Ignoring continuous discussions about the state of internet filtering and censorship in their own countries as well as a multitude of other European countries, the Dutch and French Foreign Ministers have expressed concern over a ‘recent rise in internet censorship’, pointing the finger mainly at Iran.
They’ve come up with an initiative to set up an international code of conduct against internet censorship and are inviting other countries, international institutions, civil society organisations, IT companies, academics and human rights defenders to come to Paris in early summer to discuss a code of conduct.
The aims of this code of conduct are to give internet freedom a legal bases, enable monitoring of freedom of speech on the internet, provide assistance to cyber dissendents and restrict the export of internet filter and blocking technologies by internet companies.
Considering that the sophisticated electronic surveillance system that was used by the Iranian government to monitor the internet activities of citizens supporting opposition leaders, was developed and sold by two European companies (Nokia and Siemens), this move seems reasonable. Monitoring of freedom of speech on the Internet is done already by several non-profit organizations, most prominently by ‘Reporters without Borders‘ and in my opinion should stay a task of independent organizations not of states with political interests.
It will be interesting to see who is actually going to join France and the Netherlands in their pursuits and if their discussions will reflect upon internet filtering and censorship in Europe at all or if they are just pointing their finder elsewhere.