On the occasion of Human Rights Day on 10th December 2011, the Council of the European Union weighed in on the debate over internet freedom, joining calls from world leaders, at a Google hosted meeting, that co-ordinated activism on the web should go unrestricted.
The High Representative of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, said in a statement:
“On Human Rights Day, the European Union pays tribute to human rights defenders who dedicate their lives to promoting and protecting people’s fundamental rights around the world. This year, Human Rights Day focuses on the work of human rights defenders, and on how social media can be used to promote and underpin change.
“The Arab spring vividly reminds us that human rights are universal and that people everywhere aspire to live in dignity and freedom. In 2011, thousands of people decided that the time had come to claim their rights. Social media carried their message, and allowed activists and individuals to break free from their isolation, to disseminate ideas and to denounce oppression.
“Use of social media to promote human rights should not be restricted by governments. The EU has repeatedly and publicly condemned restrictions on freedom of expression and on access to the internet, as well as the arrest of bloggers, witnessed in many countries around the world.”
Freedom on the web is currently the subject of much debate with some commentators pointing out that freedom of expression is only one form of freedom on the web. Mounting concerns over the systematic collection and usage of data on individual users is matching the debate over the right to post political comments or co-ordinate meetings through social networks.