UNHRC Side Event: The Internet, Free Expression and Private Actors

The Internet, Free Expression and Private Actors

Wednesday 15th June, 12:00 – 13:00, Room IV

Hosted with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Global Partners Digital, and in association with the Freedom Online Coalition Working Group 3

At the 32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression will launch his first report exploring how the private sector should protect and promote freedom of expression in the digital age.

The report recognises that it is overwhelmingly private actors who create, maintain and operate the infrastructure and digital spaces for freedom of expression and access to information. These actors are diverse, comprising an “ecosystem” including telecommunication providers, hardware and software developers, email and social media providers, as well host and search companies. Technical bodies and regulators at the international and national level also play a key role.

While private actors have provided exponential opportunities for free expression, the decisions they take and the pressures they are subject to have a profound impact on the exercise of human rights. The report raises key questions around the role of the private sector when it comes to the content restrictions and surveillance and digital security of users, and identifies key areas where further normative guidance from the UN is needed.

Join us, together with the Special Rapporteur and leading private sector representatives, to discuss:

  • Who are the key actors influencing freedom of expression online, and what are their obligations and responsibilities under international law?

  • What pressures do private sector actors face from States and others to engage in censorship and surveillance?

  • What are private sector actors doing to promote and protect freedom of expression, and what more should they do?


  • David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

  • Nicole Karlebach, Senior Legal Counsel, Business and Human Rights, Yahoo

  • Irina Borogan, Co-founder and Deputy Editor at Agentura.ru

  • Judith Lichtenberg, Executive Director, Global Network Initiative

  • Moderated by Barbora Bukovska, ARTICLE 19

If you do not have UN accreditation to access the Palais des Nations, please email [email protected] at least 72 hours in advance of the events to be added to the guest list.