Towards an internet that empowers those who foster democracy through human rights based research

white persons handy typing on laptop

Marginalized groups and individuals remain underrepresented in internet governance regimes. To guarantee that online communities are free, safe, and truly democratic, we need to stop relying on technological solutions proposed by digital platforms. Only by including marginalized voices in debates about the future of technology can we make sure that human rights of all actors are protected. To strengthen democracy, we should support those individuals and organizations who defend human rights in adverse situations around the globe. In order to protect freedom of expression we also need to take a clear stand against those who try to silence others with hate and extremism. Moreover, as automated decision-making becomes ever more pervasive in everyday life, it is crucial that states and businesses are required to comply with human rights law in the process of developing and deploying algorithms, and evaluating their impact. Human-centric design must go hand in hand with the strengthening of the legal frameworks protecting individual and collective rights. Our own research about the impact of technology in the workplace shows that new tools of digital control undermine workers’ rights and increase the power imbalance in the favor of companies. All workers, be they employees or self-employed, should have data protection rights, as well as the right to participate in the decisions about the technology they work with. Research can play an important role in fostering more inclusive design and governance of technology, but only if research institutions apply principles of diversity and transparency in their daily work. Support for an open and heterogeneous research community from public institutions is instrumental to ensure that technology has a positive impact on human rights.

This article was first published (12th November 2019) online via and is part of the publication "Critical Voices, Visions and Vectors for Internet Governance".