Other human rights

Updates

25 May 2017

Venezuela has endured over two months of increasingly violent anti-government protests that have been responsible for the deaths of over 50 people.  According to Venezuela increases Internet censorship and surveillance in crisis, when citizens started using SMS messages to share information and coordinate protests, President Maduro ordered an investigation into phone company Movistar, claiming that it was assisting opposition to the government. When protesters then moved to online TV stations, the Venezuelan government censored them as well. Vivoplay.net, elcapitolio.tv and vpitv.com have all been blocked at the DNS level, sparking demands for an investigation. Other websites have reported denial-of-service attacks. The United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a statement condemning 'the censorship and blocking of information both in traditional media and on the internet' in April.

16 May 2017

In the midst of worldwide debates about Internet access and content, a groundbreaking five-year partnership between the UN Human Rights Office and Microsoft for the 'development and use of advanced technology designed to better predict, analyze and respond to critical human rights situations'. This alliance continues work in two areas of agreement: 'a commitment to ensuring technology plays a positive role in helping to promote and protect human rights' and 'a recognition of the need for the private sector to play a bigger part in helping to advance the cause of human rights globally'. Microsoft explains its approach to the partnership here

9 May 2017

Global and regional organisations are expressing concern about the current human rights situation in Venezuela. An OAS press release IACHR Deplores Repressive Measures Taken by Venezuela against Protests and Condemns Resulting Deaths and Injuries, states 'The IACHR calls on the State to cease these measures and to effectively comply with its international human rights obligations.' It notes that the IACHR 'particularly condemns the rise in deaths, injuries, and mass detentions that have accompanied the militarization of management of the protests, in regard to which the IACHR has expressed its concern.'  On a related note, the article Venezuela / Protests: UN and IACHR Rapporteurs condemn censorship, arrests and attacks on journalists provides further information about the situation in Venezuela, in a situation that is exacerbated by the lack of clear reporting by the Venezuelan government as noted already last year in the UN Watch article: Fraud on the UN: Venezuela’s Corruption of its 2016 UPR Human Rights Review which notes 'The UN’s examination today of Venezuela’s human rights record, in a periodic review conducted every five years by fellow UN member states at the Human Rights Council, is severely compromised by the Maduro regime’s manipulation of the non-governmental contribution to the record, which is supposed to consist of “credible and reliable information.”'

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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

Case of Barbulescu v Romania - European Court of Human Rights (2016)
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)

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

Sessions at IGF 2016

Sessions at WSIS Forum 2016

Sessions at IGF 2015

IGF 2016 Report

 

Continuing a trend to keep human rights at the forefront, a main session at the IGF 2016 was dedicated to the topic (Human Rights: Broadening the Conversation). This demonstrates that the IGF has matured to a point where human rights (Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles) are now accepted as an underlying unifying force (Mapping Digital Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A New Visual Tool for Comparative Analysis). The linkage to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCRs), and civil and political rights (CPRs), was emphasised and discussed in detail by experts and the audience (Linking Connectivity, Human Rights & Development - WS234).  While it is unequivocal that offline rights apply online, the debate focused on whether human rights on the Internet should be addressed separately, or considered within the larger context of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Digital and media literacy for children and the need to further empower youth to participate in Internet governance processes were underlined as important priorities to be considered by all other stakeholders (Collaboration Towards and Beyond the Child Online Protection - WS88). The promotion and protection of rights of children online were also discussed from a three-dimensional perspective: developing policies and programmes that will help to create global alliances; the use of pilots and surveys to understand children’s online and offline behaviour; and recognising that the different contexts in which children live may influence their behaviour online (UNICEF - Global Kids Online: from Research on Children’s Rights in the Digital Age to National and International Policy).

Discussions also touched on the pivotal role that Internet access and mobile phones play in the refugees’ situation, helping families stay connected and giving newcomers the necessary tools to be able to start a new life in another part of the world (Human Rights Online: Internet Access and Minorities - Lighting Session). 

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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