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The nemesis of the nursery? : A review of European initiatives in the field of illegal and harmful material on the internet and the implications for human rights

O'Donnell, Therese (1999) The nemesis of the nursery? : A review of European initiatives in the field of illegal and harmful material on the internet and the implications for human rights. Contemporary Issues in Law, 4 (2). 141 - 168. ISSN 1357-0374

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Abstract

This article focuses primarily on the Action Plan initiated by the European Commission with regard to safe use of the Internet, particularly by minors. A review of the historical/political background which ultimately led to the Action Plan will be provided as will a review of the strategy of the Action Plan. The article will then focus on the distinction drawn between 'illegal' and 'harmful' material and the potential legal difficulties which arise as a result of such categorisation, particularly in relation to the latter category. Attention will then be given to the possible solutions which have been posited to avoid or diminish the effect of illegal and harmful Internet material. Such solutions have been the use of screening software, 'hotlines', as well as alterations to the policies of Internet providers and content providers. The viability of these options and the possible difficulties encountered with them will also be scrutinised. The overlap of EU and ECHR law will be considered, particularly in the light of the increasing profile of human rights issues within EU law. The article will then progress to a more in-depth analysis of the most relevant provisions of the ECHR namely Articles 8 (respect for private life) and 10 (freedom of expression). The viability of applying existing legal analysis to problems unknown at their development will be considered as will parallels between Internet expression and print/art media. Finally the article will conclude by considering the pros and cons of a pan-European standard in relation to Internet regulation. The need for transparency in any regulation of the Internet will be stressed and the possibility of this being done via an international treaty will be mooted.