Federation Council issues statement on freedom of speech violation by global American internet companies

Senators propose drafting an international convention to regulate the activity of global internet companies.

The Federation Council issued a statement on freedom of speech violation by global American internet companies.

Alexei Pushkov, Chair of the Federation Council Interim Commission on Information Policy and Cooperation with the Media, presented the document.

In its statement, the Federation Council condemns the actions of global American internet companies that restrict freedom of speech on social media for political reasons, without legitimate grounds and contrary to international law.

“The developments following the presidential election in the United States demonstrate that American internet giants have embarked on a course of heavy censorship that contradicts the principles of democracy and the generally recognised right of people to seek, receive and disseminate information. Additionally, these companies are blocking alternative platforms on unlawful grounds. With social media being dominated by the political goals of the US establishment, there is a threat of imposing a one-sided and biased view on users, not only of events in the United States but in the world,” the statement says.

It is particularly dangerous, Alexei Pushkov noted, that freedom of speech is being restricted without regard for the law but at the discretion of the top executives of these internet companies. These restrictions are arbitrary and have no legal basis. Consequently, outside the scope of law, access to information is being restricted for hundreds of millions of internet users who are being deprived of their right to freely express their opinions which are not in conflict with the law.

The statement goes on to say that the internet companies representing one country, the United States, and closely associated with its government bodies, are exercising monopolistic control over the global network, which may lead to one state establishing predominance over the major part of global network exchanges.

“The unlawful decisions of the top executives of American social networks have once again demonstrated that appropriating control over the internet is a reality rather than a fictitious threat. This kind of control is a powerful weapon that can be used not only to impinge upon the civil liberties and freedom of speech in the United States directly but can also target other countries as well, including attempts to influence public sentiment, provoke domestic political crises, tamper with expression of will and election results.”

Senators of the Russian Federation find it unacceptable that American internet companies have subjected unfavourable political opinions to strict censorship while failing to meet their own obligations with regard to countering the spread of misinformation, including the content that is pushing Russian citizens to participate in unauthorised protests amidst the high risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Despite false information having been repeatedly and officially refuted, top executives of these companies are purposefully refraining from deleting or blocking such content.”

In these circumstances, the Federation Council draws the attention of legislative bodies around the world to the relevance and importance of developing national legislation that can restrict the unlimited authority and arbitrary conduct of global internet companies.

“We must not allow the discretionary decisions of their top executives to replace the laws of sovereign states. When it comes to protecting the information space and citizens’ right to free access to and dissemination of information, it is the legal and inherent right of every state to regulate the activity of internet companies within its jurisdiction. For Russia, regulating internet companies and developing local social networks and internet platforms is an important and necessary part of ensuring national digital sovereignty.”

The Federation Council calls on the UN Secretary-General, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), specialised monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media to make it their priority to restrict the arbitrary conduct of global American internet companies in order to stop them from establishing a “digital dictatorship.”

The senators believe that this issue must also be extensively discussed at UN General Assembly meetings and the respective Main Committees, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

It is stressed in the statement by the Federation Council that “the recently manifested threat of global internet companies’ unchallenged domination makes it absolutely imperative to start working on an international convention regulating their activity. The aim of this work is to produce generally acceptable norms that will rule out arbitrary decisions and put global internet exchanges on the solid foundation of international law. The global network must remain a space for freedom of speech and freedom of information governed by law rather than the political tool of one state and its associated media monopolies.”