Technology & Human Rights

Examining how technological advancements affect the future of human rights.

While recognizing the enormous progress that societies have made since the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, technological advancements have inevitably profound implications for the human rights framework.

From a practical perspective, technology can help move the human rights agenda forward. For instance, the use of satellite data can monitor the flow of displaced people; artificial intelligence can assist with image recognition to gather data on rights abuses; and the use of forensic technology can reconstruct crime scenes and hold perpetrators accountable. Yet for the multitude of areas in which emerging technologies advance the human rights agenda, technological developments have equal capacity to undermine efforts. From authoritarian states monitoring political dissidents by way of surveillance technologies, to the phenomenon of “deepfakes” destabilizing the democratic public sphere, ethical and policy-oriented implications must be taken into consideration with the development of technological innovations.  

Technological advancements also introduce new actors to the human rights framework. The movement has historically focused on the role of the state in ensuring rights and justice. Today, technological advancements and the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, in particular, necessitate interaction, collaboration, and coordination with leaders from business and technology in addition to government.

Announcements

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Study Group: Data Trusts | An Ethical Pathway to Protect the Human Rights of People Living with Criminal Convictions Impacted by Background Screening?

February 14, 2020

The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy invites you to join a study group on the urgent need to establish a human rights framework in criminal justice reform, which addresses mass incarceration in America.... Read more about Study Group: Data Trusts | An Ethical Pathway to Protect the Human Rights of People Living with Criminal Convictions Impacted by Background Screening?

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Upcoming Events

2020 Mar 02

Can AI Solve Gun Violence or Is It a Part of the Problem?

5:30pm to 6:45pm

Location: 

Rubenstein 414-AB

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration. Drawing inspiration from the title of Max Tegmark’s book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the series draws upon a range of scholars, technology leaders, and public interest technologists to address the ethical aspects of the long-term impact of...

Read more about Can AI Solve Gun Violence or Is It a Part of the Problem?
2020 Mar 09

Reimagining Reality: Human Rights & Immersive (AR/VR) Technology

5:30pm to 6:45pm

Location: 

Rubenstein 414-AB

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration. Drawing inspiration from the title of Max Tegmark’s book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the series draws upon a range of scholars, technology leaders, and public interest technologists to address the ethical aspects of the long-term impact of...

Read more about Reimagining Reality: Human Rights & Immersive (AR/VR) Technology
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Select Publications

Can Facebook’s Oversight Board Win People’s Trust?

Citation:

Mark Latonero. 1/29/2020. “Can Facebook’s Oversight Board Win People’s Trust?” Harvard Business Review. See full text.
Can Facebook’s Oversight Board Win People’s Trust?

Abstract:

Technology & Human Rights Fellow, Mark Latonero, breaks down the larger implications of Facebook's global Oversight Board for content moderation. 

Facebook is a step away from creating its global Oversight Board for content moderation. The bylaws for the board, released on Jan. 28, lay out the blueprint for an unprecedented experiment in corporate self-governance for the tech sector. While there’s good reason to be skeptical of whether Facebook itself can fix problems like hate speech and disinformation on the platform, we should pay closer attention to how the board proposes to make decisions.

: Mark Latonero | Jan 2020
: Technology & Human Rights Fellow, Mark Latonero, breaks down the larger implications of Facebook's global Oversight Board for content moderation. 
Last updated on 02/13/2020

Technological Revolution, Democratic Recession and Climate Change: The Limits of Law in a Changing World

Citation:

Luís Roberto Barroso. 9/9/2019. Technological Revolution, Democratic Recession and Climate Change: The Limits of Law in a Changing World. Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. 2019009th ed. Cambridge: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Publisher's Version
Technological Revolution, Democratic Recession and Climate Change: The Limits of Law in a Changing World

Abstract:

 Law is a universal institution that has pretensions of being ubiquitous and complete. However, in a complex, plural and volatile world, its limits and possibilities are shaken by the speed, depth and extent of ongoing transformations, its resulting ethical dilemmas, and the difficulties of forming consensus in the political universe.

This article provides a reflection on how the Law has attempted to deal with some of the main afflictions of our time, facing demands that include the needs to (i) keep the technological revolution on an ethical and humanistic track, (ii) avoid that democracy be perverted by populist and authoritarian adventures and (iii) prevent solutions to climate change from coming only when it is too late. At a time when even the near future has become unpredictable, Law cannot provide a priori solutions to multiplying problems and anxieties. When this happens, we must set clear goals for the future of humanity, basing them on the essential and perennial values that have followed us since antiquity.

: Luis Roberto Barroso | Sept 9 2019
: Luís Roberto Barroso reflects on how on how the law has attempted to deal with some of the main afflictions of our time.
Last updated on 02/03/2020

Trump wants to “detect mass shooters before they strike.” It won’t work.

Trump wants to “detect mass shooters before they strike.” It won’t work.

Abstract:

New article on Vox highlights the work of Desmond Patton, Technology and Human Rights Fellow.

Patton, emphasized that current AI tools tend to identify the language of African American and Latinx people as gang-involved or otherwise threatening, but consistently miss the posts of white mass murderers.

"I think technology is a tool, not the tool," said Patton. "Often we use it as an escape so as to not address critical solutions that need to come through policy. We have to pair tech with gun reform. Any effort that suggests we need to do them separately, I don’t think that would be a successful effort at all.”

Read full article here. 

: Sigal Samuel | Aug 7, 2019
: Vox article highlights the work of Desmond Patton, Technology and Human Rights Fellow.
Last updated on 01/23/2020
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“Global civil society and transnational advocacy networks have played an important role in social movements and struggles for social change. Looking ahead, these movements need to coalesce around the impact of technology on society, in particular harnessing the promise, challenging the perils, and looking at maintaining public and private spheres that respect creativity, autonomy, diversity, and freedom of thought and expression.”

- Sushma Raman