Module 7: Cybercrimes
The increase in internet access recently has created a number of new legal challenges. The internet is transnational and ubiquitous, and the new landscape created by the digital world has raised novel challenges when it comes to protecting fundamental rights in the digital age. Old definitions about what constitutes a publisher or a journalist are increasingly complicated; the anonymity afforded by many internet platforms, while key to fostering freedom of expression in many contexts, can pose challenges in relation to combatting illegal online activities and seeking remedies for victims; and there are serious questions about who is liable for content shared online that may affect parties in different jurisdictions in some way.
Regulating and legislating crimes that occur on, or relate to, the internet has been a difficult undertaking for states and international bodies. In 2020, global cybercrimes costs were forecast by the research group Cybersecurity Ventures to grow by 15 per cent annually, predicted to reach USD 10.5 trillion annually by 2025.(1) Without adequate regulatory frameworks and protections, the growth of internet access, e-commerce and economic development may continue to fuel the spread of cybercrime.
In Asia, where the number of new internet users continues to grow at a rapid rate, the increase in access to the internet and information and communications technologies (ICTs) has also led to increased criminal activity online. However, laws to regulate criminal activity on the internet are increasingly providing tools for the state to suppress dissent or to punish critics and independent media because of their often vague and overly broad nature.
“[L]egitimate online expression is being criminalized in contravention of States’ international human rights obligations, whether it is through the application of existing criminal laws to online expression, or through the creation of new laws specifically designed to criminalize expression on the internet. Such laws are often justified on the basis of protecting an individual’s reputation, national security or countering terrorism, but in practice are used to censor content that the Government and other powerful entities do not like or agree with.”
Unfortunately, the problem has only gotten worse since then.