[IRPCoalition] [bestbits] free flow of information @ Netmundial - Civil Society major issues

Jeanette Hofmann jeanette at wzb.eu
Tue Apr 15 21:55:53 EEST 2014

Hi all,

yes, Matthias this case can be made. The problem with this terminology 
is that all sorts of other cases also can be made, for example that 
privacy regulation obstruct the free flow of information.

For those interested in this topic I would recommend a brief by Alberto 
Cerda and Carolina Rossini for Consumers International on Information 
Flow and Trade agreements. Here is short quote from  the study:

"The expression “free flow of information” is a complex topic that 
encompasses a great variety of issues,
political views and policies, and has been part of international 
rhetoric for many decades, varying from the
protection of cultural diversity in the 1960s to trade, cross-data flow 
and privacy starting in the 1980s and
1990s to access to knowledge, freedom of expression, and scientific data 
sharing more recently. These
issues intertwine across surveillance, human rights, e-commerce and the 
expansion of ICT based services,
international trade, and more.
The complexity of these issues almost guarantees a natural clash of 
views depending on which actor or
institution uses the phrase “free flow of information”. Those entities 
pushing for commerce see free flow as a
way to monetize the networks of networks we refer to as the Internet, 
while those pushing for human rights
see it as an avenue to enrich global civil society. (...) International 
trade policy has ironically taken advantage of the spaces created by the 
clash of
freedoms to create enclosure, prioritizing the causes of business built 
on the free flow of information,
while pushing for privacy frameworks that are only “liberal” in the 
sense of rights waived by individuals
rather than in the sense of creating positive individual rights to 
digital privacy."


In short, my point is that "free flow of information" isn't as innocent 
and unambiguously positive (anymore) as it sounds. Certain interest 
groups use this language in trade regulation to challenge data 
protection. This is why I argued against this wording in the human right 
section of the draft document.


Am 15.04.2014 18:15, schrieb Matthias C. Kettemann:
> I'm not sure I agree. I think the case can be made that "free flow of
> information" is an implied condition for everyone to seek, receive,
> impart information (Article 19 UDHR).  This argument is strengthened by
> the the language of Art. 19 (2) ICCPR ..... freedom "to seek, receive
> and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers,
> either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through
> any other media of his choice". That sounds very much like being
> premised upon the free flow of information. A UN resolution doesn't
> instantly change the character of a right. The UDHR is by and large
> customary law, the ICCPR signed by practically all states. Further, the
> free flow of information is an essential precondition to exercisizing
> FoE online - the 2011 and 2012 Special Rapporteur reports by Frank La
> Rue are helpful in explaining this. So: custom and treaty (and some
> recent explaining by the Special Rapporteur): You won't get much
> stronger commitments in international law.
> Kind regards
> Matthias
> On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 6:06 PM, Jeanette Hofmann <jeanette at wzb.eu
> <mailto:jeanette at wzb.eu>> wrote:
>     Hi Anne,
>     I have argued for integrating Human Rights language into the draft
>     document. "Free flow of information" is not part of any UN
>     resolution and thus not the same as the right to freedom of opinion
>     and expression. Free flow of information neither implies enforceable
>     rights nor does is it imply any obligations of governments. Language
>     is very important when it comes to human rights.
>     jeanette
>     Am 15.04.2014 16:33, schrieb Anne Jellema:
>         Jeanette, thanks - the example serves your purpose of
>         illustrating the
>         complexity of positioning  in the textual negotiations. On a
>         side note,
>         though, I'm surprised to hear you say that you have opposed free
>         flow of
>         information on grounds that it is not a human right. Article 19
>         of the
>         UDHR states that:
>         Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
>         this right
>         includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and */to
>         seek,
>         receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
>         regardless of frontiers/*.
>         Best
>         Anne
>         On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 3:46 PM, Jeanette Hofmann
>         <jeanette at wzb.eu <mailto:jeanette at wzb.eu>
>         <mailto:jeanette at wzb.eu <mailto:jeanette at wzb.eu>>> wrote:
>              Hi,
>              Am 15.04.2014 14:54, schrieb parminder:
>                  Not only net neutrality has been removed,
>              'free flow of information' which figured twice in the earlier
>              (leaked) draft has been removed from both places..
>              in my capacity as a HLMC member I have spoken up against
>         free flow
>              of information in the human rights section because free flow of
>              information is not a human right. Ironically, someone from the
>              business sector objected to removing this term from the
>         human rights
>              section.
>              I am reporting this to illustrate that the negotiation of
>         the text
>              hasn't always followed the distribution of power and
>         interest that
>              some on this list may assume. The draft document represents
>              victories and defeats on all sides.
>              jeanette
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> Dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard)
> Post-Doc Fellow | Cluster of Excellence „
> <http://www.normativeorders.net/de/organisation/mitarbeiter-a-z/person/442>Normative
> Orders
> <http://www.normativeorders.net/de/organisation/mitarbeiter-a-z/person/442>”
> <http://www.normativeorders.net/de/organisation/mitarbeiter-a-z/person/442>,
> University of Frankfurt/Main
> Lecturer | Institute of International Law and International Relations,
> University of Graz <http://voelkerrecht.uni-graz.at/en/>
> Research Affiliate | European Training and Research Centre for Human
> Rights and Democracy, University of Graz
> <http://trainingszentrum-menschenrechte.uni-graz.at/en/infos-fuer-studierende/>
> Exzellenzcluster "Normative Ordnungen", Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/Main
> EXC-8, Grüneburgplatz 1
> 60323 Frankfurt/Main, Deutschland
> E | matthias.kettemann at gmail.com <mailto:matthias.kettemann at gmail.com>
> T | 0049 176 817 50 920 (mobile, Germany)
> T | 0043 676 7017175 (mobile, Austria)
> T | 0049 69 798 31508 (office)
> Blog <http://internationallawandtheinternet.blogspot.com/> | SSRN
> <http://ssrn.com/author=1957909> | Google Scholar
> <http://scholar.google.ch/citations?user=8jRGt2QAAAAJ> | my new book
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> Recent publications:
> Freedom of Expression and the Internet (2014, co-author)
> <https://book.coe.int/eur/en/human-rights-and-democracy/5810-freedom-of-expression-and-the-internet.html>
> Bestand und Wandel im Völkerrecht [Continuity and Change in Int'l Law]
> (2014, co-editor)
> <http://www.peterlang.com/index.cfm?event=cmp.ccc.seitenstruktur.detailseiten&seitentyp=produkt&pk=77956&concordeid=264568>
> Netzpolitik in Österreich [Net Politics in Austria] (2013, co-editor)
> <http://publikationen.collaboratory.at/mri/>
> Grenzen im Völkerrecht [Limits of International Law] (2013, editor)
> <http://www.jan-sramek-verlag.at/Buchdetails.455.0.html?buchID=139&cHash=e856a8a762>
> The Future of Individuals in International Law (2013)
> <http://www.elevenpub.com/law/catalogus/the-future-of-individuals-in-international-law>
> European Yearbook on Human Rights 2013 (2013, co-editor)
> <http://www.nwv.at/recht/verfassungsrecht/1019_european_yearbook_on_human_rights_2013/>

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