The right to freedom of expression is central for any democratic society
Among all fundamental freedoms, the right to freedom of expression is central for any democratic society. Its corollary, the free dissemination of information, allows the spread of ideas, which is also essential for democracy.
This right is protected by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression and this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas …”.
However, this freedom is not unlimited and exercising it involves duties and responsibilities. National authorities are therefore authorised to take specific measures to block, filter and take-down illegal and harmful content circulating on the Internet and other digital media, on the condition that these measures are necessary and prescribed by law.
These limitations concern, in particular, statements which pose a threat to national and public security, including incitement to terrorism, the protection of public health or morals – for example, child pornography content - or harming the reputation or interests of others.
The practices used by a state for limiting freedom of expression vary significantly from one country to another. The publication “Comparative study on blocking, filtering and take-down of illegal internet content”, based on the report of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, is a review of laws and regulations in this area among the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.