Stage 3
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English
Discussion
Everyone
Digital rights defenders under threat: Strategies to resist fear, surveillance and (self-) censorship

Short thesis

Digital attacks against human rights defenders have expanded dramatically. Vaguely defined anti-terrorism legislation and spyware allow for targeted surveillance; trolls manipulate online content and conduct intimidating smear-campaigns. Against this backdrop of shrinking space and global backlash, holistic strategies for digital rights defenders are crucial. The session presents experiences from human rights activists in the Global South and discusses success stories and lessons learned from digital security and privacy initiatives.

Description

The digital transformation has created huge opportunities for civil society in developing countries to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and to gain better access to education, health and information. By supporting digital skills, policies and technologies, development cooperation aims at strengthening citizen participation and inclusion across all sectors. With the growing role of the internet, however, governments in many partner countries are increasingly monitoring and restricting online expression.

Digital attacks against human rights defenders have expanded dramatically; vaguely defined anti-terrorism legislation and spyware allow for targeted surveillance; trolls manipulate online content and conduct intimidating smear-campaigns. Activists are increasingly facing violence, arrest and charges for their social media activities. Against this backdrop of shrinking space and global backlash, access to secure communication and holistic strategies for an enabling environment for human rights defenders are crucial.

The session will present experiences from human rights defenders in the Global South and discuss success stories and lessons learned from digital security and privacy initiatives. What does it need to make digital security trainings and tools sustainable? How do internet companies take over responsibility to protect human rights defenders? What kind of legal, technical, psychosocial and policy support do digital rights defenders need? How do international human rights mechanisms and development actors need to address the current threats?

supported by BMZ

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