Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)16 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet


(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 November 2007
at the 1010th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)


The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage;

Recalling that States Parties to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights - ETS No. 5) have undertaken to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the human rights and fundamental freedoms defined in the Convention;

Mindful of the particular roles and responsibilities of member states in securing the protection and promotion of these rights and freedoms;

Noting that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can, on the one hand, significantly enhance the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the right to freedom of expression, information and communication, the right to education, the right to assembly, and the right to free elections, while, on the other hand, they may adversely affect these and other rights, freedoms and values, such as the respect for private life and secrecy of correspondence, the dignity of human beings and even the right to life;

Concerned by the risk of harm posed by content and communications on the Internet and other ICTs as well as by the threats of cybercrime to the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and recalling in this regard the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185) and its Additional Protocol concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems (ETS No. 189) and the specific provisions in the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201);

Aware that communication using new information and communication technologies and services must respect the right to privacy as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and by the 1981 Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108), and as elaborated by Recommendation No. R (99) 5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of privacy on the Internet;

Noting that the outcome documents of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) (Geneva 2003 - Tunis 2005) recognise the right for everyone to benefit from the information society and reaffirmed the desire and commitment of participating states to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society, respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development;

Convinced that access to and the capacity and ability to use the Internet should be regarded as indispensable for the full exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the information society;

Recalling the 2003 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace, which calls on member states and international organisations to promote access to the Internet as a service of public interest;

Recalling the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which states that freedom of thought, expression and information, as well as diversity of the media, enable cultural expressions to flourish within societies, and which calls on Parties to encourage individuals and social groups to create, produce, disseminate, distribute and have access to their own cultural expressions;

Aware that the media landscape is rapidly changing and that the Internet is playing an increasingly important role in providing and promoting diverse sources of information to the public, including user-generated content;

Noting that our societies are rapidly moving into a new phase of development, towards a ubiquitous information society, and therefore that the Internet constitutes a new pervasive social and public space which should have an ethical dimension, which should foster justice, dignity and respect for the human being and which should be based on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law;

Recalling the currently accepted working definition of Internet governance, as the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet;

Convinced therefore that the governance of the Internet should be people-centred and pursue public policy goals which protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law on the Internet and other ICTs;

Aware of the public service value of the Internet, understood as people’s significant reliance on the Internet as an essential tool for their everyday activities (communication, information, knowledge, commercial transactions) and the resulting legitimate expectation that Internet services be accessible and affordable, secure, reliable and ongoing;

Firmly convinced that the Internet and other ICT services have high public service value in that they serve to promote the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all who use them, and that their protection should be a priority with regard to the governance of the Internet,

Recommends that, having regard to the guidelines in the appendix to this recommendation, the governments of member states, in co-operation, where appropriate, with all relevant stakeholders, take all necessary measures to promote the public service value of the Internet by:

- upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law on the Internet and promoting social cohesion, respect for cultural diversity and trust between individuals and between peoples in the use of ICTs, and in particular, the Internet;

- elaborating and delineating the boundaries of the roles and responsibilities of all key stakeholders within a clear legal framework, using complementary regulatory frameworks;

- encouraging the private sector to acknowledge and familiarise itself with its evolving ethical roles and responsibilities, and to co-operate in reviewing and, where necessary, adjusting its key actions and decisions which may impact on individual rights and freedoms;

- encouraging in this regard the private sector to develop, where appropriate and in co-operation with other stakeholders, new forms of open and transparent self- and co-regulation on the basis of which key actors can be held accountable;

- encouraging the private sector to contribute to achieving the goals set out in this recommendation and developing public policies to supplement the operation of market forces where these are insufficient;

- bringing this recommendation to the attention of all relevant stakeholders, in particular the private sector and civil society, so that all necessary measures are taken to contribute to the implementation of its objectives.

Appendix to the recommendation

I. Human rights and democracy

Human rights

Member states should adopt or develop policies to preserve and, whenever possible, enhance the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law in the information society. In this regard, particular attention should be paid to:

- the right to freedom of expression, information and communication on the Internet and via other ICTs promoted, inter alia, by ensuring access to them;

- the need to ensure that there are no restrictions to the abovementioned right (for example in the form of censorship) other than to the extent permitted by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights;

- the right to private life and private correspondence on the Internet and in the use of other ICTs, including the respect for the will of users not to disclose their identity, promoted by encouraging individual users and Internet service and content providers to share the responsibility for this;

- the right to education, including media and information literacy;

- the fundamental values of pluralism, cultural and linguistic diversity, and non-discriminatory access to different means of communication via the Internet and other ICTs;

- the dignity and integrity of the human being with regard to the trafficking of human beings carried out using ICTs and by signing and ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197);

- the right to the presumption of innocence, which should be respected in the digital environment, and the right to a fair trial and the principle according to which there should be no punishment without law, which should be upheld by developing and encouraging legal, and also self- and co-regulatory frameworks for journalists and media service providers as concerns the reporting on court proceedings;

- the freedom for all groups in society to participate in ICT-assisted assemblies and other forms of associative life, subject to no other restrictions than those provided for by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights;

- the right to property, including intellectual property rights, subject to the right of the state to limit the use of property in accordance with the general interest as provided by Article 1 of The Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 9).


