Information technology has a revolutionary impact on our society. It has boosted freedom of communication and democracy but has also led to new approaches to surveillance and is increasingly used to impose restrictions on human rights. Policy-makers need to ensure that citizens’ rights and freedoms in the online environment are protected and respected.

Therefore, the European Parliament should:

1. Ensure strong data protection and privacy rules.
Privacy is indispensable for any democratic political system. Freedom from surveillance, whether public or private, lays the foundation for an informed citizenship and dissent. Privacy can also be considered to be a key enabler for individuals to practice and enjoy other human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, and to participate in the information society. The EU Parliament has set high standards for the protection of personal data with the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – it must now ensure that Europe gets strong legislation to safeguard privacy and confidentiality of communications with the adoption of of a strong  e-Privacy Regulation.

2. Ensure equal access to information and culture.
New technologies bring new ways to access culture and knowledge as well as new opportunities for creators. There’s a necessity for a modernised copyright regime which takes into consideration the needs of all parts of society, including creators. Similarly, it should be ensured that all internet users receive equal access to online information.

3. Prevent arbitrary censorship and privatised enforcement of law.
There is a current trend to persuade, coerce or oblige internet companies to take over law-enforcement responsibilities, leading to unpredictable, costly, and counter-productive impacts for the intended public policy objectives (for example in the areas of hate speech, terrorism, fake news, copyright or child protction) and for fundamental rights of individuals. The EU Parliament must ensure that the rule of law prevails in Europe and not pursue or promote new privatised law enforcement measures, such as algorithmic filtering and ad hoc deletion of content by private companies. These concerns should occupy a focal point in the discussions surrounding the copyright  reform, the Regulation concerning the prevention of Terrorist content online, future fake news content filtering initiatives as well as any plans for an e-Commerce reform.

EDRi paper: Introduction to Data Protection
EDRi paper: Introduction to Copyright
Study: Human Rights and privatised law enforcement
EDRi paper: The slide from self-regulation to corporate censorship

The On Our Watch project brings together Civil Society Organisations working on all kind of topics. As representatives of and in direct contact with citizens, organisations have a strong role to play in holding the European Parliament accountable to the public. By joining forces in the context of the #EUelections2019 (23-26 May), On Our Watch offers a comprehensive overview of the key issues that European citizens care about.

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