ICC policy statement on the freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet
This ICC statement is an initial step to compile existing recommendations on the freedom of expression on the Internet with a view to building upon them as part of ICC’s on-going work on these important issues.
For many years, ICC has been demonstrating its strong support of human rights. ICC was closely involved in the development of the UN “Protect Respect and Remedy” Framework, whose underlying philosophy clearly differentiates the State duty to protect human rights and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.
In addition, in the past, ICC has been promoting the freedom of speech, e.g. in its ICC policy statement on the freedom of commercial speech. The Commission on the Digital Economy applauds the Working Group on Business and Human Rights of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), an affiliate of the Danish Institute of Human Rights, that has been undertaking work in the human rights and business area, such as promoting capacity building, strategic collaboration, advocacy and outreach by NHRIs in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The UN itself has recently turned its attention to the issue of freedom of expression and the Internet. In light of these recent developments, ICC finds it appropriate to limit its comments in this policy statement to the issue of the freedom of expression on the Internet and the importance of the free flow of information. (The ‘free flow of information’ is understood in this statement as not including information illegally divulged, transmitted or reproduced.)
• Business strongly supports the freedom of expression and free flow of information in a manner that respects the rights of others and the rule of law. ICC strongly recommends that governments adopt the principle that the offline laws and rules apply online and on the Internet.
• The freedom of expression to be fully exercised requires the free flow of information, also over the Internet.
• Limitations to the right to free expression should only be for legitimate public policy objectives, such as protecting the rights of others and the rule of law consistent with international treaties, and should be tailored to meet such objectives, and decisions on Internet governance and policy issues on all levels should be consistent with international human rights.