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Other human rights

Updates

11 Jan 2017

The Joint Communique: 12th AU-EU Human rights dialogue issued in Brussels is expressed in 17 points. Point number 15 is of particular importance to Internet rights and the freedom of expression: 'Both sides committed to promoting and protecting freedom of expression and the right of access to information in the digital age. They welcomed the ACHPR 2016 Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa, and emphasised that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.' 

7 Jan 2017

Governments shut down the Internet more than 50 times during 2016 for a variety of reasons, from affecting elections and limiting opposition communications, to what was justified as stopping students from cheating on their exams. Consequences can be far more serious than just inconvenience to Internet users. They can include millions of dollars of economic losses and perpetration of human rights violations. Experts suggest that UN agencies like the ITU could assist by issuing statements in response to specific incidents.

14 Dec 2016

Racial discrimination is an important barrier to broadband access in the United States. This was one of the conclusions of the report entitled “Digital Denied: The Impact of Systemic Racial Discrimination on Home-Internet Adoption”, published by Fress Press, a DC-based public interest group. Income inequalities do play an important role on lack of Internet access, but the study noticed disproportionately low broadband deployment in communities of color. Moreover, in rural areas, “there is even more at play than income disparity, with a consistent digital divide for deployment that is apparently based on race and ethnicity alone.” The report concludes that these marginalized groups often have a high level of demand for internet access, but the high price of service, coupled with structural economic and sociological factors associated with race and ethnicity, pose barriers to internet deployment and adoption.

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The human rights basket includes online aspects of freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, rights of people with disabilities and women’s rights online. Yet, other human rights come into place in the realm of digital policy, such as children’s rights, and rights afforded to journalists and the press.

The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online is the underlying principle for human rights on the Internet, and has been firmly established by the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council resolutions.

In addition to main instruments on human rights (see each issue for a list of relative instruments), the Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition, the Internet Rights & Principles Charter, and the APC Internet Rights Charter include human rights specifically related to the effects of the Internet on human rights. Other human rights documents and statements are listed under 'Instruments'.

All human rights issues are cross-cutting and interdependent. For example, the freedom of expression and information is related to access to the Internet and net neutrality. Protection of minority rights is influenced by multilingualism and promotion of cultural diversity. Children’s rights have a strong security element. Ensuring the protection of privacy is important in dealing with cybersecurity.

Human rights-related issues are debated in various Internet governance processes, such as WSIS and the IGF. While human rights are usually explicitly addressed as a stand-alone issue, they intertwine with other issues such as net neutrality (access, freedom of expression, anonymity), cybersecurity (observing human rights while carrying out cybersecurity activities), content policy, etc. For the first time, after years of proposals and discussions, the IGF in 2015 held a main session on human rights, an important move signalling recognition of the link between human rights, access and ‘connecting the next billion’.   

Bringing human rights into focus, the Snowden revelations of mass surveillance triggered the diplomatic process on online privacy within the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. and probably influenced the decision to appoint a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age. In 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet 'for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011' [also known as the Arab Spring], where social media and online communication played an important role; this also highlights the importance being given to human rights on the world stage. These developments underline a trend to recognise human rights as a priority for global digital policy. Freedom of expression, content policy and other human rights are now appearing on digital agendas, and will continue to gain in importance.

Children’s digital rights

When it comes to promoting the benefits of technology for children while at the same time fostering a safe and secure online environment, stakeholders need to strike a careful balance between the need to safeguard children against inappropriate content and risky behaviour, and the need to respect children’s digital rights, including the right to access information and freedom of speech.

Child online protection tends to focus on the protective aspect of children's use of technology. In fact, many argue that the Internet and technology have increased the risks for children, and therefore, children can reap the benefits only if the risks are mitigated. However, policies which focus exclusively on online risks can sideline the Internet's potential to empower children.

A rights-based approach, based on children’s rights as enshrined in legal instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, aims at maximising the opportunities of the digital world for children and young people while protecting them from risks. Since this approach strikes a more careful balance between children’s digital rights and their need for protection, it is increasingly favoured by experts.

The protection aspects of children’s use of the Internet are also tackled from a security standpoint.

Events

Instruments

Conventions

Judgements

Google Spain SL and Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González Case - Court of Justice of the European Union (2014)
Case of Barbulescu v Romania - European Court of Human Rights (2016)

Resolutions & Declarations

IPU Resolution: 'Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms' (2015)

Recommendations

Other Instruments

Resources

Multimedia

Child Safety: A User-Centred Approach to Internet Governance (2nd edition) (2010)

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Reports

One Internet (2016)
Encryption: A Matter of Human Rights (2016)
2015 In Retrospect (Vol. 4) (2016)
Freedom on the Net 2015 (2015)

Processes

WSIS Forum 2016 Report

Several sessions at the WSIS Forum discussed issues related to media freedom, and the rights of children in the online space. Session 114 - Action Line C9 (Media): Promote Media Freedom and Internet Universality at the Heart of Achieving SDG Target 16.10 highlighted the fact that freedom of media and the safety of journalists are important foundations to achieve the goal to ‘ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements’.Cooperation among different stakeholders was emphasised as crucial support for a strategy to implementation of thw WSIS Action Line C9 (Media). Global Kids Online - Children’s Rights in the Digital Age (session 145) showcased the perspectives of UNICEF’s Global Kids Online (GKO) project, research in Latin America (Risks and Safety on the In- ternet: Comparing Brazilian and European Children (2013) and Net Children Go Mobile (2014) ), ITU statistics on children’s use of the Internet, and policy initiatives to give practical examples of how research can contribute to global and national policies in support of children’s rights.

IGF 2015 Report

With regard to the right to be forgotten (RTBF), last year’s Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling (Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González) had far-reaching implications, and created a ripple effect across different jurisdictions. One of the main issues is with regard to the terminology, as the RTBF can generate false reassurances that an individual’s past can be forgotten. Panellists in The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Rulings and their Implications (WS 31) suggested that the right be renamed to ‘the right to be de-indexed’. The main issues were reiterated in Cases on the Right to be Forgotten, What Have we Learned? (WS 142): the term is problematic, and policymakers and the judiciary need a better understanding of technology. The process of de-listing imposes an unnecessary burden on online media houses to continually update their published stories. The process is also likely to be abused in jurisdictions where the take-down notice system is implemented.

Both workshops discussed the risk that the RTBF is affecting other human rights including the right to memory and the flow of ideas, the right to know the truth, and freedom of the press. These essential rights to democracy could be threatened by the RTBF. In fact, the representative from the United Nations Commission for Human Rights commented that the RTBF contrasts with the right to know the truth, which is a distinct right. The erasure of information could impact the right to truth, and thus create a need for due process.

Among the practical implications is the fact that different jurisdictions have ruled or legislated on the RTBF. These include a judgment by the Constitutional Court of Colombia; new legislation in Chile, Nicaragua, and Russia; and data authorities’ rulings on search engines. The CJEU ruling has therefore created a ripple effect, extending the European cyberlaw footprint to a global level.

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