Disruptive Technologies and Rights-Based Resilience

Completed in December 2022

Disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced robotics pose significant societal challenges and specific threats in the area of human rights. For example, they can be used to exacerbate ethnic conflict, fuel hate speech, undermine democratic processes, facilitate state surveillance, and perpetuate discriminatory narratives and practices. Better regulating these fast-paced technological advances requires placing international human rights law (IHRL) at the centre of regulatory and policy frameworks.

However, two main problems persist: (1) IHRL is not always sufficiently built into these regulatory and policy frameworks as many initiatives refer only to ethics, not law; (2) most stakeholders tend to operate in silos, without overall coordination between industry, policymakers, academia, and civil society. As a result, digital technologies carry on causing disruption, stresses and potential shocks to socio-political systems, and the protection of human rights.

Objectives

This project – carried out by Dr Ana Beduschi – facilitated a multistakeholder consultative process to identify knowledge gaps, generate new evidence and co-design evidence-based tools to support regulatory and policy responses to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies. It contributed to the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) B-Tech Project's goal to advance the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in the technology space. In particular, the collaboration will investigate ways to promote human rights-based societal resilience in the face of ever-evolving disruptive technologies.

Donor and Partner

This project – funded by the Geneva Science-Policy Interface – was carried out in partnership with OHCHR’s B-Tech Project, which provides authoritative guidance and resources for implementing the UNGPs in the technology space.

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NEWS

Smartphone screen News

Aligning Regulations of Business Conduct in the Technology Sector with Human Rights

29 April 2022

A new Research Brief on Regulating Business Conduct in the Technology Sector: Gaps and Ways Forward in Applying the UNGPs depicts the prominent gaps in regulatory approaches to business conduct in the technology sector with regard to the UNGPs.

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A presentation on big data News

Placing Human Rights at the Centre of New Tech Regulations

14 March 2022

At a multi-stakeholder consultation, business, academia, civil society and state representatives discussed the gaps and ways forward in applying the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to regulate business conduct in the technology sector.

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Social media icons News

Placing Human Rights at the Centre of Regulatory Frameworks and Legislation on Online Harm

18 January 2022

In light of concerns about the dissemination of illegal content, disinformation and misinformation via online platforms and social media, our new  Working Paper Regulatory Approaches to Online Harms and Human Rights: Three Case Studies discusses how to best place human rights at the centre of regulatory frameworks and legislation on online harms.

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OUTPUT

Supporting the Development of a UN Tool on Regulatory and Policy Measures in the Technology Sector

Our research findings – summarized in our Research Brief Regulating Business Conduct in the Technology Sector: Gaps and Ways Forward in Applying the UNGPs (April 2022) – provided evidence-based research for an OHCHR B-Tech UNGPs check tool.

This concrete policy guidance tool aimed at policymakers to support regulatory and policy measures in the technology field was launched in November 2022 during the UN Business and Human Rights Forum. It will allow policymakers and other stakeholders to assess whether their regulatory or incentive-based initiatives directed at the technology sector align with the UNGPs.

Placing Human Rights at the Centre of Regulatory Frameworks and Legislation on Online Harm

Our Working Paper Regulatory Approaches to Online Harms and Human Rights: Three Case Studies (January 2022) – aimed at policy-makers and all those working on the regulation of online harms – examines their regulation in three jurisdictions – Brazil, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). The analysis of the three case studies shows that legislative measures laying down substantive and process-oriented obligations for online platforms might support legal certainty. Nonetheless, paradoxically, depending on how these legal obligations are set, they may lead to potential violations of the very rights that they seek to protect.

Providing Guidance to Incorporate the Protection and Respect for Human Rights in Current Initiatives on the Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

Our Working Paper The Relevance of the Smart Mix of Measures for Artificial Intelligence - Assessing the Role of Regulation and the Need for Stronger Policy Coherence (September 2021) discusses how initiatives on the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies should incorporate the protection and respect for human rights. Aimed at policy-makers, the technology sector and all those working on the regulation of AI, it notably focuses on the UNGPs' call on states to adopt a ‘smart mix’ of mandatory and voluntary measures to support their implementation and how this applies to the AI sector.

Accompanying Key Multi-Stakeholders Discussions on the Regulation of Technology Company Conduct

Our project outputs have also served as background papers and references to multiple multi-stakeholder consultations.

We have collaborated in this context with key civil society stakeholders such as the Centre for Democracy and Technology’s Europe Office. Our consultations were attended by businesses and civil society as well as by key policymakers such as representatives from the European Commission and the European Parliament, who were at that time negotiating the adoption of innovative regulations on technology company conduct (the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act).

These engagements were strategic to allow for the dissemination of our research findings and for influencing the debates in the area of technology regulation. They were also essential for testing and obtaining feedback on our outputs.

These consultations notably explored:

Publications

Cover of the publication

Regulating business conduct in the technology sector gaps and ways forward in applying the UNGPs

April 2022

Ana Beduschi, Isabel Ebert

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the publication

Regulatory Approaches to Online Harms and Human Rights: Three Case Studies

January 2022

Ana Beduschi

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the publication

The relevance of the Smart Mix of Measures for Artificial Intelligence - Assessing the Role of Regulation and the Need for Stronger Policy Coherence

September 2021

Ana Beduschi, Dr Isabel Ebert

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the publication

Human Rights and the Governance of Artificial Intelligence

March 2020

Ana Beduschi

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Past Events

Building Blocks for Tech Regulation – A Business and Human Rights Approach

30 November 2021, 10:25-11:40

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