The Right to Protest Online

10 November 2015 - A Workshop on Other in João Pessoa, Brazil


In the digital age, protests are no longer limited to assemblies and gatherings in physical spaces but are increasingly taking place, in whole or in part, online. This presents new challenges and opportunities for protests in two ways. First, digital technologies are used as a medium for organizing of and reporting on protests. Second, the Internet is increasingly being used as a platform of protests as people “gather” in online spaces and engage in new forms of virtual protests. Although calls have been made to recognise the right to protest online, there has been little human rights analysis of what this actually entails. Moreover, cybercrime laws in numerous countries outlaw many virtual protests without considering their impact on human rights. The issue of protests and digital technologies therefore deserves attention from an Internet governance perspective. This session will explore these issues both from a theoretical and practical perspective, considering questions such as what types of “virtual protests” should be protected, what legislative and policy changes are needed to allow for protection, what factors should law enforcement or judicial authorities consider in cases that present a violation of existing laws. At the session, ARTICLE 19 will also present The Right to Protest Principles, which set out minimum standards on contemporary forms of protests, including online. The session will improve the participants’ understanding of challenges to the protection of freedom of expression and assembly online in the context of protests. It will also identify opportunities for joint advocacy in this area at both UN and regional levels.

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