The Right to Privacy in a Globalizing World

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Committee: Special Committee on “The Right to Privacy in a Globalizing World”

Issue: The protection of the freedom of speech in cyberspace

Student Officer: Defne Erdinç (Deputy Chair of Special Committee)

I- Introduction

“The Internet has been a revolution for censorship as much as for free speech.” says, Jo Glanville, editor of the Index on Censorship. Internationally, nationally and regionally freedom of speech is a form of freedom of expression that takes place in every area, especially cyberspace. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also clarifies the rights of people for freedom of expression and opinion without intervention and the right to have information and ideas through any source. “Cyberspace has allowed freedom of speech to become far more practical in terms of getting one’s opinion into the public realm, and has caused “the electronic word to supplant the printed word as the most prevalent form of communication in our society.”1

Communication is one of the essential needs of human while people should have the right to obtain the opportunities that Internet presents. The developing internet and its new technologies offer users to express their opinions worldwide on various issues. Cyberspace can be a perfect medium for people to exchange ideas and knowledge However, freedom of speech can take place to a certain degree. Due to the fact that cyberspace is growing worldwide, there needs to be some limitations and regulations to control and sustain the safety. There are various threats in cyberspace such as national security problems, pornography, obscenity, indecency, libel, and slander. These threats bring up the point that there needs to be a solution both to sustain openness without including the threats of cyberspace.

Communications Decency Act (CDA) declared by United States District Court Panel in July 1996 which has its acts parallel to the First Amendment is counted to be the first attempt and related legislation on this issue. The First Amendment being a local ordinance on internet protects the freedom of speech in cyberspace and controls any threats that can take place on this medium. Notwithstanding many countries started to have Internet Control Rules and regulations. While some of them achieved to be successful, most of these rules and regulations are inadequately designed. After all, this created the problem of freedom of speech in cyberspace where governments wanted to put regulations and some ended up having censorship.

II- Involved Countries and Organizations


United States is recognized to have the widest and strongest regulations for free speech on internet in the world. USA is very strict about its laws on freedom of speech in cyberspace. The increasing amount of pornography especially child pornography on internet led USA to declare Communication Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). “However, the following year, the Supreme Court ruled that the CDA was unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment. So, a similar law was passed by Congress in 1998, but it too was repealed by the Supreme Court. Eventually, the Children’s Internet Protection Act was passed in 2000. This act specifically targeted Internet usage in schools and libraries, and requires that special filtering software be installed on all machines to prevent obscene material from getting through.”1

Overall look at Asia

Internet is counted as the only and one medium for Asia for presenting news, information and knowledge in against to the restricted media and regimes. For Nepal, internet is the only source to connect to the outside world while they are facing a battle currently. Burmese journalists use the internet and blogs to express their opinions while going against the military junta which can be counted as the harshest regimes of all. However, free speechon the internet is under attack in Asia. As the most common example, cyber dissidents in China and Vietnam are jailed for expressing the ideas on the current regime. Bloggers in Singapore and Malaysia face criminal defamation when they are recognized as the violators of Internal Security Act. While these are taking place, some independent sites are blocked by the ministration of Thailand when any idea about Thaksin government is seen on the net.


Freedom of speech in cyberspace is very restricted in China since censorship is formed through various laws and regulations. “In accordance with these laws, more than sixty Internet regulations have been made by the People's Republic of China (PRC) government, implemented by provincial branches of state-owned ISPs, business companies, and organizations. The apparatus of the PRC's Internet repression is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country in the world. The governmental authorities not only block website content but also monitor the Internet access of individuals.”2

According to Amnesty International China is the country which has the largest number of imprisoned journalists and cyber dissidents throughout the world. “The offences of which they are accused include communicating with groups abroad, signing online petitions, and calling for reform and an end to corruption. The escalation of the government's effort to neutralize critical online opinion comes after a series of large anti-Japanese, anti-pollution, anti-corruption protests, and ethnic riots, many of which were organized or publicized using instant messaging services, chat rooms, and text messages. The size of the Internet police is rumored at more than 30,000.”2

