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.

News and Announcements

  •  
  • 1 of 10
  • »
See all announcements

Upcoming Events

2021 Sep 28

Privacy is Power with Dr. Carissa Véliz

12:00pm to 1:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

As surveillance creeps into every corner of our lives, Dr. Carissa Véliz exposes how our personal data is giving too much power to big tech and governments, why that matters, and what we can do about it. Without your permission, or even your awareness, tech companies are harvesting your location, your likes, your habits, your relationships, your fears, your medical issues, and sharing it amongst themselves, as well as with governments and a multitude of data vultures. They're not just selling your data. They’re selling the power to influence you and decide for you. Even when you’ve...

Read more about Privacy is Power with Dr. Carissa Véliz

Registration: 

2021 Oct 12

The New Morality of Debt with Nikita Aggarwal

12:00pm to 1:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

Throughout history, society has debated the morality of debt. In recent years, the rise of AI and data-driven lending has added new dimensions to debt's morality. In this talk, Nikita Aggarwal will examine the new morality of debt in the age of datafied lending, and consider how financial regulation should adapt to this new technological reality.  

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Dr. Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and Berthold Beitz Professor in Human...

Read more about The New Morality of Debt with Nikita Aggarwal

Registration: 

2021 Oct 26

Towards Life 3.0: A Conversation with John Scott-Railton

12:00pm to 1:00pm

Location: 

Virtual Event (Registration Required)

Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Dr. Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs, and Philosophy. 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 artificial intelligence on society and...

Read more about Towards Life 3.0: A Conversation with John Scott-Railton

Registration: 

  •  
  • 1 of 2
  • »
See all upcoming events

Select Publications

Media Freedom and Technological Change

Citation:

Vivek Krishnamurthy, Mark Latonero, Rachel Kuchma, Elif Nur Kumru, and Geneviève Plumptre. 8/11/2021. “Media Freedom and Technological Change.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.
Media Freedom and Technological Change

Abstract:

The concept of media freedom developed in the 20th century alongside efforts to advance governmental transparency and accountability in democracies. Media freedom empowers journalists, enabling them to act as checks on governments and other powerful social actors, and allowing them to contribute to a democratic discourse that is fact-based and accessible. The principle also provides an analytical framework for interrogating the central role that the news media plays in democratic societies. Even so, current understandings of media freedom remain rooted in the historical postwar moment that gave rise to the concept: a period that predates the information revolution and the proliferation of new communications technologies.

Technological change has transformed the economics of the news industry and undermined the ad-supported business models of legacy media organizations. This destabilization poses a fundamental challenge to the old model of media freedom, forcing questions of who today is entitled to media freedom and whether current media freedom protections are sufficient. To ensure the ongoing relevance of media freedom, the concept must evolve to address the contemporary conditions of news production, and the new impediments to gathering and disseminating fact-based information in the public interest.
 

Read the paper. 

: Krishnamurthy et al. | August 11 2021
: The concept of media freedom developed in the 20th century alongside efforts to advance governmental transparency and accountability in democracies.
Last updated on 08/11/2021

Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy

Citation:

Mathias Risse. 7/28/2021. “Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.
Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy

Abstract:

Located at the intersection of political philosophy, philosophy of technology and political history, this essay reflects on medium and long-term prospects and challenges for democracy that arise from AI, emphasizing how critical a stage this is. Modern democracies involve structures for collective choice that periodically empower relatively few people to steer the social direction for everybody. As in all forms of governance, technology shapes how this unfolds. Specialized AI changes what philosophers of technology would call the materiality of democracy, not just in the sense that independent actors deploy different tools. AI changes how collective decision making unfolds and what its human participants are like (how they see themselves in relation to their environment, what relationships they have and how those are designed, and generally what form of human life can get realized). AI and democracy are not “natural allies:” it takes active design choices and much political will for AI so serve democratic purposes.

Read the full paper

: Mathias Risse | July 26 2021
: How does AI instigate prospects and challenges for modern democracies in our near and distant futures?
Last updated on 07/26/2021

The Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board

Citation:

Flynn Coleman, Brandie Nonnecke, and Elizabeth M. Renieris. 5/6/2021. “The Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Read the Discussion.
The Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board

Abstract:

The Facebook Oversight Board recently issued its first decisions on content removals by Facebook. See what some of the Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellows had to say about the benefits, challenges, and risks of external oversight boards for platform governance and accountability.

Read the discussion.

: Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellows | May 6 2021
: What are the benefits, challenges, and risks of external oversight boards for platform governance and accountability?
Last updated on 05/06/2021
  •  
  • 1 of 13
  • »
See all publications

“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