‘Digital rights’ key to inclusive post-pandemic recovery: UN experts
They stressed that “digital rights” must be a top priority as countries rebuild civic space during and after the crisis.
“Despite the instrumental role of the Internet and digital technologies, which have opened up new avenues for the exercise of public freedoms and access to health and information and care, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic , states continue to use these technologies to silence dissent. , monitor and reverse online and offline class actions, and tech companies have done too little to prevent such human rights abuses, ”they said.
Dealing with serious threats
Human rights experts feared these patterns of abuse would continue after the pandemic, further deepening inequalities around the world.
Their statement, released ahead of next week’s RightsCon summit on human rights in the digital age, calls for collective action “to embrace the rapidly expanding digital space and secure, inclusive and technological solutions. rights-based “.
Post-pandemic recovery efforts must address serious threats contributing to the closure of civic space and the suppression of free speech and media freedom, they said, such as closures of Internet during peaceful protests.
Other threats include digital divides and barriers to access to human rights and basic services, as well as attacks against independent and diverse media, ‘algorithmic discrimination’, targeted surveillance, and online threats against. human rights defenders.
“Digital inequalities” are growing
They pointed out that the pandemic has particularly accentuated “digital inequalities and discrimination” against people of African descent, minority groups, communities facing religious and ethnic discrimination, and women and girls.
UN experts have said governments, as well as the tech industry, must take additional steps to ensure their efforts reach those who are most at risk of being disproportionately affected.
Stressing that “we must leave no one behind – online or offline,” they recommended that platforms be inclusive by engaging people on the ground and scaling up investments in the world’s least developed countries.
At the same time, states must also maintain their obligation to promote and protect human rights. For example, initiatives to regulate online spaces should be “based on human rights standards”.
Activists in danger
Experts also called on companies to stop providing governments with spyware tools, facial recognition applications and other technologies that increase risks for activists and civil society representatives exercising their legitimate right to express. their concerns and to defend human rights.
When States of Emergency Collide: COVID-19, Counterterrorism and Transnational Data Flows will be among the topics they will discuss at RightsCon, which runs June 7-11.
The nine experts who issued the statement are monitoring issues such as human rights in the fight against terrorism and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
They were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and are not UN staff members, nor do they receive a salary from the Organization.