Program Snapshot: What’s on the Agenda at RightsCon Tunis?
RightsCon isn’t a moment – it’s a movement.
Last week, we launched our official program schedule for RightsCon Tunis (June 11 to 14, 2019). In less than a month, 2500+ civil society leaders, industry experts, policymakers, and human rights advocates will come together in the capital of Tunisia – an emerging tech hub and growing democracy – to set the global agenda for upholding human rights in the digital age.
Since 2011, RightsCon has been a critical convening space. This year’s program is poised to be our best yet, with 17 thematic tracks and 450+ unique sessions packed into three intensive days. Whether through interactive workshops, intimate strategic roundtables, compelling fireside chats, or meetups, participants will play an active role in building a better future.
In 2019, we’re also introducing two new session types: Solve My Problem, guided dialogues for developing strategies to resolve a specific emerging issue, and Landmarks, high-profile plenaries covering some of the more pressing topics, which will take place in our premiere session space.
Our program spans a wide range of topics. Below you’ll find an overview of this year’s thematic tracks. Mix and match sessions to fit your interests, or follow one track all the way through – the choice is yours.
Overwhelmed by the options? Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. In the lead-up to RightsCon Tunis, you can sort and customize the official program schedule by tracks and trends.
Soon we’ll publish our Guide to RightsCon Tunis, which will cover everything you need to know for building your best possible RightsCon experience. In the meantime, make sure to register and confirm your ticket to attend. We can’t wait to see you there!
As the use of AI proliferates, so too do questions on its make-up, implementation, and governance. Sessions in this track will explore the AI’s potential for good, while simultaneously grappling with the chilling effects of the technology on civil society protest, freedom of expression, and more. The use of biometrics, algorithms, and other data-based decision-making systems for tracking and surveillance purposes is a growing concern for the international community, and these sessions will map use-cases, discuss these questions from policy, human rights, and ethical standpoints, and join forces to chart out guiding principles for the future of AI.
How can we ensure that the use of technology benefits citizens, supports democracy, and upholds human rights? How can tech solutions enable inclusive, open, and accountable governance across diverse communities? Cities are at a pivotal point for shaping the future of “smart” development, raising concerns and opportunities. This track will explore examples from around the world that demonstrate the potential – and the constraints – of civic technology to tackle issues related to political interaction and engagement.
Privacy. Cybersecurity. Hate speech. The slow response of tech giants to the critical challenges of the digital age has led to increased scrutiny of content moderation practices, and the persistent neglect of user privacy and data protection. Around the world, there is public outcry for better industry regulation and governance with a common consensus that the old ways of doing business need to change.
This track emphasizes the responsibility of businesses, with a focus on transparency and platform accountability. Civil society organizations, policy-makers, startups, and major companies will together challenge the status quo and engage to develop strategies for building rights-respecting policies, products, and practices. Corporate accountability indexes, supply chain practices, guiding principles and implementation strategies will be at the top of the agenda.
This track will unpack the nature of threats perpetuated or coordinated online, and the potential for these threats to translate to offline violence. Sessions will investigate the taxonomy, reach, and impact of terrorism, harassment, and hate actions on populations, including women, LGBTQ+ people, and religious and ethnic minorities. They will discuss – and challenge – the proliferation of new proposals from companies, states, and civil society to curb violence online while maintaining fundamental rights. These discussions will move forward work on product design principles, practices (including reporting mechanisms and safe spaces), norms, and policies to address these issues.
Cyber attacks are changing the landscape of war, and the fight to protect human safety, peace, and security is more multifaceted and complex than ever before. Governments – both democratic and authoritarian – are using the morphing tactics of terrorism and foreign interference to also advance policies that undermine encryption and user privacy. This track covers strategies to enhance cybersecurity, and looks at the role of government intervention in preventing hacking and ensuring the online safety of citizens. Sessions will map the proliferation of cyber norms and identify tactics to avoid cyber harm – with an emphasis on strategies that are reflective of and responsive to the specific needs of communities in the Global South.
In the year since the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, what has been achieved? This track will take stock of the global state of data protection. Data-driven infrastructures in areas such as smart cities, blockchain applications, digital identity programs and data analytics often put users at risk. Laws and regulations are failing to keep up with technological advancements, and many users are not digitally literate when it comes to user control and protection, leaving them vulnerable to privacy breaches.
This track will critically examine the interaction between data usage and data protection laws, formalized user consent, personal data security, and data leak protection measures. Sessions will be interactive and grounded in skill-building, and will promote debate and open discussion with the hopes of establishing possible solutions.
From the United States to Brazil to Ukraine, interference in free and fair elections through information warfare is a rising threat to democracy and human rights around the globe. The spread of false content encourages violence and attacks on civil society actors, polarizes communities, and undermines the legitimacy of the democratic process. Knee-jerk responses and reactionary legislation formulated in moments of crisis often have unintended consequences for human rights.
Sessions in this track will identify and tackle these disruption efforts. They will interrogate how states and market actors restrict human rights defenders and social justice movements, build roadmaps to counter the chilling effect of new technologies on the freedom of assembly and association, and discuss innovations in the field to protect the ability of citizens to organize and mobilize.
