Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

My paper: The Policy Challenge Of Content Restrictions: How Private Actors Engage The Duties Of States has been published on MEDIA@LSE Working Paper Series


The development of online technologies, services  and applications presents challenges for policy-making with regard to  the protection of free speech rights. Those technologies, services and applications are enablers of free speech, but conversely they also contain powerful functionality  to restrict it. It is this restrictive functionality that is the subject of this paper. The issue considered by  this paper is how  to interpret  the duty of States with regard to  private actors, acting on behalf of States,  in the context of Internet restrictions (network-level blocking and filtering) and  the right to freedom of expression. In a human rights context, does it  matter whether  the private actor is applying content restrictions in response to a government request  or doing so  of its own accord ?

To answer the question, the paper  will consider how restrictions placed on the Internet  could engage free speech rights from a legal and policy perspective. In particular, the paper will address the ways in which the underlying network technology may restrict access to  content and  interfere with free speech rights, and it will consider the duties of States  in this context. 

The paper will develop its answer in the context of liberal democracies such as the Member States of the European Union, where demands for such restrictions on access to content are creating challenges for policy-makers.  It will  use copyright enforcement as an example of a policy perspective where industry  stakeholder demands for restrictions, to be imposed by network providers as third party private actors,  have created a particular challenge for human rights compliance.

The paper uses inductive analysis of case law, regulatory and technical studies  to  make the connections between  the underlying network technology  and interference with free speech rights. Drawing on expert legal opinion,  including United Nations guidelines for business and human rights, it considers how the duties of States duties might be interpreted in the Internet context.  The findings indicate that States do have special to address private actors in this context and will add to the body of knowledge regarding Internet policy and content online. 

Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.


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