RSF’s recommendations on cyber-censorship

To combat cyber-censorship, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) asks:

Private-sector companies:

  • To improve their transparency reports and publish them systematically, and to publish the official requests they receive from governments to withdraw content or delete user accounts.
  • To respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN human rights conventions.

  • To respect the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and develop precise plans to implement them.

  • To adopt codes of ethics and effective traceability mechanisms for the technology they export.

  • To ban the export of surveillance technology to non-democratic and authoritarian countries and to accept that they have a duty to be vigilant and to identify threats to – and prevent serious violations of – human rights, fundamental freedoms and person security.

  • To apply the principles of “responsible contracts” developed by John Ruggie, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, under which companies are held partly responsible for the serious human rights violations that could result from their technology.


  • To treat unrestricted Internet access and guaranteed digital freedoms as fundamental rights.

  • To adopt laws guaranteeing digital freedoms, including the protection of privacy and personal data from intrusion by the police or intelligence services, and establish appropriate appeal mechanisms.

  • To ensure that communications surveillance measures adhere strictly to the principles of legality, need and proportionality, in accordance with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

  • To be more open and transparent about surveillance requests submitted to companies, including the number of requests, their legal basis and their purpose.

  • To bring their policies into line with those of the governments that best control technology exports and sanction companies that cooperate with authoritarian regimes.

The European Union:

  • To add unrestricted Internet access and guaranteed digital freedoms to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

  • In relations between EU members, with other countries and with international bodies such as the WTO, to treat Internet surveillance mechanisms as protectionist mechanisms and barriers to trade, and combat them as such.

  • To ensure that there are standardized and uniform procedures for monitoring and controlling surveillance technology and for sanctioning its misuse.

The United Nations

  • To reinforce the mandate of the UN Working Group on the issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, in particular, by allowing it to receive individual complaints and to investigate individual cases of human rights violations linked to businesses.
  • To consider drafting an international convention on Internet surveillance technology exports under which the exportation of this technology could be controlled and could be banned in the case of a substantial riskthat it could be used to commit or facilitate human rights violations.

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Updated on 14.03.2017