International System of Protection

International System of Protection

The resources on this Module highlight the many commonalities between the United Nations system of protection for freedom of expression, and the regional systems in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Readings focus on their birth and development, their main treaties and freedom of expression provisions, and their corresponding instruments of enforcement and accountability, primarily Courts.

8 items found, showing 1 - 8
Author: Itxaso Domínguez de Olazábal
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7amleh, the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, published a study on Palestinian digital rights and the global impact of EU legislation - the Digital Services Act (DSA) in particular. The study tackles the following questions: How does the DSA’s approach to hate speech and other harmful content affect the digital rights of Palestinians and advocates for Palestinian rights? What are the potential consequences of the DSA’s politicization by the EU in the Israel/Palestine context? What are the advantages and risks of the DSA for Palestinian digital rights? The study explains the DSA, interrogates its relevance for Palestinian digital rights, includes a case study of events that “​​worryingly point to the DSA having been applied with bias” in the timeframe starting from October 7, and concludes with recommendations addressing the EU institutions, civil society, and online platforms.

Itxaso Domínguez de Olazábal. Position Paper on Palestinian Digital Rights and the Extraterritorial Impact of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA). 7amleh, April 2024.


Author: Council of Europe
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The Recommendation places itself among the current rules and procedures for addressing hate speech as well as in the larger context of European and international human rights law. It draws on the substantial body of case law from the European Court of Human Rights. The recommendation offers states and a variety of various players, including politicians and political parties, internet platforms, media, and civil society organizations, useful advice as well as a complete legal and policy framework to address hate speech, both offline and online.

Council of Europe. Committee of Ministers. CM/Rec (2022) 16. Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States on combating hate speech. 20 May 2022. 

Author: ARTICLE 19
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This 2021 Policy Paper published by ARTICLE 19 provides a detailed overview of the potential harms of Biometric technologies, including violations of the fundamental rights of privacy and freedom of expression as well as “data protection, human dignity, non-discrimination, self-determination and the right to access an effective remedy.” Further, abuse of these technologies by law enforcement and other state bodies can result in discrimination from profiling of marginalized and at-risk communities. The Policy Brief provides case studies on the use of facial recognition and emotion recognition technologies, and offers a broad range of recommendations. Based on the gathered evidence, ARTICLE 19 calls for “a moratorium on the development and deployment of all biometric technologies until vital human rights safeguards are in place.” 


ARTICLE 19. When bodies become data: Biometric technologies and freedom of expression. April 2021.

Author: Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
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The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) published guidelines tailored for the use of digital platforms at the time of elections. They aim to both mobilize the platforms’ positive potential and combat the spread of disinformation, hate speech, and online gender-based violence, among other possible harms. The Guidelines were adopted by the General Assembly of the Association of African Election Authorities in Cotonou, Benin, on 3 November 2023 and represent a “crucial normative framework” for the continent. Emphasizing obligations to preserve the rights to equality and non-discrimination, free and fair elections, freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of assembly, rights to privacy and remedy, protection of women’s rights, as well as ethnic, cultural, and linguistic rights, the Guidelines directly address states, election management bodies, social media, regulatory bodies, political parties, “African traditional institutions and religious bodies,” civil society, and journalists. The Guidelines are in Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese.

Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). 2024 the Year of Democracy: African Electoral Authorities Release Guidelines for Social Media Use. Kampala: CIPESA, 2024.

Author: UNESCO
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“The surge of access to information (ATI) laws reached 126 worldwide by the end of 2019. This Report explores recent developments in regard to the laws and their implementation, covering evolving international standards, models for implementation bodies, and new digital challenges and opportunities. In order to understand the drivers of change, the Report examines trendsetting activities within UNESCO, the Sustainable Development Agenda, the Universal Periodic Review, the Open Government Partnership, and the standard-setting work of regional intergovernmental organizations and national oversight bodies. The research also draws on unique UNESCO surveys and analysis of Voluntary National Reports presented at the United Nation’s High-level Political Forum. The research shows how Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 offers a new opportunity for advancing ATI.”

UNESCO. “Access to Information: A New Promise for Sustainable Development”. 2019.

Author: Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) presents its submission to the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI). The IE SOGI’s thematic report for the UN Human Rights Council’s 56th session will explore how freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association rights “relate to protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The APC submission focuses on the digital sphere and includes inputs from civil society activists and organizations that review the following countries: India, Paraguay, Uganda, Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa, Indonesia, and Türkiye. Underscoring that “violence and discrimination initiated offline can be aggravated and perpetrated online, and vice versa,” the submission concludes with recommendations to governments and tech companies.

Association for Progressive Communications (APC). APC submission on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in relation to the human rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. February 2024.

Author: Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Agnès Callamard
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In this segment of the MOOC 'Freedom of Expression in the Age of Globalization' created by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Agnès Callamard reviews the international context which presided over the development and adoption of the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the various debates which characterized the drafting of the provision related to freedom of expression. Callamard also explains two additional institutions which have made the ICCPR a particularly important tool for the protection of human rights and freedom of expression in particular.

Author: OSCE
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“Artificial intelligence (AI) – a broad concept used in policy discussions to refer to many different types of technology – greatly influences and impacts the way people seek, receive, impart and access information and how they exercise their right to freedom of expression in the digital ecosystem. If implemented responsibly, AI can benefit societies, but there is a genuine risk that its deployment by States and private companies, such as internet intermediaries, could have a deteriorating effect on human rights… [This Paper] maps the key challenges to freedom of expression presented by AI across the OSCE region, in light of international and regional standards on human rights and AI. It identifies a number of overarching problems that AI poses to freedom of expression and human rights in general, in particular: (a.) The limited understanding of the implications for freedom of expression caused by AI, in particular machine learning; (b.) Lack of respect for freedom of expression in content moderation and curation; (c.) State and non-State actors circumventing due process and rule of law in AI-powered content moderation; (d.) Lack of transparency regarding the entire process of AI design, deployment and implementation; (e.) Lack of accountability and independent oversight over AI systems; and, (f.) Lack of effective remedies for violation of the right to freedom of expression in relation to AI. This Paper observes that these problems became more pronounced in the first months of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic incentivized States and the private sector to use AI even more, as part of measures introduced in response to the pandemic. A tendency to revert to technocratic solutions, including AI-powered tools, without adequate societal debate or democratic scrutiny was witnessed. Using four specific case studies (“security threats”; “hate speech”; media pluralism and diversity online; and the impact of AI-powered State surveillance on freedom of expression), this Paper shows how these problems manifest themselves. This Paper concludes that there is a need to further raise awareness, and improve understanding, of the impact of AI related to decision-making policies and practices on freedom of expression, next to having a more systematic overview of regional approaches and methodologies in the OSCE region. It provides a number of preliminary recommendations to OSCE participating States and internet intermediaries, to help ensure that freedom of expression and information are better protected when AI is deployed.”

OSCE. “Artificial Intelligence and Freedom of Expression”. 2020.