To a certain extent, such online freedom of speech is now being encouraged by the central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as it is of great help for them to have first-hand understanding of public sentiment and to supervise the behavior of local officials. At the same time, the CCP imposes tough censorship on any content on the Internet that is deemed a threat to its continued rule.”3


India has rules and regulations on free speech in cyberspace which are inadequate and wage. There are intermediaries that include “Internet Service Providers (ISPs), portals of all kinds, social networks, search engines, blogging platforms and Web-hosting service providers. According to the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, notified under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, intermediaries enjoy exemption from liability for the third-party content they host provided they observe due diligence.” 4

Intermediaries have to control the content of the things put on internet and protect the internet from ones which are defamatory, obscene, invasive and libelous.

In 2008 The Indian Telegraph Act and IT Act let the government have the power to monitor, interfere and block sites. “Moreover, under section 79 of the IT Intermediary (Rules and Guidelines), 2011, intermediaries—Telco’s, Internet services providers, network services providers, search engines, cyber cafes, Web-hosting companies, online auction portals and online payment sites—are mandated to exercise “due diligence” and advise users not to share/distribute information which would violate the law or a person’s privacy and rights. Intermediaries are expected to act on a complaint within 36 hours of receiving it, and remove such content when warranted. In case the intermediary doesn’t find the content objectionable, the matter will have to be contested in a court of law.”5

“The Indian government can, and should, monitor conversations and websites if it believes the content can harm the security, defense, sovereignty and integrity of the country,” said the Supreme Court lawyer and cyber law expert, PavanDuggal. However, there remains the question of how this can be implemented in an inadequate system of Internet. “The intention is good, but the path is not clear,” stated PavanDugal.

“While the affected party can lodge a complaint with the intermediary, removal has to follow a due process, which should include suitable documentary evidence placed by the party. There should be a process of examination through an ombudsman, a process of arbitration where the request is disputed or a court order as may be required on a case to case basis,” said Vijayashankar of the Cyber Society of India.”6

Through this time, CryptohippeInc ranked India as the 26th most policed state in 2010 by controlling every email sent, every internet site logged in, every blog written and every recording on internet.

“According to the Google Transparency Report website—which logs content removal requests it receives from governments—the Internet company received 67 requests from the Indian government for the removal of 282 content items (such as videos critical of politicians) from YouTube and blogs during July-December 2010. Google said it complied with 22% of the requests. For the January-June 2011 (latest data available) period, Google received 68 content removal requests for 358 items from Indian government agencies. Google complied in 51% cases.”6:screen shot 2012-07-08 at 1.01.19 pm.png


Iran faced great increase in internet usage with the start of the 21st century. This number reached up to 20 million on the net, where in the very beginning internet usage in Iran was comparatively open compared with other states. However people of Iran used internet to sneak into Iran’s strict press laws.

Through this, recently internet control-check systems started to ban political, women sites and any other sites which contain pornographic visuals which are totally anti-Islamic. Many common websites such as Youtube, Facebook and a lot of news sites were blocked along with others.


A software called “Secure Computing” along with a proxy farm called “King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology” controls the freedom of speech on internet in Saudi Arabia. Numerous websites were banned by ISU (Internet Service Unit) in 2006 which were found out to be inappropriate for the internet. ISU by this encourages people to report any image/text etc. which they feel that is inappropriate to be on the net. Any sites which has acts/beliefs against the Wahabi version of Islam is blocked since it is very crucial for the Royal Family.

Saudi Arabia also blocks any sites which are against the governments’ beliefs and acts. In the year of 2006 Google Translate and Wikipedia were banned. Nonetheless, in 2011 new regulations put on every internet users (newspapers and bloggers) started to have a license from the Ministry of Culture and Information.


