2017 R.R.D.E. 77 (2017)
Freedom of Expression Online: The Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online

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Freedom of expression online


The Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal 'Hate Speech' Online

Dr. Adina PORTARU*


            ABSTRACT


            Freedom of expression is undoubtedly one of the most fundamental freedoms in
            the constitutional structure of any democracy, underpinning, inter alia, the vital
            ability of citizens to speak out without fear of repercussion. Accordingly, the right
            to speak freely features prominently in a[[ international human rights treaties.

            However, freedom of expression, particularly in the online sphere, is questioned
            and limited through soft-law and voluntary arrangements, such as terms of service
            of private companies.

            On 31 May 2016 the European Commission and IT companies Facebook, Twitter,
            YouTube, and Microsoft presented the Code of Conduct on countering illegal 'hate
            speech' online ('Code of Conduct'), which includes a series of commitments to
            combat the spread of illegal 'hate speech' online in Europe. Given its breath and
            the commitments it puts forward, the Code of Conduct is likely to have a significant
            impact on free speech in the digital area by putting companies into the role of free
            speech regulators.

            The present article assesses the Code of Conduct and its commitments, with
            a particular focus on freedom of expression. It wi[[ also look into the first three
            reports on the implementation of the Code of Conduct, which give a glimpse on
            the consequences and legal questions triggered by the privatization of regulating
            speech. The article wi[[ outline that any [imitation on speech rights needs to be
            firmly grounded in the law; it cannot be based on voluntary terms of service or
            codes of conduct with arbitrary implementation and lacking legal redress, and that
            the regulation of speech should not be outsourced to private and unaccountable
            actors.




            REZIUMAT


            Libertatea de exprimare este, fWr6 Tndoia[6, una dintre ce[e mai importante
            [ibertti din structura constitutiona[l a oric~rei democratii, care sustine, printre

 Legal Counsel with ADF International in Brussels.


DOCTRINAI REVISTA ROMINA DE DREPT EUROPEAN NR. 4/2017177

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