A new convention for the prosecution of online crimes is to include the “spreading of false information” if this could trigger “social unrest”. States are therefore to make provisions to be able to uniformly prosecute calls for “subversive or armed activities” on the internet.
The proposals are contained in the draft Convention against Cybercrime of the United Nations (UN), which was presented on Monday by a committee commissioned with this task. The starting signal for such a global mutual legal assistance treaty was given more than three years ago at Russia’s request. In an open letter to the UN General Assembly, 38 non-governmental organisations demanded at the time that existing instruments be “improved” instead of creating new ones.
For example, since 2001 there is the “Cybercrime Convention”, which was adopted by the Council of Europe in Budapest. Shortly after this also named “Budapest Convention”, an additional protocol on the prosecution of “of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems” followed. A recently adopted second additional protocol regulates the handing over of “electronic evidence” in cross-border investigations by the police and judiciary.
However, only 68 states have signed the “Budapest Convention”. The planned UN Convention, on the other hand, would apply in all 193 member states once it has been adopted.
Various organisations have criticised the UN draft as dangerous. In a statement, they express themselves as ” particularly concerned” about the inclusion of “extremism-related” and “terrorism-related” crimes. The terms are undefined in international law and could undermine the right to freedom of expression. Many states use this ambiguity to justify politically motivated arrests and prosecutions of members of civil society, media or opposition parties.
Among the signatories are the German Chaos Computer Club and the international organisation Human Rights Watch. They also disapprove of rules on “measures on real-time collection of traffic data and on interception of content data”. According to the organisations, this could include the “state hacking” of consumer devices. This includes so-called government trojans and other spying programmes that can be used to turn phones into bugs, for example.
The UN Convention is also to contain provisions on the protection of personal data, copyright or “identity-related offences”. Other articles are on the dissemination of material on the sexual abuse of children or so-called revenge porn.
The draft will now be discussed in the relevant committee. If an agreement is reached, the General Assembly could decide on the convention in early 2024. Afterwards, the rules contained therein must be implemented by the UN members in national laws.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Two members of the French Gendarmerie Command in Cyberspace (ComCyberGend) in front of a computer screen (Gendarmerie).