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.
Olivier Chamard/Geneva Academy
Dr Christophe Golay is Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) at the Geneva Academy. He is involved in several research projects on the right to food, the rights of peasants, as well as ESCR and the SDGs
In an online conference co-organized by the Geneva Human Rights Platform, UN-Habitat, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Geneva Cities Hub, around 60 experts exchanged around best practices to ground the development of cities in a human rights framework.
UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.
This online course will examine the protection afforded by international human rights law in these contexts, with a specific focus on the right to peaceful assembly – which is at the heart of such movements –, and the right to life – which is often violated during such transitional moments.
Olivier Chamard / Geneva Academy
The Treaty Body Members’ Platform connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats to share expertise, exchange views on topical questions and develop synergies.
This research project examined the impact of innovation and the development of new information technologies on human rights.