The Internet has provided enormous opportunities for the exercise of the rights to freedom expression, association, and peaceful assembly. As global civic space has shrunk, the online sphere has proven essential for human rights defenders, media, and civil society more broadly, to access and share information and to hold the powerful to account.
The Internet has also brought new challenges. The proliferation of ‘hate speech’ and harassment targeting marginalised groups and human rights defenders, disinformation intended to undermine public debate and trust, incitement to terrorist acts, are among those with significant and negative human rights impacts.
Increasingly, States are engaging in regulation that threatens to restrict online civic space, often delegating the complex task of policing speech to private actors, without also delegating clear responsibilities to respect human rights.
While moves toward regulation are often rooted in genuine concern for the public interest, many States deploy similar arguments as a smokescreen for their efforts to consolidate power, control public discourse, and silence oppositional voices, under the auspices of protecting “national sovereignty” or “security”.
Unchecked surveillance, criminalization of online expression and “cybercrime” prosecutions, data localisation regulations, attacks on encryption, increased website blocking and filtering, and internet shutdowns, are all on the rise, alongside less sophisticated but severe forms of harassment and intimidation. Private actors are often coopted into or actively profit from these human rights abuses, through arrangements that are opaque and outside of applicable legal frameworks.
These trends pose significant challenges to the Human Rights Council’s often-repeated maxim that “the same human rights people have offline must also be protected online.”
Join us to discuss what role the Human Rights Council can and should play in bolstering support for normative progress and action in defending our online civic space.
To highlight the necessity of a human rights-based approach to regulatory efforts in the technology sector, we co-organized with the UN Human Rights B-Tech Project and the Centre for Democracy & Technology’s Europe Office a multi-stakeholder consultation attended by business, academia, civil society and state representatives.
With over 500 registered participants in Geneva and online and 24 partners, the conference focused on the capacity of domestic actors to mutually engage with each other and liaise with Geneva-based international human rights bodies in the context of implementation, monitoring and follow-up to UN human rights recommendations.
This event – co-organized with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) – will discuss the new Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering – also known as the Méndez Principles.
Francisco Proner / Farpa/ CIDH
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, aims at presenting the institutions and procedures in charge of the implementation of international human rights law.
Dave Klassen/The EITI
This project aims to further identify and clarify policies and practices for States and business, including public and private investors, across the full ‘conflict cycle’ and the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
After having provided academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration for ten years, this research project focuses on the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.