The future of the internet is at stake as major governance decisions are made. The battle lines are being drawn between those who see freedom of expression as a fundamental human right in the digital world as much as it is offline, and those that consider the control of information and ideas as a priority for the state.
Freedom of expression – the freedom to send, receive, share and access information and ideas (in any media) – is a core right, vital to the exercise of most other rights; if it is compromised online it will undermine free expression and other rights offline as well as in the digital world. Yet we see a rapid increase in the number of governments – some authoritarian, but some democratic – stepping in to increase their control of the internet. We also see a number of corporations (web hosts, ISPs, telecom companies and others) sometimes working with governments when they engage in censorship, surveillance or other harmful interventions in the internet, and/or acting as increasingly powerful private actors determining the boundaries of our scope for free expression (as captured in the phrase ‘the privatisation of censorship’).