The Future of Human Rights in the Digital Age

By: Dafna Dror-Shpoliansky

Identifying the applicable legal framework governing cyberspace, and its relation with other norms of national and international law has become a particularly difficult challenge in the digital age. 

In the past, the Internet was regarded as a distinct realm for human interaction, and a prevailing notion among digital rights theorists was that it should be regarded as a "civilization of the mind"[1] - a global social space operated through a ‘social contract’, which the individual users themselves implement, and that it should remain space "free of intervention" from government power.[2] Since then, however, the Internet has become an essential, integral part of our contemporary lives, affecting directly or indirectly almost every aspect of society and human welfare.

The research aims to examine the adequacy of the existing international human rights framework to address the challenges of the digital age, and whether there is a need to develop new human rights, specifically designed for application to cyberspace. It further aims to explore what are those rights and how should they be applied and promoted in cyberspace, in light of its unique features, with a particular emphasis on the emerging role of private companies as leading actors in this realm.

[1] John Perry Barlow, "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace", February 8, 1996) (hereinafter: Barlow).

[2] Fidler, David P., "Research Handbook on International Law and Cyberspace (edited by Nicholas Tsagourias)" (2015). Books by Maurer Faculty. (hereinafter: Fidler); Gill, Lex and Redeker, Dennis and Gasser, Urs, Towards Digital Constitutionalism? Mapping Attempts to Craft an Internet Bill of Rights (November 9, 2015). Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2015-15(hereinafter: Gill&Gasser);