Internet Governance and the Reshaping of Global Human Rights Legacy at WSIS+10 - HAL-SHS - Sciences de l'Homme et de la Société Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2015

Internet Governance and the Reshaping of Global Human Rights Legacy at WSIS+10


International policy discourses related to the digital environment increasingly reference human rights and fundamental freedoms. From the early debates in the mid-1990s on the human rights implications of Internet use, to the new momentum created by Edward Snowden’s revelations of State surveillance in 2013, the issue has received considerable attention over the last 20 years. At the global and regional levels, a historical perspective would identify several milestones of different kinds in this global evolution. To name a few of these milestones: the early WSIS steps (2002-2005), with the “Right to Communicate” vision opposed to one that promoted the identification of practical ways to realize and advance existing human rights in the online environment, with a special emphasis on the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights; the IGF steps (2006-present), with different stakeholders, on their own or through multi-stakeholder dialogues, working on various initiatives aimed at strengthening the human rights perspective in Internet policy; the UN Human Rights Council and Universal Periodic Review proceedings where, since 2012, global NGO coalitions specializing in human rights on the Internet have closely cooperated with the previous UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression who was very attentive towards Internet-related issues and the need to address Internet policy from a human rights perspective. These efforts, together some government led actions dedicated to freedom of expression and privacy in particular, as well as other initiatives, have resulted in the adoption of the first two Resolutions focusing specifically on human rights protection on the internet, adopted at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2014, as well as the first two Resolutions on Privacy in the Digital Age, adopted at the UN General Assembly in 2013 and 2014. In parallel, the usual process of national and regional (e.g. in the European Union) Internet policy making has been going on as usual through legislation, jurisprudence and regulation, often independently of the global discussions and sometimes even detached from the concern raised by some Europeans governments and other institutions in global governance arenas. Likewise, civil society groups and other actors have pursued (sometimes in coordinated efforts) the call for the protection and enforcement of human rights standards in the online domain through advocacy, lobbying, and campaigning, locally as well as regionally. Finally, the emergence of Internet giants with the development of web2.0 and social networking applications and services has raised the major challenge that the conditions for public and private life on the Internet depend on infrastructure and platforms that are governed by the private companies that provide them. In addition to the daily use of such platforms for a major part of our activities, activists’ use of social media to organize and publicize their actions to fight authoritarian regimes and/or socio-economic inequalities, have proven to be a common feature among otherwise very different cultural backgrounds, political contexts and protesting issues. There is by now common agreement that human rights apply online as they do offline, yet in practice the modalities of the online realm provide significant challenges to human rights protection, many of which remain largely unexplored. Moreover, in the course of the above-mentioned efforts, some so-called ‘new digital rights’ are suggested, and advocated by different groups and coalitions, such as the “right to Internet access” seen as a necessary precondition to democratic participation; the “right to be forgotten” in the field of privacy and personal data protection; and even the “net neutrality” principle is being framed by some as a human right through a metonymical rhetoric aggregating conditions for the online realization of some fundamental freedoms. Focusing on these three main Internet issues (access; privacy and personal data protection; net neutrality and Internet freedoms), the authors explore in this paper the rationales of such proposals and how they have unfolded over time and across various arenas and circumstances. They analyze how different actors (states, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, social movements, technical community, Internet companies) have been framing and advancing these proposals through either political contention or coalition of interests around key international events and momentum, paying particular attention to the role and influence of WSIS and post-WSIS multistakeholder Internet governance processes. Examining how these developments have been translated into social, technical and legal norms and their broader human rights implications, they eventually argue that this may result in a profound change of paradigm in how human rights are envisaged, reflecting the strong impact of the specifics of the online environment on the very concept of fundamental rights, thereby potentially reshaping the global human rights legacy of the UDHR. In terms of methodological approach, the authors use a conceptual framework from communication theory, human rights law and political science, and build on Internet-related scholarly literature including their own previous joint or separated work, paying particular attention to previous research done relating to discourse analysis on human rights in the digital age. They feed their reasoning with both qualitative and quantitative analysis of empirical data gathered through interviews and archival research, as well as their own participant observation to main Internet policy and governance events, and their very unique experience with the main civil society and/or multistakeholder coalitions in the field of Internet governance and human rights.
Fichier principal
Vignette du fichier
JoergensenMarzouki-Giganet2015.pdf (249.88 Ko) Télécharger le fichier
Origin Files produced by the author(s)

Dates and versions

hal-01297008 , version 1 (01-04-2016)



  • HAL Id : hal-01297008 , version 1


Rikke Frank Joergensen, Meryem Marzouki. Internet Governance and the Reshaping of Global Human Rights Legacy at WSIS+10. 10th GigaNet Annual Symposium, Nov 2015, João Pessoa, Brazil. ⟨hal-01297008⟩
1629 View
269 Download


Gmail Mastodon Facebook X LinkedIn More