Human Rights and the Internet

19/03/2013

Interview with Eleonora Rabinovich, Association for Civil Rights (ADC), Argentina.
In his interview with Lacnic News, Eleonora Rabinovich noted that “a bill of rights specific to cyberspace” could be useful to guide States when regulating issues related to Internet and Human Rights.

What does Human Rights and the Internet mean?

The Internet has not only transformed the daily lives of millions of people around the world, it also has enormous potential for promoting the exercise of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to access public information, and the right to education and culture, among others. When we talk about human rights and the Internet, among other threats, we are mainly talking about the need to ensure the effective exercise of these rights and to prevent undue restrictions such as criminalizing online expression, blocking, controlling and manipulating Internet content, interfering with privacy and data protection, illegal surveillance, and limitations or discrimination in terms of access. It is worth noting that the UN Human Rights Council has expressly stated that all individual rights, particularly online freedom of expression, must also be protected in the digital environment.

What are the consequences of the use of new technologies for human rights?

There are no one-to-one consequences. In principle, new technologies expand the opportunities to exercise human rights. The Internet, for example, allows expanding the ways in which communications are generated and multiplying the flow of information and ideas as well as the plurality of voices. However, it also poses certain risks: our right to privacy and intimacy, for instance, may be infringed by corporate and government practices involving data logging and processing.

Are there any national or international mechanisms for protecting the exercise of human rights online?

All national and international mechanisms that protect the exercise of human rights should also serve to guarantee these rights within the digital environment. At local level, States should provide the legal guarantees needed to protect these rights and the courts should apply human rights standards when addressing Internet-related issues. I would like to highlight the Inter-American Human Rights System which, in our region, has been instrumental for protecting individual rights and advancing democratic reforms in different countries.

Do we need a Bill of Rights in Cyberspace?

All international human rights instruments apply to the Internet and, therefore, at policy level, there is an important basis to ensure the validity of human rights in this area. This does not mean that a bill of rights specific to cyberspace based on existing human rights standards would not be useful for States regulating Internet-related issues or resolving legal disputes on these issues.

Eleonora Rabinovich: Eleonora obtained her lawyer’s degree from the University of Buenos Aires and holds a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from NYU (New York University). She received scholarships from the Fulbright/Antorchas Foundation, New York University, and the Reuters Foundation. She currently runs the Freedom of Expression program at the Association for Civil Rights (ADC), leading projects at both national and regional level.

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