How is tech disrupting our human rights framework?

Access Now has been asked to speak at the United Nations in New York on December 10th to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s a huge honor, and we would like you to share in it by helping us write my speech.

The Declaration has been a cornerstone of the human rights movement, guiding us toward the universal realization of equality, justice, and respect for human dignity.But for many of us, that promise has not been fulfilled.

Our shared human rights framework is continuously adapting to our changing society. There is growing recognition that our rights must be protected in digital spaces, and that access to the internet is vital to exercising all other rights, from free expression to the right to work to education.

But despite its many successes, this framework, with the Declaration at its core, has also struggled to respond to the real-world challenges of this digital era. Across the globe, technology that holds promise for supporting human rights is instead being wielded by authoritarian governments for exploitation and abuse. What can we do to ensure a better, more rights-respecting future?

As we prepare to address the representatives of world governments, we want to hear from you.

In this era of digital disruption, what do you think are the most important challenges and opportunities for defending human rights, both now and on the horizon?

New technologies are upending long-held rules for protecting our ability to exercise our rights, introducing new risks. In some cases, they are helping to further entrench the threats we already face. And it is often human rights defenders at the front lines who are most impacted.

In envisioning human rights protections for the digital age, we must ask, what does our right to privacy mean in an era of ubiquitous data collection? How do we enjoy freedom of expression when shared online spaces are controlled by private platforms? What does access to information mean for those trapped behind a firewall? What of our right to non-discrimination in the age of the algorithm?

And as our ability to exercise and enjoy our rights comes to depend on digital tools, what happens to those who have not yet been connected to the internet, or who are forcibly disconnected?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the most urgent issues in our shared fight for human rights, and to carrying that message to the United Nations as the world celebrates the Declaration’s 70th anniversary on Human Rights Day this Monday.

Thank you. We couldn’t do this work without you.

If you would like to participate on the day of the event, you can watch remotely through this livestream and tweet your questions to the live Q&A using #askhumanrights.