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Conference on the human rights implications of digitalization

2017-10-16 The graduating students of the Master’s programme M.A. Governance and Human Rights organized a conference on the human rights implications of digitalization and the role of education in the Quadriga Forum in Berlin. The organization of the conference was a practical task for the students who had a chance to apply the knowledge they generated in the course of their studies.

The study programme director Prof. Alessandra Asteriti strengthened in her opening statement that the digital world has different challenges in human rights work than in the analog world.

The panel participants, experts from the field of human rights work in the digital sphere strengthened the importance of the usage of digital tools when working in international teams on human rights. This comes along with challenges of being hacked or attacked on the internet. A crucial field of studies is the question of political will formation and how the discourse is emerging in the social media sphere. Digitalisation could become a tool for the deliberative democracy or become a tool to implement an Orwellian world. Isabell Ebert outlined that digitalization could easily facilitate the exchange between the victims of human rights violations, e.g. indigenous people, and the violators such as multinational enterprises that are under pressure by the civil society in their country.

Dr. Ben Wagner mentioned that "digital" and "analog" are mingled and cannot be separated anymore. There is no more division between digital and analog human rights. Human rights activists who worked in the digital sphere are sitting in real prisons. Human Rights work is like a symphony of different spheres and discourses that all come together.

Marek Tuszynski of Tactical Technology outlined the unprecedented fact that major big companies (Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google) are collecting vast amounts of data on people’s life. These players are defining the spaces of actions in the digital sphere.

The panelist in the end concluded that the state has a duty to provide the framework for promoting human rights. It cannot be the task of NGOs or Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) alone to correct market failures. If 95% of the population prefers not to have products from child labour, they shall be simply prohibited and it must not be a task for the CSOs to raise awareness for the issue and educate consumers.


Christoph Kleineberg, M.A.
Universitätsallee 1, C40.115
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-1983
Fax +49.4131.677-2981

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