Human Rights in the Digital Era: Europe’s Role in Safeguarding Human Rights Online – TOPIC 01 Sub 01 2024

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18 June 2024 | 10:30 - 11:15 EEST | Auditorium
Consolidated programme 2024 overview

Proposals: #6 #57 #73 (see list of proposals)

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Session teaser

While human rights are the foundation of the Council of Europe and enshrined in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and European constitutions, digital human rights are still being shaped. With the “Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade" the EU presents its “commitment to a secure, safe and sustainable digital transformation that puts people at the centre, in line with EU core values and fundamental rights.” Is this approach keeping pace in addressing gaps in the protection of vulnerable groups, including children and youth in the light of rapid technological developments? Moreover, there is a growing tension between the crucial need to address evolving cyber threats and the duty to uphold fundamental human rights online, particularly the right to privacy as well as the right to freedom of speech. Can multidisciplinary approaches and multistakeholder dialogue play a crucial role to help striking the appropriate balance?

Session description

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing the rights that every person inherently possesses from birth regardless of nationality, gender, ethnic origin, religion, language, or any other condition.

With the increasing presence of new technologies and digitization, we are now at a new juncture that requires rethinking these rights, evaluating whether it is necessary to expand them or implement new mechanisms to ensure the fulfillment of human rights in the digital world.

Are human rights respected in the digital world?

According to the Eurobarometer of the Digital Decade, only 57% of respondents were aware that human rights should also be respected online. Likewise, one in three respondents believed that the EU does not adequately protect their rights in the digital environment. Regarding the areas they considered priorities for action by the EU and Member States, respondents highlighted: protection of users against cyberattacks (30%), protection against misinformation and illegal content (26%), and support for digital skills training programs (17%).

Grounding these ideas, the deficit in these areas can be associated with a deficit in the complete guarantee of certain human rights, specifically Articles 12 (protection of privacy, as well as attacks on the honor or reputation of individuals), 19 (freedom of expression), and 26 (right to education) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Examples of the challenges in guaranteeing the aforementioned rights online

Firstly, cyberattacks in Europe increased by 57% from 2022 to 2023, creating insecurity among users about their online protection. Additionally, in recent years, cases of implicitly unauthorized use of data have emerged, with the most notorious being the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018. This has resulted in approximately 46% of the European population being concerned that a third party is misusing their personal data.

Secondly, despite freedom of expression being the most valued human right by the European population in terms of its online guarantee, it poses a risk due to the “viralization” of fake news and hate speech. For example, in a context of mistrust in public health institutions and practices during the pandemic, one group of protesters suggested a correlation between COVID-19 and 5G mobile technology. Throughout 2020, this alleged correlation was widely promoted and distributed on social media, leading to extreme cases such as the burning of antennas in the UK. In addition, if we add generative artificial intelligence to false content, it can generate lifelike images seemingly indistinguishable from real-world photos. This is particularly challenging this year in the context of over 50 elections worldwide in an increasingly divided world.

Finally, 46% of the European population lacks basic skills to operate in the digital environment. Additionally, one-third of Europeans believe they do not have an adequate training system to equip them for the Digital Decade. It is essential to have an accessible educational system that enables the acquisition of digital skills both to use devices correctly to participate effectively in the current economic and social reality and to recognize and mitigate risks, especially among vulnerable groups, including children and the youth. 

What is being done in Europe?

Recognizing the deficits in guaranteeing human rights in the digital world, in mid-2021, two Member States adopted their own digital rights initiatives. On the one hand, Spain developed a Digital Rights Charter as a roadmap for the action of public authorities and aims to serve as a guide for future legislative projects. On the other hand, Portugal adopted the Portuguese Charter of Human Rights in the Digital Age as a legislative text to guarantee the protection of the online population.

Following these two national milestones, in 2022, the EU adopted the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles to achieve a "secure, safe, and sustainable digital transformation that places people at the center, in line with the EU's fundamental values and rights."

The variety of initiatives and the lack of specific mechanisms with which to implement them can lead to fragmentation in Europe in ensuring human rights online. In this sense, 86% of the European population think that cooperation among Member States is important for ensuring that digital technologies respect fundamental rights and European values.

This session aims to address the question: How is Europe safeguarding human rights in the digital era? Panelists will provide their perspectives on the initiatives developed in Europe at both national and regional levels and will examine whether these rights and principles are effectively considered in the development of new regulations. Additionally, hand in hand with the work being done in the Council of Europe, the session will discuss how European values influence the promotion of digital human rights in third countries.


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Further reading

Research paper on Human Rights online:


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Programme Committee member(s)

  • Minda Moreira
  • Jörn Erbguth

The Programme Committee supports the programme planning process throughout the year and works closely with the Secretariat. Members of the committee give advice on the topics, cluster the proposals and assist session organisers in their work. They also ensure that session principles are followed and monitor the complete programme to avoid repetition.

Focal Point

  • Isabel Álvaro Alonso, YOUTH IGF SPAIN

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Organising Team (Org Team) List Org Team members here as they sign up.

  • Vittorio Bertola
  • Anna Morandini
  • Dennis Redeker
  • Emilia Zalewska-Czajczyńska, NASK PIB
  • Pilar Rodriguez
  • Lucien Castex

The Org Team is a group of people shaping the session. Org Teams are open and every interested individual can become a member by subscribing to the mailing list.


  • Vessela Karloukovska, Policy Officer of the Internet Governance Team in DG-CNECT
  • Ana Cristina Amoroso das Neves, Head of the Internet Governance Office, PT Foundation for Science and Technology | Vice-Chair of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development | Chair of the DNS.PT Advisory Board
  • Dennis Redeker, Founding member of the interdisciplinary Digital Constitutionalism Network and Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition
  • Paolo Grassia, Senior Director of Public Policy at ETNO


  • Lucien Castex, Representative for public policy of AFNIC and associate researcher at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Confirmed)
  • Isabel María Álvaro Alonso, Member of IGF Youth Spain and Junior Manager of Digital Public Policy at Telefónica (Confirmed)

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