What are the responsibilities of businesses in regard to human rights protection? And what can the EU do to motivate businesses to respect and possibly promote human rights in non-EU countries? These questions are of particular significance in light of the growing use of new media as fora for expression of opinions and distribution of information, since internet providers play a key role in giving access to these platforms.
In the human rights report 2010 that was approved by the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, MEPs call upon the European Commission to develop rules for increased monitoring of internet use and of the new technologies used by autocratic regimes to restrict internet access. The report states that '[i]nternet service providers must learn the lessons of past mistakes, such as Vodafone’s decision to give in to demands from the Egyptian authorities in the last weeks of the Mubarak regime to suspend services, and to disseminate pro-government propaganda'. According to the Parliament's press release, '[t]he report invites the European Commission to table, by 2013, regulatory proposals to improve monitoring of exports of goods and services that can be used to block access to websites. These proposals should include provisions to enhance transparency for EU and EU-based companies, it adds'.
For an overview of the EU's actions and ambitions in the field of human rights protection, see also the EU annual report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2010.