The Internet: an opportunity or a threat to human rights?

 The digital age is, in theory, an age of emancipation. However, it challenges human rights on several levels. Communications are vulnerable to state surveillance and private interests which may affect the right to privacy. However, the digital age brings a new dimension to freedom of expression, assembly and participation by the nature, magnitude, immediacy and permanence of the Internet and social networks.

If the digital age plays an increasingly central role in the democratic expression and citizens' mobilisation, the temptation by states to monitor and control the Internet, including their infringements on liberties in the name of the fight against terrorism, and private companies’ exploitation of individuals privacy and citizens' expectations are sometimes contradictory because they fluctuate between freedom and security, making of this issue a fundamental and a complex challenge.  

The Internet has created a new public space for expression and participation that many users mobilize to disseminate hate speech or violate others rights including rights to dignity and respect, thus making the Internet both a threat and an opportunity for human rights and freedoms.

Can citizens and the international community regulate the use of digital space or do we let it take it own course? And is it the time to claim an international digital habeas corpus?

The theme’s forum will address the following topics:

1. Freedom or regulation: what Internet governance for the protection of our freedoms and rights?

2. Freedom of the press in the digital age: Is every citizen an empowered journalist?

3. Digital Divide: Is the Internet increasing economic, social and civic inequalities?  Internet giants and net neutrality

4. The right to privacy against the transparency of the net

5. How to control the spread of hate speech without infringing freedom of expression?

6. International Law and digital freedoms: for an international habeas corpus.

This theme is proposed by (France) and the Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight against Racism in Belgium.