The Internet is a powerful catalyst for social change, providing new opportunities to share information and connect communities across cultures and continents. This track will explore tools, projects, and policies that support diversity, equity, and inclusion, with a particular emphasis on those who face discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, economic background, disability, and/or other social status. Sessions will open up safe spaces to share experiences and partner in practices that encourage inclusion. They will also offer methods and useful tools to incorporate diversity considerations into product and app design.
Countries around the world are facing numerous barriers to a free and open internet, including shutdowns, network disruptions, lack of net neutrality, and social media taxes. This track will explore the origins of internet shutdowns, which often take place during elections and other core political moments, and will seek to foster dialogue on innovative, secure means of connecting the unconnected. Together with the #KeepItOn coalition, sessions will explore tools for network measurement, discuss examples of legal claims, and analyze the emergence of nontraditional coalitions between government and private sector, all in order to prevent internet shutdowns.
Historically one of the most significant thematic tracks at RightsCon, these sessions will address emerging threats to freedom of expression. From the rise of hate speech and memetic warfare, to content moderation efforts and internet taxes, this track will provide a comprehensive picture of the state of censorship and freedom of expression around the world.
Sessions will discuss content moderation practices, and the role of platforms and coalitions, in ensuring the free flow of information and opinion, with the aim to critically examine existing initiatives and develop viable advocacy roadmaps.
The explosion of online platforms and public commons in the past three decades has provoked questions of law and jurisdiction within these spaces. This track will explore challenges facing investigators in the digital age, including criminal accountability and attribution, cross-border data sharing, and ownership and use of digital evidence for prosecutorial purposes. Sessions are intended to drive strategic solutions, and foster discussions about gaps in laws and regulations to safeguard our digital spaces and hold violators responsible, both online and off.
In the digital era, philanthropy and the broader donor community face new threats and opportunities. Technology is challenging traditional concepts of human rights, and private philanthropists, development agencies and corporate givers are adapting, often too slowly, to properly resource activists and movements in ways that makes sense.
This track will explore some of the key challenges, risks, and questions that the philanthropic sector is addressing in order to become more sustainable and user-centric, and to better support and partner with its beneficiaries. Sessions in this track will explore strategies to protect digital civic space, convene funders to engage directly with grantees, reverse engineer Request for Proposals, unpack the digital insecurities in the sector, and successfully build local capacity and trust in the digital age.
Sessions within this track will address best practices when it comes to the implementation and application of facial recognition and other forms of biometric surveillance. Session organizers will discuss the impacts of these tracking technologies on all, especially for vulnerable and marginalized communities. Discussions will take place in the context of the global migration crisis, political instability and terrorism, and critically analyze the government and corporate roles in surveillance and its consequences to citizens’ rights to privacy, assembly, and more.
Workshops, panels, fishbowls, and fireside chats will prioritize techniques to build digital literacy and security, and to promote deeper understanding across different stakeholder communities of user-centricity and privacy-by-design.
Is the truth out there? This track grapples with the increasing spread and impact of misinformation. Deliberate assaults on ‘truth’, fact, and science are driving confusion and conflict around the world. In attempts to counter this trend, decision-makers often support poorly-considered and reactive policies that can be more harmful than helpful.
Sessions will focus on disinformation and misinformation, journalistic roles and responsibilities, fact-checking, and deep fake trends and challenges. All of these areas of discussion raise questions about existing media business models and the future of journalism, and about sustainable methods to build media literacy initiatives for consumers increasingly mistrustful of news sources.
This track focuses on communications and campaigning in the digital space, with an effort to build, strengthen, and consolidate core advocacy skills. Human rights advocates and digital security experts will share how they engage with international bodies and private companies. Companies and governments also engage in advocacy techniques to achieve their goals. These sessions will utilize tools, provide strategies, and call upon experts in the field to provide insight and share their experiences to maximize reach.
Sessions will design and develop toolkits to improve reporting skills and offer access to softwares to enhance lobbying and advocacy on the ground. The aim is to leave these sessions with the confidence to advance social justice causes before international bodies, national parliaments, and the tech sector.
This track will explore how technology can support countries and policymakers in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The development and tech communities often see digital innovation and invention as a cure-all for the world’s ills, but when deployed indiscriminately and without consideration of local contexts, human-focused technologies can perpetuate – or even create new – systemic and structural barriers. This track will look closely at the tech sector as a whole and consider its impact on human rights, the environment, and other critical issues related to the SDGs. Sessions place emphasis on community-driven initiatives and efforts to ensure development is inclusive and equitable.
This track will also focus on developing advocacy strategies to encourage sustainable production and utilization of information and communications technology (ICTs), corporate accountability, and rights-based approaches to innovation.
From burnout to vicarious trauma and direct targeting, the safety and health of human rights activists are constantly under threat. To combat these challenges, we need to center the wellbeing of the individuals and organizations at the heart of our movements, change the narrative around resiliency and mental health, and take deliberate steps to care for ourselves and each other.
This track offers knowledge and tools to improve both organizational and individual wellness. Sessions will teach basic self-care techniques, create safe spaces for sharing strategies, and emphasize skill-building on core concepts related to stress and trauma.