The past decade has seen many examples of the positive social, economic and political impact of the internet, social media, mobile technologies, automation, artificial intelligence and other new digital technologies. These positive impacts include empowering civil and human rights activism, healthcare breakthroughs, making transport and logistics more environmentally sustainable, to name but a few. But more recently, the shadow sides of these very same innovations have come sharply into focus, including infringements on privacy, contributing to exacerbating ethnic conflict and dissemination of hate speech, undermining democratic processes, enhancing state surveillance, putting children at risk, facilitating live-streaming of abhorrent acts like the Christchurch terrorist attack, online violence against women and LGBTI persons and others, and “algorithmic discrimination” (whether in the job market, the criminal justice system or in access to public services).
These challenges are increasingly seen through the lens of human rights risks, not just ethical dilemmas. The lens has widened to bring into view issues related to corporate responsibility and accountability and associated questions of governance and public policy.
Understandable public concern has led to calls on both policy makers and tech companies to take effective action to prevent and address harm, resulting in a broad range of regulatory and policy initiatives. However, as such demands for regulation and other interventions in the digital space grow, public and private responses risk being ad hoc, fragmented and not aligned with international standards.
It is in this context that UN Human Rights has initiated the Business and Human Rights in Technology Project (hereinafter “the B-Tech Project”). The B-Tech Project will contribute to addressing the urgent need voiced by companies, civil society and policy makers to find principled and pragmatic ways to prevent and address human rights harms connected with the development of digital technologies and their use by corporate, government and non-governmental actors, including individual users.
Through an inclusive and dynamic process of dialogue, consultation and research, and building upon existing initiatives, emerging good practice and expertise, the Project will result in outputs made available on an ongoing basis. The different deliverables will be short and action-oriented, with a focus on policy as well as practical applications, and be applicable across different technologies and companies.
Following informal consultations held in the spring with a range of actors from civil society, business, States and other experts about its scope, including a multi-stakeholder consultation in the margin of RightsCon last June during which a draft scoping paper was discusssed and then open for public consultaiton, UN Human Rights has finalized the project’s scoping paper.
The scoping paper sets out four broad inter-related focus areas:
1. Addressing human rights risks in business models;
2. Human Rights due diligence and end use;
3. Accountability and remedy; and
4. “A smart mix of measures”: exploring the regulatory responses and policy responsed to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies
All useful information about the B-Tech Project, including the scoping paper, ca be found on its dedicated portal at : https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/B-TechProject.aspx
Aim of the session
Few months after the launch of the project, the IGF Open Forum session will offer the opportunity to present the B-Tech project, provide an update on the process and an opportunity to reflect, discuss and invite feedback from the participants on each of project’s focus areas.
Mr. Mark Hodge, consultant, B-Tech Project (UN Human Rights Business and Human Rights in Technology Project)
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Tthe IGF Open Forum session will provide an update on the process and an opportunity to reflect, discuss and invite feedback from the participants on each of the B-Tech project’s focus areas. In particular, during the session, will be discussed:
- some of the most salient human rights issues that have been identified so far and which are related to the development and application of digital technologies;
- how the UNGPs offers a framework for identifying, mitigating, and remedying the human rights risks posed by these technologies.