Frank La Rue, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression who made summer headlines when he proclaimed Internet access as a basic human right, conducted his research and delivered his conclusions with the support of organizations funded by liberal financier George Soros, The Daily Caller has learned.
La Rue’s statements on Internet freedom caused alarm among conservatives who believe “net neutrality” is a vehicle for a government takeover of the Internet.
Advocates of net neutrality, a position championed by the billionaire Soros and by the U.N., argue governments must regulate private censorship and bandwidth online to ensure it remains open and free. Soros, a philanthropist known for supporting liberal causes, has articulated his belief in the need for greater U.S. government regulation of the Internet.
While Soros is known among supporters as an advocate of pro-democracy causes, critics see the Open Society Institute — which he founded and chairs — as his instrument for funding and supporting his preferred causes.
For example, Canada’s Adbusters Media Foundation, credited for initially organizing the Occupy Wall Street protests, has benefited from the Tides Foundation, a frequent Open Society Institute grantee. Tides is organized in a fashion that typically obscures the relationship between incoming and outgoing philanthropic dollars.
At a speech in April 2011 at the Soros-funded Central European University (CEU) in Hungary, La Rue talked at length about global fact-finding missions — sponsored by Soros’s OSI and the Swedish government — on which he had embarked during 2010 to assess how unrestricted Internet access could meet citizens’ human rights needs.
His missions were the result of a decision in 2010 by the Internet Governance Forum, an international Internet policy group responsible to the U.N. Secretary General, to transform the net neutrality debate into one of human rights in order to generate further international support.
At CEU on June 1 at another meeting organized and sponsored by the Open Society Justice Initiative — a separate Soros-funded non-profit — La Rue signed the Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet. Two days later, he declared on behalf of the U.S. that Internet access is a basic human right.
According to the U.N., La Rue urged governments last Friday to ensure “that the Internet is made widely available, accessible and affordable to all, and to guarantee the free flow of information online.”
U.N. representatives with La Rue’s office in Geneva, Switzerland did not return The Daily Caller’s emails or phone calls seeking comment on La Rue’s statements.
Asked for comment by The Daily Caller on Tuesday, Open Society Justice Institute senior legal officer Sandra Coliver confirmed the existence of a working relationship between La Rue and Open Society Foundations senior program manager Stewart Chisholm. Coliver declined to describe the extent of that relationship or to comment on the role of Soros’s sprawling advocacy empire in shaping La Rue’s policy recommendations.
In an email late Wednesday night, however, Chisholm told TheDC that “OSF provided support” for the “broader, stake-holder consultation process” that served as La Rue’s platform. He described the goal of that process as “informing the office of the Special Rapporteur as to Internet freedom challenges in the respective regions.”
“Ultimately though,” Chisholm added, ” it was up to the Special Rapporteur [La Rue] to decide how, and in which context, to make use of these findings and recommendations for his own report.”
Open Society Foundations is Soros’s umbrella group encompassing more than 30 initiatives, of which the Open Society Institute is one.
In an August report to the U.N. General Assembly, La Rue cited the Arab Spring as an example of how people can exercise free speech through the Internet to aid in the overthrow of oppressive regimes.
He also called on governments to ensure freedom of expression except in cases of racism or the violation of other international human rights. La Rue also told governments they should ensure that free broadband access is available within their countries.