What are human rights, and how do they apply in the digital world?

“Human rights are about respecting the human being, both as an individual and as a member of the human species, and ensuring the dignity of the human being.”

The Council of Europe

Regardless of skin color, origin, or gender, we are all born free and have the same human dignity and rights. Human rights have defined some fundamental aspects that must not be violated in order to protect human dignity. They encompass a wide range of rights, such as the right to liberty and freedom, the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to participate in societal processes, among others.

The main historical turning point was the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the Member States of the United Nations in 1948, following the end of World War II. Human rights then progressed further, especially in Europe, with the Council of Europe adopting the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (4 November 1950), also known as The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which aims to achieve greater unity among countries, including by maintaining and further realizing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Human rights are an evolving topic. Human rights for Internet users are an example of that, as digital space and digitalization are becoming new turning points in the development of today’s European societies. The Internet has fundamentally altered how we access information and communicate, and it has also created new opportunities for democratic consolidation. Regrettably, it has also created space for human rights violations or limitations, whether directly by people in their daily interactions or by entities that use various mechanisms such as online surveillance or AI that directly or indirectly affect our rights. As a result, more considerations are needed to better define user rights as well as develop mechanisms for human rights implementation in the digital space-such as monitoring how and under what conditions human rights of internet users are implemented.