Columbia Global Freedom of Expression seeks to contribute to the development of an integrated and progressive jurisprudence and understanding on freedom of expression and information around the world. It maintains an extensive database of international case law. This is its newsletter dealing with recent developments in the field.
Community Highlights and Recent News
● Agnes Callamard, the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, presented the posthumous Courage Under Fire award to Jamal Khashoggi at the 2019 Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award Ceremony. In her presentation speech, she stressed that the award honors not only Jamal Khashoggi’s courage but also celebrates the courage of Hatice Cengiz, his fiance who continues to seek justice for his brutal murder.
● In “Human Rights in the Age of Platforms” scholars from across law and internet and media studies examine the human rights implications of today’s platform society. The contributors consider the “datafication” of society, including the economic model of data extraction and the conceptualization of privacy. They examine online advertising, content moderation, corporate storytelling around human rights, and other platform practices. Finally, they discuss the relationship between human rights law and private actors, addressing such issues as private companies’ human rights responsibilities and content regulation. The book was edited by Rikke Frank Jørgensen with a foreword by David Kaye.
● Columbia Global Freedom of Expression experts Jacob Mchangama and Joelle Fiss published a new report, The Digital Berlin Wall: How Germany (Accidentally) Created a Prototype for Global Online Censorship. The report documents that at least 13 countries have adopted or proposed laws similar to Germany´s Network Enforcement Act which obliges social media platforms to remove illegal content within 24 hours or risk huge fines.
● At the end of last week, the Internet Society (ISOC) announced that it has sold the rights to the .org registry for an undisclosed sum to a private equity company called Ethos Capital. The decision shocked the internet industry, not least because the .org registry has always been operated on a non-profit basis and has actively marketed itself as such. The suffix “org” on an internet address – and there are over 10 million of them – has become synonymous with non-profit organizations.
Decisions this Week
|Sigifredo Fonseca González vs. Jael Johana Castro León
Decision Date: April 4, 2019
The Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that an individual’s freedom of expression was unlawfully restricted when she was forced to take down an allegedly defamatory Facebook post and to apologize. Jael Johana Castro León re-shared a Facebook post that accused Sigifredo Fonseca González of belonging to a corrupt cartel at the Santander University Hospital. Fonseca Gonzalez sued Castro León, arguing that she violated his fundamental rights to good name, honor, and privacy. After introducing and applying a five-part test to balance the competing rights to freedom of expression and privacy, the Constitutional Court reasoned that Castro León did not violate the rights of Fonseca González because she expressed an opinion that was of public interest and did not accuse Fonseca González of any specific wrongdoing.Uganda
Kyagulanyi v. Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander
Decision Date: May 10. 2019
The Kampala High Court in Uganda dismissed an application from a musician-turned-politician seeking a declaration that his right to freedom of expression had been infringed by the cancellation of a series of concerts. The politician planned to play a series of concerts in the fall of 2017, but the police cancelled them on the ground that a previous concert was marred by violence. The Court determined that the politician organized the concert for entertainment purposes and failed to prove that he planned to express specific views at his concert. Thus, he did not clearly show that he was being persecuted for his speech. The Court added that commercial gatherings, such as the one at hand, do not enjoy protection under freedom of assembly.
The Frontier of Expression: Russia and Central Asia
● Facebook and Google’s omnipresent surveillance of billions of people poses a systemic threat to human rights, Amnesty International warned in a new report as it called for a radical transformation of the tech giants’ core business model.
● A new report by the Open Technology Fund, The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism In Egypt: Digital Expression Arrests From 2011-2019, investigates the methods used by state authorities to surveil and target online activity in Egypt and examines the laws which are used to legitimize the worst human rights crackdown in the country’s history.
● The anonymous organisation Unknown Fund has announced that it intends to invest and donate $75 million in bitcoin to startups which directly or indirectly support the idea of anonymity.
This newsletter is reproduced with the permission of Global Freedom of Expression. For an archive of previous newsletters, see here.