Keynotes 01 2018

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5 June 2018 | 16:30-16:45 | GARDEN HALL | YouTube video
Consolidated programme 2018

Keynote 01 2018

Claudia Luciani worked in the Directorate General of Political Affairs, in the Directorate General of Programmes and more recently in the Directorate General of Democracy with particular responsibility for Anti-Discrimination and Governance issues. As to the latter, her current work focuses on reforms in the area of democratic governance-decentralisation, civil society participation, elections and the impact of digitisation on democratic practice. Claudia is responsible for the annual holding of the World Forum for Democracy.


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This text is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.

>> MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seat. If we are not seated yet. We are going to continue with this afternoon session.

I'm very happy that we have the next keynote speaker from the Council of Europe. It is Claudia Luciani.

She is Director of Democratic Governance and Anti-discrimination. She will set the scene for the Plenary that will just follow this on fake news. Over to you.

  >> CLAUDIA LUCIANI: Thank you very much.

Good afternoon, everybody. I hope you can hear me clearly. Better than this morning, yes?

I am coming from the Council of Europe and I would just be giving you a brief overview of the question of technology and impact on democracy and human rights.

Let me first thank very much the host EuroDIG, the Council of Europe has been supporting EuroDIG since its inception in 2008 in Strasbourg. Committed as we are to a regularly Pan-European look at internet issues which continue to take up an ever growing place in our organisation's activities.

Indeed for an organisation like ours, born 70 years ago to protect democracy, rule of law and human rights, the speed of technological evolution has clearly been a challenge. Maintaining a dialogue on it with all the stakeholders, be they states, businesses, Civil Society, academia, and other international partners is a must. Tech no optimism has accompanied us for a number of years. The unprecedented benefits of the internet for connecting people, empowering them, informing them, engaging them in democratic governance through direct participation, seemed to have no borders. Today we are aware that digital evolution does not only bring opportunities but also challenges. These affect us all in a very interconnected way. Let me tell you from the Council of Europe point of view how they affect our three main pillars: Democracy, rule of law and human rights. Starting with democracy, in a society that where data has become such an asset, you're probably familiar with the recent book "Almost Deos," the big data concentrated in the hands of few and the explosion of self learning algorithms may have indeed enormous impact not only on democratic institutions but on democracy per se.

As Mr. Harrare seems to suggest. From our point of view the viability of technology like democracy depends on justice, its practice, and the enforcement of limits of power.

This is particularly true in the case of elections. And increasingly aggressive views of technology to micro-target specific categories of voters and the well-known phenomenon of filter bubbles are just examples of how fairness and legitimacy of entire electoral processes maybe writ. This morning we heard from Commissioner Gabriel that we can already see that trust is eroding in users of internet when it comes to the political sphere.

The recent Council of Europe study on the internet and electoral campaigns draws attention to the ability of current frameworks to level the playing field, for instance when it comes to political contests and to limit the role of money in elections because they mostly do not apply to social media.

The study recommends setting standards with regard to message targeting and a number of other areas. This is an area where Council of Europe may want to get engaged. Of course, regulations will not help when it comes to assuring that ordinary citizens participate in a well informed and active way in the digital technology. To this effect, Council of Europe is working on a programme called digital citizenship education designed to develop specific competencies to empower pupils to engage positively, critically, and competently in the digital environment.

Finally, when it comes to democracy, this also means ensuring that users can master the data they generate, notably for self expression in the areas of culture, for instance. But it also means that those who want to remain inscrutable can remain so. And Council of Europe has a recommendation that covers the right to remain inscrutable.

Now, turning to the challenges of the rule of law. The solidity of our offline democracies rests on the rule of law and on equality before the law. When delicate data is stored on servers own police department by companies abroad and using algorithm for efficients, data is in those algorithms and both principles risk being compromised. Council of Europe has an important number of standards in this area. Let me mention a few. First of all, our Budapest convention, cyber crime convention, we have 57 Member States that are there, including the U.S. and Canada and a draft edition of protocol has been developed to enhance international cooperation to cover solutions regarding more effective, mutual assistance including cooperation with service providers in other jurisdictions than of the membership, and rules for practices, transborder access to data while safeguarding data protection requirements. Another example is in the fight against terrorism, where our Committee on counter terrorism, intergovernmental body, is providing a platform for exchanges of best practice and the formulation of soft law instruments to coordinate action against terrorism.

Finally in the area of justice, the European Commission for the efficiency of justice is evaluating challenges and looking at machine learning algorithms in the justice system.

Let me now tackle what is probably the most effected area, that is human rights, as they are protected by our convention of human rights which you will recall is an international instrument with a court mechanism, supervisory mechanisms. Certainly in this area, the impact is mostly felt. All human rights are impacted. Again, a recent study of the Council of Europe on the human rights and use of algorithms last year points out the fact that public debate on multiple uses of algorithms is lagging behind the technological revolution and must be strengthened to make sure that individuals are effectively safeguarded in line with the values of our convention.

This concerns particularly, for instance, the use of artificial intelligence, against racism and homophobic bias in the online world.

When there are biases that systematically discriminate against groups in society, this can be done through direct discrimination and indirect discrimination. We had at the Council of Europe important policy statements issued by our Commission against racial intolerance, especially, recommendation also against how to face hate speech online by individuals and intermediary and we are working on guidelines for sexism online.

There are fundamental rights by our convention. Here the Council of Europe possesses a convention 108 as we call it for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data. Fifty-one Member States are members. It was recently amended to strengthen the rights of the data subject in the digital age.

New right of individuals not to be subjected to automated decisions that affect them without having been consulted is part of the updating. Another important area where we are very active is children's rights. Today's children are huge data providers, mostly unwillingly and unknowingly.

The information they share can be used for profiling purchases and can compromise their exercise of their rights. Council of Europe has elaborated a clear set of guidelines to respect, protect those rights in the digital environment, which has been elaborated with the consultation of private actors. Another very important right, freedom of expression, which of course includes also the filtered information, is, of course, at stake. This is one of the first formulated human rights considered key for individual dignity. It allows individuals to demand access to all other rights. It is therefore for us a cornerstone of democratic societies.

Because we want to have engaged and well informed electorates that hold governments to account.

Is this working today? I think we will have a chance to explore it in the session just going to follow me. For the moment let me give you some preliminary conclusions based on the works of our engaged by the Council of Europe.

We believe that the discussions around this issue should not be led by panic or doomsday, but should be a reasoned and facts-based debate. We should maybe take inspiration from Kant's famous model: (non-English phrase.) Have the courage to use one's reasoning, very important in this moment. And also the courage of using the Council of Europe for its unique convening power, 47 Member States, and unique capability of setting standards that unify a legal space around Europe.

And also, of course, have the courage of continued dialogue with businesses, with different platforms, Civil Society, and academia.

Why? Because we need to avoid creating parallel standards, standards that would be issued from the industries and standards that could be issued from the international organisations. Whatever we agree on should be done in concert with a common purpose because the stakes are too high to allow for parallel standards. Of course, they must be based on internationally agreed norms and regulations. The Council of Europe is more than ready to engage in this field and as you will see from the work of my colleagues in the different meetings, we, of course, are also seeking to partner with all of you in this endeavor. Thank you very much.


(The keynote address concluded.)


This text is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.