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    Module 1: Digital Rights and Emerging Challenges

    The term “digital rights” is commonly used to refer to the way in which the classic and fundamental human rights contained in instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ‘ICCPR’) and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (the ‘ICESCR’) are interpreted in our present digital era, where much of human life is intermediated by digital technologies such as the Internet and social media. Understanding digital rights is crucial to being able to protect fundamental human rights in any domain, as very little of our lives today is immune from the forces of technology and the internet, which have reshaped how humans communicate, participate in public life, and behave.

    Digital spaces were largely unregulated when they first emerged. While many countries have since made progress in regulating the digital sphere, including passing data protection laws to protect privacy online and adapting criminal legislation to account for cybercrimes, these spaces continue to present novel governance challenges and new threats, as well as opportunities, for the advancement of human rights.

    For example, the Internet, social media, and other technologies have created new opportunities for cross-border expression and collaboration that have radically advanced freedom of expression in some ways.

    At the same time, however, digital technologies have been used in some places to further anti-democratic practices that limit freedom of expression – such as shutting down or censoring the internet and using digital technology to conduct mass surveillance. Across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the use of technology to enable authoritarian tactics by governments and repressive techniques by private actors has ramped up in recent years.(1)  As new technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace with the development of, for example, live facial recognition and generative AI, these risks become increasingly complex to manage, including through the law. Protecting and developing online spaces where human rights can be respected and promoted therefore requires effective responses to oppressive regulations and innovative solutions.


    1. Access Now, ‘Digital Dictatorship: Authoritarian Tactics and Resistance in Eastern Europe and Central Asia’ (October 2022) (accessible at Back