Right to Information

Right to Information and Transparency

The resources on this Module explore the nature and extent of the right to information.The readings include standards on the right to access government held information, open court and open parliament.

3 items found, showing 1 - 3

Open Parliament

Author: Susan Benesch
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“Private social media companies regulate much more speech than any government does, and their platforms are being used to bring about serious harm. Yet companies govern largely on their own, and in secret. To correct this, advocates have proposed that companies follow international human-rights law. That law–by far the world’s best-known rules for governing speech–could improve regulation itself, and would also allow for better transparency and oversight on behalf of billions of people who use social media. This paper argues that for this to work, the law must first be interpreted to clarify how (and whether) each of its provisions are suited to this new purpose. For example, the law provides that speech may be restricted to protect national security, as one of only five permissible bases for limiting speech. Governments, for which international law was written, may regulate on that basis, but not private companies which have no national security to protect. To fill some of the gap, the paper explains and interprets the most relevant provisions of international human-rights law–Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which pertain to freedom of expression–for use by social media companies, in novel detail.”

Benesch, Susan. “But Facebook’s Not a Country: How to Interpret Human Rights Law for Social Media Companies.” Yale Journal on Regulation Online Bulletin 38 (2020): 86-111.

Author: Jack M. Balkin
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Balkin argues that the conception of free speech which characterized the 20th century is inadequate to protect free speech and expression in the 21st century due to the transition from a dualistic model of speech regulation with two players to a pluralist model of speech regulation with multiple players. In this essay, he frames free speech as operationalizing as a triangle, with States and the European Union at one end, internet-infrastructure companies at another, and different kinds of speakers at the third end. He analyses the three problems which this triangle creates: 1) new-school speech regulation which produces collateral censorship and digital prior restraint, 2) the absence of due process and transparency in the manner in which privatized bureaucracies govern end-users, resulting in abuse and arbitrariness, and 3) the vulnerability of end-users to digital surveillance and manipulation. He discusses the ways in which States should or should not regulate the digital ecosystem in order to align with the values of freedom of speech and proposes reforms which can be implemented by Governments in consonance with the Constitutional guarantees of free speech and the press as long as they are properly-designed. These reforms are: 1) structural regulation with the aims of promoting competition and preventing discrimination by basic internet services and payment systems, 2) guaranteeing curatorial due process, and 3) the treatment of social media companies as information fiduciaries towards their end-users, who are responsible for upholding duties of trustworthiness and good faith.

Balkin, Jack M. “Free Speech is a Triangle.” Columbia Law Review 118, no. 7 (2018): 2011-2056.

Author: Mark Pearson
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This interview, conducted by Mark Pearson with Dirk Voorhoof, provides insights into the manner in which freedom of expression operates internationally as well as regionally. Pearson and Voorhoof discuss the different levels of and multiple approaches to free expression and their breaches by training on them a comparative lens. Voorhoof’s responses focus on the jurisprudence of the ECtHR, in particular, to highlight the limitative nature of the cases in which the freedom of expression can be restricted, arguing that such jurisprudence urges States to upgrade their freedom of expression, particularly for the media and journalists. They also delve into the explicit recognition of the right to information and its pivotal nature as a tool in democracies, which enables actors such as the media and CSOs to fulfil their duties as public watchdogs.

Pearson, Mark. "Media Law: Free Expression." 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpQDCy_d5rE.