Rede von Vizekanzler und Außenminister Michael Spindelegger anlässlich der Konferenz des Europarats über die Internet Governance 2012-2015 (Nur Englisch)
”Our Internet – Our Rights, Our Freedoms. Towards the Council of Europe Strategy on Internet Governance 2012-15”
Delivered by Secretary-General Johannes Kyrle
Dear Secretary-General Jagland!
Dear Minister Vaizey!
Dear Minister of State O’Dowd!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
First of all I want to warmly welcome you all, whether you are physically present here in the Diplomatic Academy, or are following our discussions on webcast. You come from civil society, industry, academia as well as governments. And, indeed, it is only meaningful to debate, develop and implement Internet governance in the framework of a genuine multi-stakeholder approach.
A special welcome goes to Secretary General Jagland who has made Internet governance one of the priorities for the work of the Council of Europe. Thanks to you and your predecessors – notably former Secretary General Walter Schwimmer who is here with us today - this pan-European organization, has been at the forefront of our endeavors to ensure that human rights, democracy and rule of law prevail, ever since its founding in 1949. Whereas these core values remain as valid as then, the challenges to them are constantly evolving and changing. Our generation is called upon to see to it that human rights, democracy and rule of law also apply when using the Internet.
Therefore, Austria is putting so much emphasis on this topic. We do this in the Council of Europe where our ambassador has the function of thematic coordinator for Internet governance. We are cooperating closely with the UK chairmanship that has made Internet governance one of its priorities. I am keen to hear from Minister Ed Vaizey about this in a few minutes. We are equally active in the OSCE, where the incoming Irish chairmanship represented here by Minister O’Dowd intends to push this issue next year. And we are engaged in the UN Human Rights Council, where Austria is making use of its membership to enhance the focus on freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
Over the last months, Internet governance has been discussed in a growing number of fora going beyond the established ones like the Internet Governance Forum and the EuroDIG. This increased interest has been manifested by the EU Digital Agenda, the e-G 8 initiative, the OECD, the London Cyberspace conference and a ministerial conference on Internet freedom soon to be held in The Hague.
Given the importance of the issue – just think about how many hours you regularly spend on the Internet – these developments are certainly positive. In order to get to a more coherent discussion and concrete results, however, the time seems to be ripe for a better coordination of the various initiatives in this field. I therefore support the proposal that Internet-related issues should become a new main area for coordination between the Council of Europe and the OSCE. In view of the manifold issues that the Internet raises, there is room for everyone. The different frameworks have comparative advantages which should be further developed.
For the Council of Europe, I see the main focus as being human rights. I do not believe that we would be able to fully enjoy our rights to freedom of expression, access to information or freedom of association, if by a political decision the Internet were to be cut off. “Do no harm to the Internet” is for me the first paradigm.
My second paradigm is that the same human rights standards that are valid off-line must apply also on-line. We must not tolerate double standards when it comes to issues such as the right to private life and the protection of personal data. This implies, among other things, that there need to be clear and accessible procedures for removing defamatory content concerning a person on a website. Moreover, the user should be informed of his rights and the procedures which exist to seek their enforcement. Therefore, a short and easy-to-read compendium of key human rights and the relevant procedures available should be elaborated and distributed. This seems to be increasingly necessary as we become ever more dependent on the Internet for our daily lives.
The technological achievements of the Internet open up far reaching possibilities for creating a “big brother state”. In many ways, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” has become technically feasible. I do not want this to happen in reality. It would run counter to the confidence and trust in the Internet that we need. We should therefore update and reinforce the Council of Europe data protection convention to enable the individual to use the Internet without censorship and in accordance with moral standards. I subscribe to the demand that we should have a “maximum of rights and freedoms, subject to a minimum of restrictions” on the Internet.
The Internet can be used for many good purposes and, indeed, is an essential tool for the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. But we also know that there are people out there who log on in order to use it for perpetrating crimes – such as credit card fraud, the sexual exploitation of children or the preparation of terrorist acts. In this field, too, international cooperation is vital – I would argue that we should use relevant Council of Europe standards on a worldwide basis.
Finally, the Internet has become the place for withdrawing from the real world and sadly, the medium of choice, for mobbing and spreading hatred. More than any other group children and young people are in the danger zone. “Walled gardens” inside the Internet might be a way forward for the protection of young users, but after a certain age reality has to be faced. I wonder why many schools teach only technical ICT skills and do not focus more on imparting moral standards for the use of this technology. Therefore, I fully support the initiative by NGOs to use the Council of Europe framework to bring an ethical dimension to both, education and youth activities dealing with the Internet.
The importance of the Internet and of its uses keeps increasing and there seems nothing in sight that would stop this trend. On the contrary, the use of the Internet via mobile phones is becoming affordable and might double today’s number of 2 billion Internet users within a couple of years. The issues that you will discuss today and tomorrow ultimately deal with the question of what kind of society we want in the future. Unless we get the answers to Internet governance issues right, an open, democratic, inclusive society, based on human rights and the rule of law, seems to me unlikely.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you fruitful discussions and would like to invite Thorbjörn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to take the floor.