Community Updates

Celebrating RightsCon Online with the 2020 Outcomes Report

The RightsCon team is excited to launch our Outcomes Report for the ninth iteration of our annual summit series, RightsCon Online, which took place across every time zone from Monday, July 27 to Friday, July 31, 2020.

Our annual Outcomes Report provides insight into the current human rights and technology landscape, showcasing the achievements, learnings, and participation from and by our community that took place during the summit. Explore a few highlights below or read the full report for a detailed look into RightsCon Online 2020.

Since 2011, we have convened the human rights and technology community in key hubs around the world, including Tunis, Toronto, Brussels, Rio de Janeiro, Manila, and San Francisco. At the end of RightsCon Tunis in 2019, we announced our intention to bring RightsCon to San José, Costa Rica. Instead, in 2020, for the first time in the history of the summit, we embarked on a journey to somewhere entirely different and unexpected – creating a fully online RightsCon experience.

In transitioning from an in-person convening to an online summit, this year’s RightsCon established a critical platform for thousands of experts to connect, coordinate, and advance a shared agenda for 2020 and for the decade ahead. It also allowed us to broaden our reach and increase participation from 2,979 participants at RightsCon Tunis in 2019, to 7,681 in 2020, meaning that RightsCon Online was not only the largest, but the most accessible iteration of our summit to date.

The RightsCon Program

Every year, the RightsCon program is built by, and for, our community. Sessions are sourced from an open Call for Proposals, reviewed by the experts on our Program Committee, and curated based on urgent and emerging priorities for human rights in the digital age.

This year marked our most competitive Call for Proposals yet, with 1,338 proposals received from 110 countries. When we pivoted to an online summit, we made the decision to concentrate on the issues identified as the most pressing and relevant in our RightsCon community survey, and deliver a program and a platform that would deepen collaboration in a moment when solidarity across sectors and borders was critically needed. 


Inclusivity at RightsCon Online

This year, for the first time ever, RightsCon was entirely free of charge. While we typically exercise a flexible ticket discount policy – in 2019, we gave away over 2,000 free tickets – we recognized that in light of the challenges and financial uncertainty that many in our community have faced in 2020, waiving registration fees was especially important.

We also introduced our Connectivity Fund, aimed at providing direct financial support to session organizers, speakers, and civil society participants who needed additional bandwidth or increased connectivity in order to effectively participate during RightsCon Online. Funding was provided to 74 recipients from 21 different countries. The majority of applications came from the African region, receiving 81.1% of the funding. 

Launches, outcomes, and achievements from RightsCon Online 

Each year we keep track of major launches, outcomes, and achievements from our summit. Check out the top highlights below! 

  • Six U.N. Special Rapporteurs released an official statement at RightsCon, warning of closing of digital spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and embracing their commitment to continue documenting the intersection of technology within their mandates.
  • Access Now and the CoalizãoDireitos na Rede called on representatives from Brazil’s Congress to address the harmful “Fake News Bill” in Brazil, leading to direct commitments to improve and modify provisions of mass traceability and user identification.
  • Second Oxford Statement calls for protecting COVID-19 vaccine research from malicious cyber operations
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Jessica Rosenworcel delivered a statement in response to the Trump administration’s efforts to direct the FCC to moderate online speech under the auspices of Section 230.
  • Freemuse announced its “Know Artistic Rights” campaign and digital toolkit to protect artists from harassment online
  • B-Tech, an initiative under the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), launched a new foundational paper, Addressing Business Model Related Human Rights Risks, at RightsCon Online.
  • Peruvian civil organization Hiperderecho presented Son Mis Datos (It’s My Data), which details the state of data protection in Peru, and explains how to request, retrieve, and authenticate personal data from private companies.
  • AI Myths, a project to tackle eight of the most common and harmful myths, misconceptions, and inaccuracies about artificial intelligence, led by Access Now Mozilla Fellow Daniel Leufer, was launched at RightsCon Online.
  • A new Digital Trade Alliance was announced with the World Trade Organization during RightsCon session Trading away our digital rights: the digital trade agenda at the World Trade Organization.
  • Minister Audrey Tang of Taiwan signed on in support of Access Now’s #WhyID letter.
  • Expansion in membership, particularly from South Asia, for the Digital Rights Litigators Network.
  • The Canadian government announced a $2 million CAD investment in online safety for human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society groups.

RightsCon in 2021 and beyond 

The unparalleled global events of this year have made our world an unpredictable place, however, one thing remains clear: there is still work to be done. From protecting free speech to advancing racial justice and addressing the climate crisis, our collective efforts are needed to create solutions for some of the most pressing and challenging issues of our time.

It is our deep commitment to preserve spaces for convening and bring the RightsCon community together in 2021. Our planning for next year is underway and we’re taking the learnings from bringing RightsCon Online to life as we shape our next summit. We’ll soon share important updates via our newsletter (subscribe here) – including a formal Save the Date – and details on how you can join us for next year, the 10th anniversary of RightsCon.

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