Member states should develop and implement strategies for e-democracy, e-participation and e-government that make effective use of ICTs in democratic process and debate, in relationships between public authorities and civil society, and in the provision of public services as part of an integrated approach that makes full and appropriate use of a number of communication channels, both online and offline. In particular, e-democracy and e-governance should uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law by:

- strengthening the participation, initiative and involvement of citizens in national, regional and local public life and in decision-making processes, thereby contributing to more dynamic, inclusive and direct forms of democracy, genuine public debate, better legislation and active scrutiny of the decision-making processes;

- improving public administration and services by making them more accessible (inter alia through access to official documents), responsive, user-oriented, transparent, efficient and cost-effective, thus contributing to the economic and cultural vitality of society.

Member states should, where appropriate, consider introducing only e-voting systems which are secure, reliable, efficient, technically robust, open to independent verification and easily accessible to voters, in line with Recommendation Rec(2004)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting.

Member states should encourage the use of ICTs (including online forums, weblogs, political chats, instant messaging and other forms of citizen-to-citizen communication) by citizens, non-governmental organisations and political parties to engage in democratic deliberations, e-activism and e-campaigning, put forward their concerns, ideas and initiatives, promote dialogue and deliberation with representatives and government, and to scrutinise officials and politicians in matters of public interest.

Member states should use the Internet and other ICTs in conjunction with other channels of communication to formulate and implement policies for education for democratic citizenship to enable individuals to be active and responsible citizens throughout their lives, to respect the rights of others and to contribute to the defence and development of democratic societies and cultures.

Member states should promote public discussion on the responsibilities of private actors, such as Internet service providers, content providers and users, and encourage them - in the interests of the democratic process and debate and the protection of the rights of others - to take self-regulatory and other measures to optimise the quality and reliability of information on the Internet and to promote the exercise of professional responsibility, in particular with regard to the establishment, compliance with, and monitoring of the observance of codes of conduct.

II. Access

Member states should develop, in co-operation with the private sector and civil society, strategies which promote sustainable economic growth via competitive market structures in order to stimulate investment, particularly from local capital, into critical Internet resources and ICTs, especially in areas with a low communication and information infrastructure, with particular reference to:

- developing strategies which promote affordable access to ICT infrastructure, including the Internet;

- promoting technical interoperability, open standards and cultural diversity in ICT policy covering telecommunications, broadcasting and the Internet;

- promoting a diversity of software models, including proprietary, free and open source software;

- promoting affordable access to the Internet for individuals, irrespective of their age, gender, ethnic or social origin, including the following persons and groups of persons:

a. those on low incomes;

b. those in rural and geographically remote areas; and

c. those with special needs (for example, disabled persons), bearing in mind the importance of design and application, affordability, the need to raise awareness among these persons and groups, the appropriateness and attractiveness of Internet access and services as well as their adaptability and compatibility;

- promoting a minimum number of Internet access points and ICT services on the premises of public authorities and, where appropriate, in other public places, in line with Recommendation No. R (99) 14 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on universal community service concerning new communication services;

- encouraging, where practicable, public administrations, educational institutions and private owners of access facilities to new communication and information services to enable the general public to use these facilities;

- promoting the integration of ICTs into education and promoting media and information literacy and training in formal and non-formal education sectors for children and adults in order to:

a. empower them to use media technologies effectively to create, access, store, retrieve and share content to meet their individual and community needs and interests;

b. encourage them to exercise their democratic rights and civic responsibilities effectively;

c. encourage them to make informed choices when using the Internet and other ICTs by using and referring to diverse media forms and content from different cultural and institutional sources; understanding how and why media content is produced; critically analysing the techniques, language and conventions used by the media and the messages they convey; and identifying media content and services that may be unsolicited, offensive or harmful.

III. Openness

Member states should affirm freedom of expression and the free circulation of information on the Internet, balancing them, where necessary, with other legitimate rights and interests, in accordance with Article 10, paragraph 2, of the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, by:

- promoting the active participation of the public in using, and contributing content to, the Internet and other ICTs;

- promoting freedom of communication and creation on the Internet, regardless of frontiers, in particular by:

a. not subjecting individuals to any licensing or other requirements having a similar effect, nor any general blocking or filtering measures by public authorities, or restrictions that go further than those applied to other means of content delivery;

b. facilitating, where appropriate,-re-users”, meaning those wishing to exploit existing digital content resources in order to create future content or services in a way that is compatible with respect for intellectual property rights;

c. promoting an open offer of services and accessible, usable and exploitable content via the Internet which caters to the different needs of users and social groups, in particular by:

- allowing service providers to operate in a regulatory framework which guarantees them non-discriminatory access to national and international telecommunication networks;

- increasing the provision and transparency of their online services to citizens and businesses;