“The ACLU's vision of an uncensored Internet was clearly shared by the U.S. Supreme Court when it declared, in Reno v. ACLU, the Internet to be a free speech zone, deserving at least as much First Amendment protection as that afforded to books, newspapers and magazines. The government, the court said, can no more restrict a person's access to words or images on the Internet than it could be allowed to snatch a book out of a reader's hands in the library, or cover over a statue of a nude in a museum.”7


Starting with 21th October and ending on the 12th of November, the 29th UNESCO General Conference in Paris resulted with having a report on international instrument and regulations on the cyberspace rights. The interesting part was that the report supported the balanced usage of language. UK, Australia and Germany, however, were anxious about this.


OSCE in an organization which devotes itself to free speech in Internet in numerous states with having a report named “Freedom of Expression on the Internet”. The report includes a thorough research on the content of Internet along with its regulations in the OSCE region. A preliminary report was presented by OSCE in the conference of “OSCE Astana Summit 2010”.


Open Net Initiative is an organization formed by the collaboration of Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; the Berkman Center for the Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group (Ottawa). The organization works to investigate internet regulations and filtering systems.

III- Focused Overview of the Issue

According to United Nations Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (Article 19).” Although the article may fully support freedom of speech, some countries believe that full freedom of speech may cause problems in a country. The declaration does not directly explain the freedom of speech rights on cyberspace so;an action is needed for the free use of speech also on the internet. Various nations block and suppress internet users who try to express and share their ideas on the net. However, it is clearly seen that national regulations for these kinds of acts needs to work along with international acts in order to be adequate and efficient.

In today’s world as the population grows, internet users demand freedom of speech in cyberspace. Various disputable thoughts arise when it comes to countries having an internet which both allows freedom of speech but at the same time,controls any inappropriate thing on the net such as crime, defamation, libel, and slander. Although democracy does fully support freedom of speech in any medium, it can be restricted in wartime, slander, libel and any acts of defamation.

  1. Freedom of information

Freedom of information is known to be the extension of freedom of speech where this right is valid in cyberspace. This right is in direct relationship with right to privacy on Internet. Freedom of Information does contain information access on internet, blocks/censorship/restrictions and ability to access to websites.

Freedom of information is fully protected in Canada by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of Ontario.

  1. Internet censorship

Internet censorship includes the control and impede of the information access on the net. Reporters with Borders states that the following states do implement evasive internet censorship which these states are: “China, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar/Burma, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam”.

At total, there are five different categories of censorship/ban/blockade which are classified according their status on the net. These are “pervasive censorship, substantial censorship, selective censorship, under surveillance, and no censorship”. These different blocking systems have different regulations in accordance with the type and amount of inappropriate information a website contains.

In “Pervasive Censorship” large amount of information is blocked in a website. For instance, in China pervasivecensorship is very common since ideas blogs are blocked very usually.

In “Substantial Censorship” small or medium amount of info/image is blocked. Pakistan is the most known country for its substantial Censorship. To give an example shadings on Youtube and Blogspot are blocked.

In “Selective Censorship” small amount of information is blocked on specific websites. India is the most common country for selective censorship.

Selective censorship is where small portion of information is filtered on specific sites. India is an example of this regulation. States which have the status of “under-surveillance” designate specific organizations but just observe their actions, they don’t censor them.

Three another ways of internet blocking are “technical blocking”, “resource locator filtering” and “portal censorship”. Technical blocking is where certain key words for certain countries. In resource locator filtering websites are censored for certain IP addresses. Portal Censorship is when websites are blocked through search engines.

  1. Threats in Cyberspace

    1. National Security

One of the occasions where censorship takes place is when a countries’ national security is in danger. For instance, in war times a government may restrict the reporting of acts and force locations of governments on the net which needs to be hidden from press. The encryption technology does present this information only to certain people; however it can fully be in danger in various states. There is the fact that each country may deal with this problem in a different way that sometimes anlegal thing for one country may be totally illegal for another.

    1. Pornography

Pornography has been the most problematic issue in cyberspace for governments to control and censor in accordance with the First Amendment. There are numerous websites that are trying to prevent the release of pornography throughout the world.

“When pornography reaches an extreme of offensiveness, however, it becomes obscenity, and loses its First Amendment privileges. By today's laws, the most restricted form of pornography is child pornography, characterized by its depiction of actual children engaged in sexual conduct. Restrictions against distributing adult material to minors have also passed constitutional scrutiny.”8

The Communications Decency Act (CDA) is the first corporation to put on regulations about pornography and specifically worked on the prevention of release of pornography to minors also with the help of the organization called ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). However, then CDA started to be recognized as to violate the rights of First Amendment by means of hindering the rights of adults while preventing pornography from minors.

    1. Hate Speech, Defamation: libel and slander

Hate speech may be an animus speech either to an individual or to a group of people. The selected group of people may belong to a certain religion, race or a belief. Internet flame wars are the media mostly for slanders and libel. Internet turns out to be a chaos full of name-calling, insults, and slanders. It is also a true fact that most of the defamation takes place in face-to-face confrontation.


The unwanted email that is sent to numerous people are called a “spam” email. The spam email receivers sometimes do face offensive emails. The facts is that eventhough spammers may think that it is their very right to be involved in these kinds of activities there is no such protection in spam emails on freedom of speech. Most common matters of spam email are pornography and “get-rich-quick schemes”.

IV- Key Vocabulary

Censhorship: :exclusion from consciousness by the psychic censor9

Pervasive censorship: “A large portion of content is blocked in all categories of information (political, social, educational, security)” (ONI).

Substantial Censorhip:“A number of categories are subject to a medium level of filtering or many categories are subject to a low level of filtering” (ONI).

Selective censorship: “A small number of specific sites are blocked by filtering a small number of categories or issues” (ONI).

Slander:A malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report10
Defamation:The actofdefaming; false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as byslanderorlibel11
Libel:defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures12

V- Important Events & Chronology

Date (Day/Mont/Year)



The Platform for Internet Content Selection (‘PICS’) was established by World Wide Web Consortium.


The 1996 Report on “Investigation into Content of Online Services” of controlled the regulations and services of cyberspace in Australia.


Communications Decency Act of 1996 was established by United States District Court Panel in Pennsylvania for free speech rights on internet.


General Conference in Paris in 1997 formed by UNESCO demanded for the need of an international treaty on cyberspace.


OECD argued the need of international agreement on websites.

1-3 December 1997

The Summit met in Washington DC discussed the release and distribution of child pornography to adults and the prevention of access of these sources to the minors.

January 1997

OECD submitted a proposal for the outlawing of sexual exploitation and abuse of children on the Internet.

8 July 1997

The German government established the Declaration On Global Information Networks.

December 1997

Washington DC considered the European Commission Action Plan on promoting safe use of the Internet.


Thirty-five participants were involved in the International Network of Experts on Self-Regulation for Responsibility and Control on the Internet.

March 20, 2001

Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was established

April 19-21, 2006

Manila conference on freedom of expression in Asian cyberspace took place.


The United Nations created the Internet Governance Forum, or the IGF, which meets regularly to determine country’s roles in Internet governance and whether Internet usage within countries should be regulated or free.

October 2011

Russia and some other nations have established the Convention on Cybercrime which will sustain security in cyberspace among nations.


The London Conference on Cyberspace took place.

6 July 2012

For the first time United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution on human rights in cyberspace.

VI- Past Resolutions and Treaties

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights



United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time adopted a resolution on Human Rights and Internet on 6 July 2012. The countries which have major role in this resolution are Sweden, Brazil, Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States. The resolution is supported with more of 80 countries. The right to freedom of expression established in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is supported by the resolution to also take place in cyberspace. The resolution supports the internet’s importance on the global development and encourages all states to promote access to the internet by internet users.

The First Amendment in Cyberspace and Communications Decency Act 1996

In July 1996, the United States District Court Panel declared an act named as “Communications Decency Act of 1996”. The Court stated that the act put on does restrict the citizens’ free speech rights which are protected by the “First Amendment.”

The First Amendment starts as “Congress shall make no law” which clarifies the freedom of speech of people. The inadequate parts of the First Amendment where then found out in 1925 and the content of the fourteenth amendment was found out that it included freedom of speech rights for both state and local governments.

