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Students work on an intervention before the European Court of Human Rights on over-blocking of legitimate websites

At the moment, 97% of all blocked Internet content in Russia is blocked without an adequate legal justification, as a 'side-effect' of the local website blocking law. In late summer, TILT (The Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society) students worked together with an NGO, European Information Society Institute (EISi), to convince the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that this situation seriously violates freedom of expression of Russian citizens. Soon after, they filled a third-party intervention.


Internet Blocking

Kharitonov v Russia tackles a growing problem of Internet blocking. It concerns collateral blocking of the applicant’s website when legitimately restricting access to illegal information by the government. The decision of the Grand Chamber is likely to have a significant impact on the issue of blocking of websites in Europe in general, and in the Russian Federation in particular.

TILT Students

The resulting brief was prepared by three students of TILT (Dane Carlson, Giannis Ntokos and Katerina Psychogyiou) and three Russian scholars (Elena Buiantueva, Natalia Chuyko and Ruslan Nurullaev) as a part of a legal clinic under supervision of Martin Husovec (TILT&TILEC) and Tommaso Crepax (TILT).

Online Freedom

In the submission, the students argue that the states should be held accountable for collateral over-blocking of the websites by private parties where it is a foreseeable consequence of its actions. The intervention also suggests that the Court can strengthen online freedom of expression by requiring the state which mandates and delegates website blocking to private actors to mitigate the risks of collateral censorship by taking proactive steps, such as case-by-case assessment of proportionality, guiding the choice of technological implementation and employing effective ex-ante and ex-post remedies.

This is already a third such intervention that was drafted by TILT students. "We hope to continue with this effort also in the future important cases with new students", said Martin Husovec.

Full intervention can be accessed here on the EISI website.