2022 Theme Rationale and Main Topics

Calls for states, but also companies to ensure the compliance of digital tools and products with international human rights standards are ever-present. While this abstract goal has become somewhat of a globalist consensus, the legal, political, and institutional conditions needed to get there are far from clear: how can international human rights law initiate improvements in different areas, given its indeterminate, often even disputed nature? What are the risks of the reference to international human rights law, in terms of stabilizing preexisting disparities or power concentrations through illusive improvements? Where does the reference to human rights only provide a new, improved language for a non-improved status quo? Could private internet companies provide a protection of human rights online comparable to that of judicial institutions? Ultimately, whose human rights, and whose interpretations are determining the present and future of global internet governance?
This event invites scholars and actors in the practice and policy world to re-examine and revisit the state and role of human rights in the digital world, as this is shaped by technological and political economic changes of ‘platformisation’, privatization of public spaces, erosion and abuse of certain rights, the pressure imposed on a decade of successive crises from financial, environmental to health, and the re-emergence of authoritarian politics and modes of governance.

In recent years, the everyday life of humanity has been affected dramatically by the experience of a global pandemic, where public health political responses have been met with varying degrees of acceptance. The severity and nature of this impact differs greatly among regions and within societies, across genders and socioeconomic discrepancies, bringing back to the fore the persistence and deeply engrained footprint of social inequalities. Within this context of emergency, crisis and exacerbation of inequities, the digital world occupied a center stage in the social, cultural and professional spheres. The heightened physical and mental health crisis across the globe is intertwined with a long and arduous struggle in governing digital platforms for the benefit of humanity vis-a-vis the profit driven dominant model. The latter has impacted not only on the ways in which users on platforms are adjusted to the needs of the platform, systematically and technologically through the use of AI, rather than the opposite, but have also impacted on understandings and conceptualizations of fundamental freedoms and rights, as they are shaping social conceptualizations of what privacy means, the extent of free speech and hate speech, the extent of misinformation and the exercise of informational rights. 

After having addressed “Global Internet Governance as a Diplomacy Issue” at its first edition in 2017, “Overcoming Inequalities in Internet Governance” in 2018, “Europe as a Global Player in Internet Governance” in 2019, and “Online Information Governance” in 2020, The European Multidisciplinary Conference on Global Internet Governance Actors, Regulations, Transactions and Strategies turns its attention this year to the governance of human rights in the digital world, continuing the conversation on global internet governance from attention to institutions and structural factors to the role of content and misinformation as an object of governance, and internet actors as forces of change.

In addition to general internet governance issues and topics, submissions are particularly welcome on the following possible areas of investigation: 

  • How human rights translate in a digital world: losses, gains and shifting of priorities
  • Human rights duties and responsibilities of respective internet governance stakeholders
  • From high-level panels on digital cooperation to digital conventions: towards a new digital world order?
  • The role of European and global institutions in shaping the conditions of human rights and democracy online
  • Global platforms, conflicts of jurisdictions and extraterritorial legislations
  • Weaponization of platforms to interfere in political processes and harass individuals and groups
  • Responsibility and liability of platforms and other intermediaries in content regulation
  • Governance from below: practices and principles by civil society aiming to shape the conditions of technology
  • Restrictive regulation and the securitization of content
  • Structural role of individual targeting, behavioral advertising and other economic models of online platforms on the reshaping of fundamental freedoms and democracy
  • Privacy, misinformation, democracy: challenges to internet governance
  • From nudging to manipulation: consequences on autonomy and human dignity
  • Freedom of expression, freedom of the press and democracy
  • Youth and other vulnerable groups: access to information, news and misinformation in the online world