VII- Failed Solution Attempts

Numerous actions have taken place along with the passed resolutions by UN and the involvements of the UNOS and NGO on the issue of freedom of speech in cyberspace to have a sustainable solution. As stated before, after the establishment of the 19th article there occurred the problem of inadequacy of this article in the cyberspace. Along with the problems faced, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research has established “The Laws of Cyberspace” which pointed out the main problems faced on this issue. Then occurred the “Internet Governance Forum” which had meetings with the observant countries for the situation of their free speech rights on the net along with the regulations taken on this issue. As an addition “The World Summit on Information Society” meets up annually to come to a consensus on the particular topic. However, there needs to be more solutions in order to achieve success on this issue.

VIII- Possible Solutions

Actions in both national and international level should take place in order for the issue of freedom of speech in cyberspace to be totally solved. The actions/regulations put forward should be both suitable for an individual state but also should be accepted in international mediums.

The international actions should clarify points of safe carriage and conduct of the internet. The national level innovations should be self-regulatory schemes and punitive measurements for those who violate the rights of free speech on the net. The regulations put on nationally sometimes may not be suitable with another country’s regulation which then causes global websites, service providers, and companies to have problems in global bases. So, meetings and communication among countries should take place for this websites to work sustainably.

The internet service providers should be the main focus for the content presented to the users. There needs to be sustainable filtering and reporting systems for such freedom of speech violations taking place. The issue shouldn’t be seen from one perspective that; not only the ones which are violating these rights should be punished, but also the ones who believe that they cannot gain their rights of free speech should have the right to report their problems to these mechanisms too.

Some restrictions put on internet for the violation of free speech should be classified that if that restriction is only for minors, those restrictions should not be valid for adults. There can be security codes and child-protection systems for such websites that wanted to be entered.

Public awareness programs can be established with the help of related NGOs and Organizations both online and offline. Minors and adults should join these programs to learn about the regulations put on, the free speech rights presented and the restrictions they have for their own country.

IX- Useful Links














X- Works Cited

ACLU. “Internet Censorship”. Web.

"Censorship." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

Church of Scientology International.Freedom of Speech at Risk in Cyberspace.” Web.

"Defamation.", n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

D’Monte, Leslie. “Privacy, speech at stake in cyberspace. Web. 2 February 2012.

"Free Speech in Cyberspace: Comparison between Canada and the United States." Web. 08 Jul 2012

Hinduja, S.,&Patchin, J.W.. “High-Tech Cruelty.”  Educational Leadership, 68(5) 48-52. Web. 24 June 2012.

Hodges, Marjorie W..andWorona, Steven L.. "Legal Underpinnings for Creating Campus Computer Policy," CAUSE/EFFECT, Web. Winter 1996.

"Internet Censorship in the People's Republic of China." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

"Libel.", n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

Mackinnon, Rebecca. “Collateral damage: news organizations, free speech, and the Internet.” Web. 3 May 2012.

"Privacy, Speech at Stake in Cyberspace." - Centre for Internet and Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

Sengupta, Vivek. “Save free speech in cyberspace.” Web. May 20, 2011.

"Slander.", n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

The PCIJ Blog. “Manila conference on freedom of expression in Asian cyberspace.” file:///Users/macbookpro/Desktop/bilgiler/links1/manila-conference-on-freedom-of-expression-in-asian-cyberspace.html. Web. 9 April 2006.

"The First Amendment in Cyberspace." The First Amendment in Cyberspace. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

Thierer, Adam and Szoka, Berin. “The Day Internet Freedom Died”.

1"Free Speech in Cyberspace: Comparison between Canada and the United States." Web. 08 Jul 2012

2"Internet Censorship in the People's Republic of China."Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .



5"Privacy, Speech at Stake in Cyberspace." - Centre for Internet and Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

6D’Monte, Leslie. “Privacy, speech at stake in cyberspace. 2 February 2012.

7ACLU.“Internet Censorship”. Web.

8"The First Amendment in Cyberspace."The First Amendment in Cyberspace.N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

9"Censorship."Merriam-Webster.Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

10"Slander.", n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

11"Defamation.", n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

12"Libel.", n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .

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