Internet Legislation Atlas is now live!  

Hivos IGMENA, in collaboration with its partners, has kicked off the platform of the Internet Legislation Atlas project that assesses and visualizes the level of compliance of selected digital rights laws in the MENA region with international human rights standards. The countries under assessment are Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Syria. You can check now the project and its findings on internetlegislationatlas.org.

Two key outcomes of the ILA are published on the new platform. The first is to make the legislation regulating the Internet in the seven focus countries readily accessible. The objective is to investigate the legal instruments vis-à-vis human rights on the Internet and to make them visible so that activists and Internet users could advocate for better human rights. This mainly includes national constitutions, penal codes, publication laws, press laws, telecommunications laws, media laws, cybercrime laws and antiterrorism laws. ILA research has revealed some challenges pertaing to the access to Internet-related laws in some cases. While some laws are not effortlessly accessible, the original source of few laws remains utterly missing. This signals key issues with reference to the right to access to information, specifically online, as well as the lack of transparency in the policymaking process.

The narrative analysis investigating the national legal framework and mapping the legal landscape of the Internet ecosystem in each country is yet the second outcome. The country analysis hinges on certain qualitative indicators: 1) constitutional or equivalent protection of freedom of expression and privacy; 2) content restrictions; 3) media and Internet actors; 4) surveillance and privacy of communications; and 5) access to the Internet and network neutrality. These indicators are driven mainly from the international human rights treaties and instruments, statements by human rights bodies and United Nations special rapporteurs as well as human rights case law. The legal analysis of the seven countries flags out a raft of alarming issues that hinder the advancement and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet in the MENA region. Lack of transparency, arbitrary Internet policy environment, the application of the same legislation offline and online, fuzzy Internet legislation with loopholes, absence of consultation with the community and poor understanding of the Internet governance issues are some of the main concerns.

These two outcomes are brought together to constitute the main components of the ILA platform. However, the current platform is underway and would be further developed to build in advanced functionalities and visual tool for interactive analysis allowing users to assess their local Internet environment against international human rights standards, and to compare between different countries based on specified indicators. This would make up the third outcome of the project.

One of the core building blocks of ILA project is the engagement of the local community throughout the different phases of the project and on different levels. In addition to working with the project partners, consultation with local legal experts, researchers and civil society organizations are bolstered in order to incorporate the input of the concerned stakeholders and ensure the project is steered in the right direction.