adopted to date. It lays down guidelines for all governments wishing to develop legislation against cybercrime.

Open to signature by non-European states, the convention also provides a framework for international co-operation in this field. An additional Protocol outlaws acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.

Octopus Conference, 6 - 8 June 2012, Strasbourg

Establishing effective rules in a place everybody joins but nobody owns is a very demanding task, but rules are necessary to maximise the freedom and minimise the risks in navigating cyberspace.

This is why, on 23 November 2001, the Council of Europe adopted the Budapest Convention on the fight against cybercrime. Today, the treaty still represents the only accepted international guidelines on how to protect freedom, security and human rights online.

As technology evolves much faster than legal responses, there is a need to constantly address new challenges, often related to data protection issues, such as transborder law enforcement access to data and information sharing between the private and public sectors.

Measures to fight online child abuse are also crucial. Insufficient or incompatible legislation in many countries is still a major obstacle to successful international prosecution of offenders. In November 2011, the Council of Europe and the Virtual Global Task Force signed a cooperation agreement to fight online child abuse and make the Internet safer for children – as part of the Interpol overall strategy.

All these challenges have been discussed at the annual cybercrime conference from 6 to 8 June 2012 in Strasbourg.

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Conference on Cybercrime: Budapest Convention ten years after its adoption

The Budapest Convention still represents the only accepted international treaty to protect freedom, security and human rights online.

Achievements and challenges were discussed at the annual Council of Europe conference on cybercrime, organised on 21 and 22 November in Strasbourg, which was followed by a special meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the Convention on 23 November 2011.


As societies worldwide become ever more dependent on information and communication technologies, they are also increasingly vulnerable to cybercrime, including identity theft, financial fraud, cyber attacks and the misuse of social networks. Many of these crimes are committed not against states or organisations, but against individuals.

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