Policy brief

Report: The Right to Online Anonymity

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ARTICLE 19

18 Jun 2015

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ARTICLE 19 presents a new policy brief, originally developed as a contribution to the report on anonymity and encryption by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion andprotection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In this report, ARTICLE 19 seeks to outline the implications of anonymity and encryption for the right to freedom of expression in the digital age. We also identify the ways in which online anonymity and encryption are protected under international law and explore what restrictionsto anonymity and encryption tools are compatible with the right to freedom ofexpression. We conclude with recommendations on how best to protect anonymityand encryption online.

Anonymity and encryption are not new phenomena: anonymity has long facilitated the expression of controversial ideas and enabled dissent in many countries of theworld; the use of ciphers and codes to protect the privacy of communications hasan equally long history.

The protection of anonymity is a vital component in protecting both the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Anonymity allows individuals to express themselves without fear of reprisal, and is especially important in those countries where freedom of expression is heavily censored. It enables whistleblowers to come forward and individuals to disclose their innermost concerns on a variety of issues in internet chat rooms. It also allows users simply to join in with all manner of discussions that they might otherwise avoid.

Governments around the world regularly attempt to restrict anonymity and the use of encryption tools for various reasons, from enabling unlawful activities to facilitating terrorism.The protection of anonymity and encryption in international law is therefore more important than ever.

 

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