6 December, 2014

Guide to human rights for Internet users

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Category: Council of Europe, European Action Week, Human Rights, Internet
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Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States

 1.      Council of Europe member States has the obligation to secure for everyone within their jurisdiction the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights

This obligation is also valid in the context of Internet use. Other Council of Europe conventions and instruments, which deal with the protection of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, the right to freedom of assembly, protection from cybercrime and of the right to private life and to the protection of personal data, are also applicable. 

 1.       Human rights and related standards, prevail over the general terms and conditions imposed on Internet users by any private sector actor

 2.      The Internet has a public service value. People, communities, public authorities and private entities rely on the Internet for their activities and have a legitimate expectation that its services are accessible. No one should be subjected to unlawful interference with the exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms when using the Internet.

3.    Users should receive support to understand and effectively exercise their human rights online when their rights and freedoms have been restricted or interfered with. Users should be empowered to use the Internet to participate in democratic life.

4.    To ensure that existing human rights and fundamental freedoms apply equally offline and online, the Committee of Ministers recommends that member State.

  • Actively promote the Guide to human rights for Internet users
  • Assess, regularly review, and remove restrictions regarding the exercise of rights and freedoms on the Internet,
  • Ensure that Internet users have access to effective remedies when their rights and freedoms have been restricted or when they believe that their rights have been violated.
  • Promote co-ordination, with regard to the standards and procedures which have an impact on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the Internet;
  • Encourage the private sector to respect and disseminate the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework”. As well as the civil society which should be encourage to support its application (5.6)

logo2This guide is a tool for you, the Internet user, to learn about your human rights online, their possible limitations, and available remedies for such limitations.  It provides you with information about what rights and freedoms mean in practice in the context of the Internet, how they can be relied and acted upon, as well as how to access remedies. It is based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other Council of Europe conventions and instruments that deal with various aspects of human rights protection. All Council of Europe member States have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the rights and freedoms contained in the instruments that they have ratified. The guide builds on existing human rights standards and enforcement mechanisms.1

It covers different aspects of Human Rights Online

  1. Access and non-discrimination  (You must not be discriminated against on any grounds )
  2. Freedom of expression and information (You have the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of your                 choice, without interference and regardless of frontiers.)
  3. Assembly, association and participation (You have the right to peacefully assemble and associate with others using the Internet.)
  4. Privacy and data protection (You have the right to private and family life on the Internet which includes the protection of your personal data and respect for the confidentiality of your correspondence and communications.)
  5. Education and literacy (You have the right to education, including access to knowledge.)
  6. Children and young people (As a child or young person, you have all the rights and freedoms outlined in this guide. In particular, because of your age, you are entitled to special protection and guidance when using the Internet.)

Effective remedies: How to

You have the right to an effective remedy when your human rights and fundamental freedoms are restricted or violated.

  • Why: to obtain a remedy, you should not necessarily have to pursue legal action straight away. The avenues for seeking remedies should be available, known, accessible, affordable and capable of providing appropriate redress.
  • To whom: Effective remedies can be obtained directly from Internet service providers, public authorities and/or national human rights institutions.
  • To remember: you have the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time by an  independent and impartial court; you also have the right to an individual application to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all available domestic remedies.

1 This guide is part of a recommendation adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the 47 member States of the Council of Europe. More detailed information explaining the guide can be found in the explanatory memorandum to the recommendation




FIND YOUR RESOURCES! Click on the links for further details.

Guide to human rights for Internet users.

Internet Users Rights  

The European Court of Human Rights

Fact Sheet from the Court of Human Rights



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