"justify">Concerns at the bill’s over-regulation of social media has been expressed by the European Commissioner for the Single Digital Market, who has encouraged self-regulation.
Before identifying the concerns raised by the bill, I want to note that article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Germany on
17 December 1973, protects everyone’s right to maintain an opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers and through any media. Under article 19(3) of the ICCPR, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression must be “provided by law”, and necessary for “the rights or reputations of others” or “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health and morals”. Under Article 20, States are obligated to prohibit by law “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”, but such restrictions must meet the strict conditions of article 19(3) (CCPR/C//GC/34). Permissible restrictions on the internet are the same as those offline (A/HRC/17/27).
Under the article 19(3) requirement of legality, it is not enough that restrictions on freedom of expression are formally enacted as domestic laws or regulations. Instead, restrictions must also be sufficiently clear, accessible and predictable (CCPR/C/GC/34). The requirement of necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of restrictions, with the aim of ensuring that restrictions “target a specific objective and do not unduly intrude upon the rights of targeted persons”. The ensuing interference with third parties’ rights must also be limited and justified in the interest supported by the intrusion (A/HRC/29/32). Finally, the restrictions must be “the least intrusive instrument among those which might achieve the desired result” (CCPR/C/GC/34). The prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence under article 20(2) of the ICCPR must be read in light of the strict requirements of article 19(3).
In addition, article 17(1) of the ICCPR provides for the rights of individuals to be protected, inter alia, against unlawful or arbitrary interference with their privacy and correspondence, and provides that everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference. “Unlawful” means that no interference may take place except in cases envisaged by the law which in itself must comply with provisions, aims and objectives of the ICCPR. Articles 17 and 19 of the ICCPR are closely connected, as the right to privacy is often understood to be an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression (A/RES/68/167, A/HRC/27/37, A/HRC/23/40, A/HRC/29/32).
While it is recognized that business enterprises also have a responsibility to respect human rights, censorship measures should not be delegated to private entities (A/HRC/17/31). States should not require the private sector to take steps that unnecessarily or disproportionately interfere with freedom of expression, whether through laws, policies or extralegal means (A/HRC/32/38).
The full texts of the human rights instruments and standards outlined above are available at www.ohchr.org and can be provided upon request.
In light of the above standards of international human rights law, I would like to present the following observations and concerns raised by sections 3 and 4 of the bill:
Section 3: Handling Complaints about Violating Content