Highlighting Latin American and the Caribbean regional priorities at RightsCon Online

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In an effort to better understand how to engage the Latin American and Caribbean community into this year’s RightsCon agenda, we consulted with partners and organizations about what issues, projects, and initiatives should be centred and showcased in the summit.

As we were building the 2020 program, members of the community gathered at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2019 in Berlin, Germany, and drafted general concerns to be included in RightsCon. We later introduced these issues to our Regional Champions, a group of the leading human rights and technology experts in Latin America and the Caribbean who provide guidance on program development and ensure proper representation from the region in the summit.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and with it new global challenges emerged in the defense for human rights in this new era. After the postponement of our in-person convening, we asked the community for support in shaping how we create RightsCon Online. Based on their responses and this year’s call of proposals, the RightsCon Online program now features 250+ sessions and 8+ tracks, with 12% of the sessions with a regional focus and 19.3% with proposers coming from the continent.

We recognize that we can’t cover all the issues we want this year, however, we are still committed to creating a diverse, inclusive and intersectoral participation in our program. We believe that taking local participation to a global platform is key to elevating novel frameworks and integrating different perspectives and worldviews on the work being done in the intersection of human rights and technology.

Below are the priority topics of the region, based on that initial meeting at IGF, our call for proposals, the consultations with our Regional Champions, and the results from the RightsCon Community Survey. We see these as a starting point for conversations in RightsCon Online and our program in 2021.

Use of legitimate concerns as an excuse for surveillance and control

Perhaps the most worrying issue from the Latin American community relates to how different human rights agendas serve as an excuse to implement changes in legal frameworks and to establish a surveillance state. These changes usually undermine privacy, freedom of expression, independent journalism, and freedom of protest and assembly.

The war on drugs, organized crime and immigration policies are some of the pretexts that states use to implement biometric mechanisms of control on customs and borders. These include adopting technologies such as fingerprinting and facial recognition, and other practices against its own citizens that threaten freedoms.

The response to COVID-19 pandemic has brought novel concerns on this matter, as governments use public health as a justification to implement surveillance technologies in the region and push legal reforms with no positive effects.

The RightsCon Online program includes sessions around how to defend human rights under   surveillance states:

  • Digital identity: has freedom a future? (ITS Rio)
  • Living in the shadows: how international organisations can better support frontline activists facing state surveillance and threats (The Fund for Global Human Rights)
  • How should we adapt whistleblowing laws for a Latin American context? (PODER; Técnicas Rudas)
  • In the public eye: reporting on protests under the surveillance state (Committee to Protect Journalists; Derechos Digitales)
  • Technology in support of child migration: risks and opportunities (Article One; UNICEF)
  • Nos ven la cara: a Latin-American declaration on human rights and facial recognition (Institute for Research on Internet and Society; Access Now)
  • Circumventing censorship: media and digital resistance in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua (World Voices Media; La Red Hispana)

Extractivist practices and knowledge appropriation

As political struggles, protests and social movements arise in the region, latent concerns have emerged in the region. Those old appropriation practices applied to new knowledge-based paradigms, put in hazard the environment and historically threatened communities.

Thinking on developing a more inclusive approach to address these issues, we want to facilitate a space to discuss and strategize around the response from technology to the climate crisis, the indigenous communities, their land rights and identities.

While technology advances by leaps and bounds, small but concrete steps are taking place around data sovereignty, the defense of nature and the commons of Latin American and the Caribbean indigenous communities. The RightsCon Online program highlights interesting both practical and academic approaches to these practices on extractivism and knowledge appropriation:

  • It’s my data! Tools to reclaim control of our personal data (Hiperderecho; Simon Fraser University; ObservaTIC)
  • Environmental sustainability and internet governance: a roadmap for policy action (Association for Progressive Communications; BlueLink)
  • In defense of our (tech)rritory: digitally defending the environment and right to land during COVID-19, (Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional)
  • CARE principles for indigenous data governance (Global Indigenous Data Alliance; University of Arizona; University of Waikato; Colegio de Postgraduados)
  • Conecta Culturas: an app that brings indigenous knowledge and perspectives to the internet (Deutsche Welle Akademie)
  • Caught in the (social safety) net: social exposure and intensive data exploitation in Latin American social protection (InternetLab)

The role of technology in advancing fairness and inclusion

A significant amount of sessions in this year’s online summit explore different solutions on how to think and build fairer technological tools, in front not only to climate crisis and land right activism, but to hate speech, off and online gender-based violence, and the social movement built in the last years with the help of Internet:

  • Online gender violence: towards the configuration of international standards (TEDIC; Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional)
  • Mujerxs unidas, jamás serán vencidas: intersectional feminism in the age of AI (Coding Rights)
  • From #NiUnaMenos to #ElVioladorEresTu: how feminism went viral in Latin America (Chicas Poderosas)
  • Building standards for forensic analysis from and for the South (COSIC)
  • Going coop: a platform model for workers in the South (International Labor Organization; IT for Change)
  • Beyond the internet: digital radio in the Amazon (ARTICLE19)
  • Working on a regulatory agenda for community networks in Latin America (ARTICLE 19)
  • Future perfect, part II: positive visions for the future (Electronic Frontier Foundation; Foundation)

A starting point

Now that the world has radically changed due to COVID-19 and we are preparing for RightsCon Online, it is a timely moment to engage, connect, and coordinate on the issues facing the Latin American and Caribbean region.

We want to thank the Regional Champions, for their help connecting and reaching out to those individuals and organizations with relevant voices that must be present at RightsCon. They contribute to a global movement, strengthen the regional community, enhance existing networks and create new ones that may connect and work together in building a framework for the defense of human rights in the digital age.

Login to the RightsCon Online platform and join us for these discussions and more.

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