European Parliament endorses digital freedom strategy
The European Parliament adopted Dec. 11 a first-ever Digital Freedom Strategy to guide European Union foreign policy. As the world's largest trading block, the parliament says it's now put digital freedom on the EU political agenda and that it intends to leverage economic power to promote and protect uncensored access to the web globally.
Among other measures, the strategy (.pdf) calls on the EU to codify the principle of net neutrality and provide political support to European companies forced by third country governments to take down online content. The makes the EU's trade and association agreements, development programs and accession negotiations conditional on respect for digital freedoms.
It calls for the EU to halt the export of technologies used by authoritarian regimes to track and trace human rights activists, journalists and dissidents.
The strategy also states that collected digital evidence (smartphone pictures and clips of human rights violations) should be admissible in court proceedings.
Digital freedoms "are fundamental rights which deserve equal protection as traditional human rights," said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament who acted as rapporteur (key sponsor) for adoption of the strategy, in a statement on her website.
Greg Slabodkin is a freelance reporter.
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