Preserving free expression on the Internet and protecting children’s rights online

17 November 2009 - A Workshop on Security in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt


It is wrong to think of the internet as being an adult medium into which children and legal minors occasionally intrude. Hundreds of millions of children and young people around the world are regular and active users. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in several other international instruments, as well as within the national laws of almost every country in membership of the UN, it is accepted that, as they grow up, children are still in a process of developing and learning. It is recognised and accepted that this developmental process has consequences for the children's capacity to identify, assess and manage potential risks. The Convention and national laws therefore establish that children have a legal right to be protected from all forms of exploitation. This includes exploitation in cyberspace just as it covers exploitation in the real world.

At the same time, both children and adults enjoy other well- established rights such as free speech or free expression rights, also protected in instruments of national and international law, but which may appear to conflict with protective measures limiting access to certain sorts of online material or activities. How can children's rights to protection be realised on the internet? Does it inevitably lead to a fundamental conflict with other well established rights, such free speech rights or fee expression rights or is there a middle way which can reconcile both sets of rights? This workshop will bring together panellists from stakeholder organisations on both sides of this debate, and will present a report which sets out the potential for a reconciling these fundamental rights.

a) Provide the names and affiliations of the panellists you are planning to invite. Describe the main actors in the field and whether you have you approached them about their willingness to participate in the proposed workshop.
Chair/moderator: eNACSO
Center for Democracy and Technology
Oxford Interrnet Institute

b) Describe how you will take steps to adhere to the multi-stakeholder principle, including geographical diversity.
eNACSO is an EU-wide NGO network comprising 15 child protection organizations from 15 different countries
CIRCAMP is based on Europol but its operational base is global in nature
OIS is part of Oxford University in the UK but, again, is global in terms of its operational base
CDT is based in the USA and is a leading free speech/1st Amendment body

c) Does the proposed workshop provide different perspectives on the issues under discussion?


List of Speakers are as follows:

1) Dr. Alison Powell, Oxford Internet Institute
2) John Morris, Director, Center for Democracy and Technology
3) John Carr, European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online 
4) Bjorn-Erik Ludvigsen, CIRCAMP