Reflecting on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights

First, I wanted to note that it is sometimes hard to extend laws to digital platforms. Although this might not seem like a huge issue, there are laws that protect certain rights, which vary from country to country. It is difficult, in my opinion, to extend global laws to the World Wide Web in particular because of the differences in what is acceptable from country to country. For example, “(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit,” but, unlike the United States some countries do not make education, not even elementary school, mandatory. With this in mind, how can companies and countries protect human rights in the digital sphere when the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights still finds adoption issues in a number of physical, tangible places?

Another human right acknowledges that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” but what if these opinions and forms of expression are unethical based on the harm they cause another individual, or if a country restricts these opinions and forms of expression? The first example that comes to mind is when an individual is playing a multiplayer game and begins to berate the other players for their race. Of course, the company has the ability to temporarily or permanently ban the individual, but, more times than not, these players do not learn their lessons. Another example, based on the latter part of the question, which revolves around countries restricting the ways people communicate their opinions. Two years ago, The Washington Post’s Terrence McCoy published “Turkey bans Twitter- and Twitter Explodes.” This article discussed the way in which Twitter was disabled due to the Prime Minister’s ruling/opinion. McCoy then shed light on how Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board made a decision to block/ban an ad because a Turkish flag was desecrated in the footage. Ergodan, the Prime Minister, became very loud about the ban and wanted to “ban the ban” because he supported the ad. This example is particularly worrying as the Prime Minister flip-flopped on his views in a short period of time based on what he wanted.

I also spent some time searching on Google and found a proposal for a Universal Declaration of Digital Rights. The campaign for the adoption of these rights is led by Dele Atanda. The Declaration is housed on www.digiterria.org, where they provide a video explaining why these digital rights are critical.

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