Q1/2020 - Freedom Online Coalition (FOC)
At its Annual Conference in Accra/Ghana, the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) adopted two joint statements, one dealing with cyber security and human rights (Human Rights Impact of Cybersecurity Laws, Practices and Policies) and another on digital inclusion. The Federal Government of Germany presented the two documents, in its role as member of the FOC and of the UN Human Rights Council, at the session of the UN Human Rights Council on 5 March 2020 in Geneva.
The “Joint Statement on Human Rights Impact of Cybersecurity Laws, Practices and Policies” reaffirms the principle outlined in the “FOC Tallinn Agenda” (2015) that cyber security and human rights are not antagonisms but two sides of the same coin (cybersecurity and human rights are complementary, mutually reinforcing, and interdependent). It says that even though protecting cyber security primarily is a task of the governments, a strong commitment of all stakeholders is required (Promoting stability of cyberspace is not the responsibility of States alone). However, the Joint Statement expresses concerns that an ever increasing number of states is using measures required to promote cyber security as a pretext for restricting human rights. This is particularly true for censorship and surveillance by biometric technologies. The document criticises companies that offer technologies that are used for restricting human rights. The FOC proposed a total of eleven measures to be implemented by governments and stakeholders.
The “Joint Statement on Digital Inclusion” complains about the continuing digital divide, which is said to increase the existing societal and economic inequalities in the world. While there is a growing awareness of the importance of digital inclusion – the paper refers to the UN High-Level Panel, the Broadband Commission and the IGF – practical progress does not come up to theoretical insights. Activities are needed on the supply side (supply side factors), such as investment in infrastructure, spectrum, bandwidth and terminal devices, as well as on the demand side (demand side factors), such as relating to the cost of data and terminals, digital taxes, education (digital literacy), online provision of content in local languages, censorship, surveillance, discrimination against women and girls, etc. The data generated in developing countries, especially in the public sector, is still hardly used by the local economy, so the paper. Local multistakeholder activities are a necessity here. Access to the Internet is an important condition but this alone does not suffice. It is also necessary that skills are imparted so that the people are enabled to use and shape the opportunities offered to them by the Internet in social, cultural and economic terms. In this context, labour rights in the “gig economy” must be protected. The statement proposes nine concrete activities.
The FOC had been initiated by the Dutch government in 2011 as a multistakeholder platform for promoting human rights in cyber space. Today, 31 governments are members of the Coalition. Originally the FOC conference was held yearly with alternating chairs. In 2016, the FOC switched to a two-year rhythm. In 2018, Germany held the chair of FOC. The FOC presidency of Ghana ended with the Accra Conference. In 2021, Finland will assume this role. The FOC chair is advised by an Advisory Network (FOC-AN), which is composed of 24 members. The FOC-AN is currently co-chaired by Mallory Knodel from the human rights organization “Article 19” and Bernard Shen from Microsoft. In January 2020, a call for applications was published to find replacements for four members of the FOC-AN who will leave the body according to the principle of rotation.