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Internet Governance 22 October 2013

Noticing the "Cellophane" rights

The first day of the IGF 2013 has offered some very interesting insights into core areas, where multi stakeholder cooperation is badly sought. 

One of todays highlights has been WS 99 on Internet Rights and Principles Online. The main theme for this workshop was the so-called neglected human rights online, namely rights other than the frequently evoked rights to freedom of expression and privacy. Pranesh Prakash (Centre for Internet and Society) stressed the importance of providing online access to the visually impaired, an often overlooked aspect of digital inclusion. Marianne Franklin (IRP) on the other hand made a very interesting observation about educating young people in the digital realm: focus is wrongly given on building computer skills where it may often be the case of students being more comfortable in using new technologies than their teachers. What is needed is not to teach them how to operate the machine but rather to think about teaching them to become users capable of making informed choices.

In the same vein, Joy Liddycoat (APC) urged the lawmakers to do a different reading of surveillance: unless this is addressed as a human rights issue and not as a governmental policy, effective human rights remedies cannot be sought. Michael Nielsen(Microsoft) talked about the role of corporations in fostering human rights online and outlined a few of Microsofts strategies in this respect: the Microsoft global human rights statement and the company’s general vision for building technologies to foster global development are a few of the points mentioned; however the audience remained sceptical and unconvinced as the discussion moved on. Last, Karl Frederick (Swedish Ministry of Foreign  Affairs) outlined the difficulties met in the public sector: governments often struggle with the absence of global consensus and ineffectiveness to respond to general notions of discontent as to their online policies.

The latter reminded me of the effectiveness of “rough consensus and running code” on the same issues that the public sector is unable to respond to. Perhaps it  is time to begin the burial rites of the classic trichotomy of public, private and technical and move towards a common reading of the basic human rights, principles and norms online.

Building bridges could actually get us to the other side over the dark  and troubled waters of human rights online as things are at the moment.


(All views and opinions are my own as well as any errors or omissions)

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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