- engaging with the public, where appropriate, through user-generated communities rather than official websites;

- encouraging, where appropriate, the re-use of public data by non-commercial users, so as to allow every individual access to public information, facilitating their participation in public life and democratic processes;

- promoting public domain information accessibility via the Internet which includes government documents, allowing all persons to participate in the process of government; information about personal data retained by public entities; scientific and historical data; information on the state of technology, allowing the public to consider how the information society might guard against information warfare and other threats to human rights; creative works that are part of a shared cultural base, allowing persons to participate actively in their community and cultural history;

- adapting and extending the remit of public service media, in line with Recommendation Rec(2007)3 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the remit of public service media in the information society, so as to cover the Internet and other new communication services and so that both generalist and specialised contents and services can be offered, as well as distinct personalised interactive and on-demand services.

IV. Diversity

Member states are encouraged to ensure that Internet and ICT content is contributed by all regions, countries and communities so as to ensure over time representation of all peoples, nations, cultures and languages, in particular by:

- encouraging and promoting the growth of national or local cultural industries, especially in the field of digital content production, including that undertaken by public service media, where necessary crossing linguistic and cultural barriers (including all potential content creators and other stakeholders), in order to encourage linguistic diversity and artistic expression on the Internet and other new communication services. This should

apply also to educational, cultural, scientific, scholarly and other content which may not be commercially viable in accordance with the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions;

- developing strategies and policies and creating appropriate legal and institutional frameworks to preserve the digital heritage of lasting cultural, scientific, or other values, in co-operation with holders of copyright and neighbouring rights, and other legitimate stakeholders in order, where appropriate, to set common standards and ensure compatibility and share resources. In this regard, access to legally deposited digital heritage materials, within reasonable restrictions, should also be assured;

- developing a culture of participation and involvement, inter alia by providing for the creation, modification and remixing of interactive content and the transformation of consumers into active communicators and creators of content;

- promoting mechanisms for the production and distribution of user- and community-generated content (thereby facilitating online communities), inter alia by encouraging public service media to use such content and co-operate with such communities;

- encouraging the creation and processing of and access to educational, cultural and scientific content in digital form, so as to ensure that all cultures can express themselves and have access to the Internet in all languages, including indigenous ones;

- encouraging capacity building for the production of local and indigenous content on the Internet;

- encouraging the multilingualisation of the Internet so that everyone can use it in their own language.

V. Security

Member states should engage in international legal co-operation as a means of developing and strengthening security on the Internet and observance of international law, in particular by:

- signing and ratifying the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185) and its Additional Protocol concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems (ETS No. 189), in order to be able to implement a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cybercrime, to co-operate for the purposes of investigations or proceedings concerning criminal offences related to computer systems and data, or for the collection of evidence in electronic form of a criminal offence, and to resolve jurisdictional problems in cases of crimes committed in other states parties to the convention;

- promoting the signature and ratification of the Convention and Additional Protocol by non-member states as well as their use as model cybercrime legislation at the national level, so that a worldwide interoperable system and framework for global co-operation in fighting cybercrime among interested countries emerges;

- enhancing network and information security to enable them to resist actions that compromise their stability as well as the availability, authenticity, integrity and confidentiality of stored or transmitted data and the related services offered by or accessible via these networks and systems;

- empowering stakeholders to protect network and information security;

- adopting legislation and establishing appropriate enforcement authorities, where necessary, to combat spam. Member states should also facilitate the development of appropriate technical solutions related to combating spam, improve education and awareness among all stakeholders and encourage industry-driven initiatives, as well as engage in cross-border spam enforcement co-operation;

- encouraging the development of common rules on the co-operation between providers of information society services and law enforcement authorities ensuring that such co-operation has a clear legal basis and respects privacy regulations;

- protecting personal data and privacy on the Internet and other ICTs (to protect users against the unlawful storage of personal data, the storage of inaccurate personal data, or the abuse or unauthorised disclosure of such data, or against the intrusion of their privacy through, for example, unsolicited communications for direct marketing purposes) and harmonising legal frameworks in this area without unjustifiably disrupting the free flow of information, in particular by:

a. improving their domestic frameworks for privacy law in accordance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and by signing and ratifying the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108);

b. providing appropriate safeguards for the transfer of international personal data to states which do not have an adequate level of data protection;

c. facilitating cross-border co-operation in privacy law enforcement;

- combating piracy in the field of copyright and neighbouring rights;

- working together with the business sector and consumer representatives to ensure e-commerce users are afforded transparent and effective consumer protection that is not less than the level of protection afforded in other forms of commerce. This may include the introduction of requirements concerning contracts which can be concluded by electronic means, in particular requirements concerning secure electronic signatures;

- promoting the safer use of the Internet and of ICTs, particularly for children, fighting against illegal content and tackling harmful and, where necessary, unwanted content through regulation, the encouragement of self-regulation, including the elaboration of codes of conduct, and the development of adequate technical standards and systems;

- promoting the signature and ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201).