European Human Rights Court: Internet Restriction Violates Freedom Of ExpressionPublished on 20 December 2012 @ 5:43 pm
Intellectual Property Watch
By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled this week that “restriction of Internet access without a strict legal framework regulating the scope of the ban and affording the guarantee of judicial review to prevent possible abuses amounts to a violation of freedom of expression.”
The 18 December decision is here [pdf].
The case was related to the undifferentiated blocking of Google sites for users in Turkey. It was filed by 29-year-old Ahmet Yildrim whose own Google site containing academic content became inaccessible even for himself after the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) unequivocally blocked all Google sites when executing an order to block access to one Google site being charged for “insulting the memory of Atatürk.”
The TIB had argued that blocking access to Google sites all together was the only way to execute the blocking order against the site in question. Yet “there was no evidence that Google Sites had been informed that it was hosting content held to be illegal, or that it had refused to comply with an interim measure concerning a site that was the subject of pending criminal proceedings,” the court stated.
Turkish law No. 5651 in the court’s opinion contained no provision for wholesale blocking or blocking of an entire internet domain. In a letter to the court, Yildrim confirmed that his site became inaccessible in June 2009 and still was in April 2012, “even though, as far as he was aware, the criminal proceedings against the owner of the other site had been discontinued because it was impossible to determine the identity and address of the accused, who lived abroad.”
Maritje Schaake, member of the European Parliament and rapporteur for the recently passed EU Digital Freedom strategy, welcomed the ruling, which she said was confirmation “that the internet and unrestricted access thereto are essential for freedom of expression and that restrictions can only be justified in exceptional circumstances after sufficient judicial oversight.”