Big Brother is watching: Spyware exports pose unprecedented threat to democratic leaders and human rights defenders

by Kerry Pearson, Universal Rights Group Beyond the Council, Blog, Blog, Contemporary and emerging human rights issues

‘Never has the human right to privacy been more important and more under siege,’ suggested the UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy, Joe Cannataci, when presenting his recent report on ‘artificial intelligence and privacy’ to the Human Rights Council’s 47th session (HRC47). His words seemed especially prescient this week as news broke that spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company, …

President Biden commits to protecting the right to vote and revitalising American democracy

by Daniela Kyle, Universal Rights Group NYC Blog, Blog, In focus: democracy, Universal Rights Group NYC

On 13 June, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden delivered a fiery speech on the importance of protecting voting rights in America. The president emphasised the need for free and fair elections in order to uphold American core values as well as to strengthen democracy domestically and abroad. The speech was directed both at the American people …

Human rights in the digital age: Making digital technology work for human rights

by Geneva Contemporary and emerging human rights issues, In focus: democracy, Policy reports, Reportes

Human rights in the digital age: Making digital technology work for human rights

The seventh  Glion Human Rights Dialogue (Glion VII), organised by the Governments of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and the Universal Rights Group (URG), in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Fiji, Iceland, Mexico, the Seychelles and Thailand, was held on 3-4 December 2020 and considered the topic: ‘Human rights in the digital age: Making digital technology work for human rights.’ In particular the Glion VII …

Who controls ‘town square’: amidst a public health crisis, India battles social media companies to curb dissent

by Danica Damplo, Universal Rights Group NYC Blog, Blog, Universal Rights Group NYC

Amidst the collapse of the public health system in India and an atmospheric rise in COVID-19 cases, social media platforms became ‘town squares’; centres of desperate coordination for supplies as well as outlets for growing frustration at the government’s failure to prevent thousands of deaths. The Government of Narendra Modi has in turn pressured social media companies to block posts and remove …

Trump, Facebook, democracy and rights: ‘how to handle free speech in an age of information chaos’

by Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group Blog, Blog, In focus: democracy, Uncategorized @nyc

Writing in the Guardian on 5 May, Alan Rusbridger, a former newspaper editor and now member of the Facebook Oversight Board, set out in stark terms the dilemma facing the Board as it reviewed the social media giant’s decision, last January, to ban then President Donald Trump from its platform. ‘On 6 January, he was the president of the United States: probably …

More restrictive demonstration and protest laws risk eroding fundamental democratic values

by Tess Brennan, Universal Rights Group NYC Blog, Blog, In focus: democracy, Universal Rights Group NYC

Republican lawmakers in the United States have recently introduced new legislation at the state level regarding protests and demonstrations. The bills collectively place greater restrictions on individual protest rights and increase the penalties for those charged under such provisions. The majority of laws are currently pending, but send a dangerous message even if they do not pass. This movement indicates …

Recent US report of Russian election interference reveals how disinformation can exploit existing divides to erode trust in democracy

by Amanda Gu, Universal Rights Group NYC Blog, Blog, Universal Rights Group NYC

On 16 March 2021, the US National Intelligence Council released a declassified report detailing what they found to be the extent of Russian interference in the 2020 US Presidential Election. US President Joe Biden issued a strong rebuke and one month later on 15 April his administration announced sanctions and other retributory measures. According to the report, Russian disinformation campaigns aimed …

New state-level legislation threatens to erode voting rights and the US’ ability to live up to democratic standards

by Tess Brennan, Universal Rights Group NYC Blog, Blog, Universal Rights Group NYC

State lawmakers across the US have recently sought to pass legislation which will significantly limit voting access. These attacks on voter rights come on the heels of repeated claims that the 2020 presidential election was marred by widespread voter fraud. The claims are rooted in former Republican President Donald Trump’s ‘Big Lie’: that the election was stolen from him. Republican …

Secretary of State Blinken reaffirms the Biden administration’s commitment to multilateralism, democracy and human rights

by Tess Brennan, Universal Rights Group NYC Blog, Blog, Universal Rights Group NYC

A key pillar of both Biden’s election campaign and his time in office thus far has been the commitment to re-engage with traditional allies and prioritise a multilateral approach to tackling the greatest global challenges of today, including protecting democracy and promoting universal human rights. While Biden’s rhetoric on the subject has been strong, the wider international community has been …

How do you solve a problem like WhatsApp? The complicated role of messaging apps in the fight against disinformation and for free speech

by Tess Kidney Bishop, Universal Rights Group NYC Blog, Blog, Contemporary and emerging human rights issues, Universal Rights Group NYC

Much of the debate around the spread of misinformation and online harassment has been focused on the biggest social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and, more recently, TikTok. Messaging apps, like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat, and the increasingly popular Telegram and Signal, have nearly as many users as these platforms and are also rife with disinformation, hate …