OSCE warns of Europe-wide trend to restrict internet content

OSCE warns of Europe-wide trend to restrict internet content – Monsters and Critics

Jul 8, 2011, 16:49 GMT

Vienna – More and more European governments are putting restrictions on internet use, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) said Friday, warning that this trend could weaken democratic rights.

The Vienna-based organization issued a study covering 46 of its 56 member states which found that filtering nd blocking of online content nearly always violates the principles of free speech and the free flow of information.

‘Too many governments are really trying to suppress and to restrict,’ the OSCE’s chief media freedom observer, Dunja Mijatovic, told the German Press Agency dpa.

The study highlighted that content blocking, mostly of child pornography, happens in most Western European countries under voluntary arrangements between authorities and service providers, rather than under well-defined laws.

However, such ad-hoc arrangements might be used to block other types of content, said study author Yaman Akdeniz, a professor at Istanbul Bilgi University.

‘Other countries might rely on the same tools to block access to political speech,’ he said.

This ‘domino effect’ of Western regulation being adopted by countries further east is already observable, Akdeniz said, citing Kazakhstan as well as Turkey, where authorities are banning some 15,000 websites.

The study showed that 20 mostly eastern European and central Asian countries prohibit so-called extreme speech on the internet, aiming to prevent criticism of the state.

Akdeniz also warned against measures adopted by France and planned in Britain, which deny any internet access for users who have been found to violate copyright rules.

‘The study wanted to highlight at an early stage that what the UK and France are doing is not necessarily right …, before other OSCE participating states start to use this,’ he said.