Respecting freedom of expression - Telia Company's view on new legislation in Denmark

New Danish legislation on blocking of specific Internet sites was proposed in January 2017 as part of a national action plan against extremism and radicalization. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression, we therefore report on new legislation with potentially serious impacts on the freedom of expression of our customers.

Government’s control of communications often serve legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain human rights, but they may also be problematic in that they could conflict with other human rights. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression in telecommunications.

New legislation, ‘necessary and proportionate’
According to the proposed new law, blocking of specific websites will only happen based on a court decision. Telecom operators shall therefore not, as was initially discussed, block sites on a voluntary basis.

The Danish Ministry of Justice has acknowledged that any and all blocking will need to be necessary and proportionate. The proposed law, however, is very broad meaning that blocking orders can relate to not only terror propaganda and the like but relate to any violation of the Danish Criminal Code.
 
The full text of the law is available, in Danish, here

"Clear and transparent"
The Policy of Telia Company is not to engage in the politics of the countries in which we operate. We do not comment on politics or make political statements when representing our company.

However, Telia Company does engage in dialogue regarding regulations that affect our business and customers of companies in which we have ownership interests. Telia Company, as further defined in our Group Policy, advocates clear and transparent legal provisions on proportionality and necessity for all government legislation in the context of surveillance and control over communications.

Minimum requirement
Telia Company notes that blocking of websites is a very far-reaching action which could, potentially, constitute an interference with the freedom of expression. It will therefore be important that both the legislator and, subsequently, the courts will continue to thoroughly and fully take the principles of necessity and proportionality, and the rule of law, fully into account.

A minimum requirement is, in our view, to explicitly specify in the legislation which violations of the Danish Criminal Code that would be applicable for possible blocking-decisions by the courts. Telia Company also recommends that this blocking-legislation is limited to what is strictly necessary in relation the purpose of the law, which is to fight extremist content and terror propaganda on the internet.

Full transparency
Finally, Telia Company recommends full transparency by the courts in relation to the number of websites blocked. Also, the public should be informed through a so called ‘landing-page’, which informs the user of the blocking-decision by the court and provides contact-information to the court or the police for any questions.

Telia Company will continue to promote these views, also when interacting with the Government of Denmark in relation to this new legislation.