International Forum in Greece for the legal framework governing the Internet.

International Forum in Greece for the legal framework governing the Internet.

Athens, October 3, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By George Sakellariou *

In this day and age there is a common understanding as regards the need to improve the current legal and regulatory framework of operation in order to achieve, to the extent possible, the most rational use of social media.

We have witnessed occurrences related to illegal actions and posts on the internet which demonstrate offensive behaviours in violation of human rights and encourage hatred, racism and terrorist actions, as well as posts related to drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornographic material, security violations of various systems, illegal distribution of software, interception of material and intellectual property and, most certainly, tax evasion (advertising banners, etc).

The online society (mainly intangible) is a reflection of real society as it incorporates all elements that are inherent in it. As there are rules of operation and conduct in real society, in the same way the framework of operation and conduct should be defined-improved in the online (virtual) society. The fundamental prerequisite should be the protection of human rights, such as freedom of expression, which must not however be considered as a “super basic right” that will undermine other human rights, particularly the honour, reputation and personality of citizens, that is to say by means of defamation and vilification.

It is the State’s obligation and duty to protect both the society and its citizens. Besides, the Internet is a public good for all and should not be demonised. At the same time, it should not misinform and should not be used as a means of defaming people and distributing false information and news.  Moreover, over the last few years we have been exposed to a plethora of information, of global dimensions. I have adopted the term “inflation of information” or “infoflation” to illustrate this situation. Others use the ill-defined, yet characteristic, term “infollution” claiming that the pollution generated by information is equivalent to the environmental pollution and poses an equal range of problems and threats.

Although there is a legal arsenal aiming at addressing several issues, its implementation is not always feasible owing to the nature of the Internet; it being intangible and of a global scope. Technological evolutions, on the other hand, are so rapid that regulations soon become outdated and fail to deter unlawful acts.

The EU stance is indicative. As a consequence of the technological evolutions, Community legislation is continually reviewed, limiting the time frame of legislative changes to 18 months as this is the normal time frame within which substantial technological changes occur.

It should be emphasized that such failure to impose regulations on the Internet in reality leads to questioning the rule of law. Therefore, it is imperative that the international legal order be brought into line.  This global reflection has generated two opposing views, represented by those who claim that new regulations are required and those who argue that the existing legal arsenal is sufficient. The sound way, in my opinion, is a merger of both approaches with interventions aiming to improve the legal framework whenever called for.

A particularly constructive idea is for the Government to call for and permanently establish in Greece, the birthplace of democracy, an international forum for government delegations to deliberate on problems and codify solutions. In addition, I believe that matters related to democracy, both in terms of concept and content, will also be put forward in such a forum and perhaps the vision shall then turn into reality: An International Treaty harmonising all legislations that will be deliberated, drafted and signed in Greece. This, of course, can only be achieved following exhaustive preparation and discussion with competent jurists and professionals who are cognisant of technological issues in depth.

Finally, I would like to stress that these deliberations should commence in Greece without more ado, as it is of vital importance that the negative aspects of the Internet be dealt with. Prevention is always far less costly than tackling whichever emerging problems.

* George Sakellariou is an Information Systems Engineer, Business Consultant and member of PRATTO, a progressive and democratic political Movement of Ideas and Action.