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Italy leads the way with Internet Bill of Rights

On 28 July the Italian Chamber of Deputies introduced a Declaration of Internet Rights, making Italy the first European country to produce such a document.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | July 29, 2015

At the heart of the Bill of Rights is the recognition of Internet access as a fundamental right, the right to online knowledge and education and the importance of net neutrality.

The Declaration is the result of an year of debates and consultations led by a parliamentary commission established within the Chamber. A crowdsourced document, the Declaration was open to the inputs of the public throughout a period of five months. It was accessed 14.000 times and 590 opinions were expressed, Chamber of Deputies President Laura Boldrini said during a live-streamed press conference this week.

The Bill doesn’t have a legal value, but rather a cultural and political one, as the renowned jurist chair of the Commission Stefano Rodotà underlined.

“This is an instrument to contribute building an Internet citizenship, because without rights there is no citizenship and without citizenship there is no democracy”, he said.

The Declaration, which benefited from the advice of Brazil, the first country to introduce an Internet Bill of Rights worldwide in April 2015, will be presented at the Internet Governance Forum in João Pessoa, Brazil, in November.

Although a final document, the declaration will remain open to future adjustments. Chamber President Laura Boldrini underlined that the Bill of Rights isn’t carved on the stone. It is now the most comprehensive and balanced document on the subject – she said – but it will be updated accordingly to evolutionary nature of the Internet.

“There is a lot to like about this Bill of Rights – it establishes access as a fundamental right, acknowledges the importance of the Internet to democracy, and puts open access to information, knowledge and culture at its heart. Provisions for open government data are also included, while Net Neutrality is not only protected, but seen as a precondition to enjoy other rights.

However, some doubts also arise. The Bill falls short in protecting anonymity and encryption, while clauses around data retention are unclear. Overall, this is a positive development for the protection of fundamental rights online, but further clarity on some clauses, and information on how the Bill will be enforced must be urgently addressed, so it can achieve its full potential”, commented Renata Avila, Web We Want campaign manager at the World Wide Web Foundation.

You can read the full Declaration (in English) here.