They stressed that “digital rights” should be a top priority as countries rebuild civic space during and after the crisis.
“Despite the active role of the Internet and digital technologies, which have provided new ways to exercise public freedoms and access information and health-related care, particularly during COVID-19 In the pandemic, countries continue to make use of these technologies to silence dissent, surveillance, and suppress collective action online and offline, and tech companies have done little to avert such human rights abuse.” He said.
Deal with dangerous threats
Human rights experts have expressed concern that these patterns of abuse will continue after the pandemic, further exacerbating inequality around the world.
Their statement, released ahead of next week’s RightsCon Summit on human rights in the digital age, calls for collective action “to embrace the rapid expansion of the digital space and secure, inclusive and rights-based technology solutions.”
They said post-pandemic recovery efforts must address serious threats that contribute to closing civic space and suppressing freedom of expression and media freedom, such as cutting off the internet during peaceful protests.
Other threats include digital divides and barriers to accessing human rights and basic services, as well as attacks on independent and diverse media, “algorithmic discrimination”, targeted surveillance, and online threats against human rights defenders.
Deepening ‘digital inequalities’
In particular, they noted, the pandemic has led to an increase in “digital inequality and discrimination” against people of African descent, minority groups, communities facing religious and ethnic discrimination, and women and girls.
UN experts said governments, as well as the technology sector, must take additional measures so that their efforts reach those most at risk of being disproportionately affected.
They stressed that “we must leave no one behind – both online and offline” and recommended that platforms should be inclusive by engaging people on the ground and increasing investment in the world’s least developed countries.
At the same time, states must also maintain their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. For example, initiatives to organize online spaces must be based on human rights standards.
Activists are in danger
The experts also called on companies to stop providing governments with spyware, facial recognition apps and other technologies that heighten the risks to activists and civil society representatives exercising their legitimate right to express their concerns and defend human rights.
When Emergencies Collide: COVID-19, Counterterrorism and Transnational Data Flow It will be among the topics they will discuss at RightsCon, which runs from June 7-11.
The nine experts who issued the statement monitor issues such as human rights in the context of countering terrorism, and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
They were appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council They are not employees of the United Nations, and they do not receive a salary from the Organization.