Fri. Jul 12th, 2024
United States and European Union Release Joint Guidance for Online Platforms on Protecting Human Rights Defenders Online

The text of the following joint statement was issued by the Government of the United States and the European Union:

The United States and European Union are pleased to announce the release of joint guidance for online platforms, which sets out 10 practical steps platforms can take globally to prevent, mitigate, and provide remedy for attacks targeting human rights defenders (HRDs) online.  This guidance is part of our broader joint efforts through the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Working Group 6 to address the misuse of technology and promote the protection of HRDs online.

Human rights defenders – as per the United Nations (UN) Declaration – play a crucial role in the protection of human rights offline and online. HRDs may include, but are not limited to, members of nongovernmental organizations, trade unionists, journalists, lawyers, environmental and land activists, women’s rights advocates, anti-corruption advocates, and representatives of Indigenous peoples.  Elevating the critical role of HRDs and supporting and protecting them in doing their work safely is not only a shared foreign policy priority for the United States and European Union, but an imperative for advancing human rights for all.

We developed this guidance in response to the rapid growth of online threats against HRDs around the world.  HRDs are often targeted online because of their work to defend human rights.  HRDs face significant threats online, including through malicious cyber activity, online censorship, targeted Internet shutdowns, arbitrary or unlawful online surveillance, harassment, smear campaigns, disinformation, and doxxing.  Online attacks often pave the way for physical human rights violations and abuses, including beatings, killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention.  Women HRDs, LGBTI HRDs, and defenders from other marginalized groups who experience multiple and intersecting discriminations and oppressions are disproportionately impacted by such threats and attacks.

Online platforms have the potential to leverage their resources and influence to reinforce respect for human rights and protect those who stand up and risk their well-being to defend these rights.  We recommend 10 actions that online platforms can take in partnership with stakeholders to improve HRD safety globally and to further respect for the human rights of all:

Recommended Actions for Online Platforms to Improve Human Rights Defender Protection

  1. Commit to an HRD Protection Policy
  2. Identify Risks to HRDs
  3. Exchange Information with HRDs, CSOs, and Industry Peers
  4. Create a Policy Implementation Plan to Mitigate Risk and Prevent Adverse Impacts with Monitoring Benchmarks to Measure Success
  5. Resource and Staff HRD Protection Efforts
  6. Build Capacity to Address Risks in Local Contexts
  7. Provide Safety Tools and Security Education to HRDs
  8. Create and Maintain Accessible Incident Reporting Channels for HRDs 
  9. Contribute to and Provide Access to Remedy for HRDs
  10. Commit to Transparency, Public Reporting, and Continuous Improvement 

These recommendations were informed by extensive stakeholder consultations organized by the United States and the European Union from January 2023 to February 2024.  Participants included CSOs, HRDs, UN experts, private technology companies, experts in digital and physical safety, organizations that have served as trusted partners, trust and safety experts, and mental health professionals.

The United States and the European Union intend to take further actions to address the needs of HRDs around the world.  We will engage with all relevant stakeholders to promote the recommended actions and facilitate their implementation.

These recommendations reflect commitments we made with global partners through the Declaration of the Future of the Internet.  They also reflect key principles of U.S. and EU legislation, initiatives, and policies to safeguard human rights online, such as the EU Digital Services Act.  The recommendations in this document do not impose or supersede requirements under U.S. or EU law.

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS