Conversations on Digital Human Rights

My last post covered the first two days of the Cambodia ICT Camp 2022, but the busiest day was the last, on Saturday, June 25th. My final presentation was on digital human rights and human rights on the Internet, the topic of a previous post.


In the presentation, I stressed the role of government and the law as a mediator between the rights of different parties. One area of concern in digital human rights is the ability of corporations to make decisions directly affecting these rights. In the presentation, I used the example of Donald Trump’s suspension from Twitter. Considering the claims of all the parties involved, this would encompass freedom of expression (Trump’s), freedom of information (claims that Trump spread disinformation), self-determination (online: the right of Internet citizens to non-interference, of users to determine how they will engage with each other; offline: claims that Trump’s use of the platform undermined democracy), and minority rights (claims that Trump’s speech was unprotectable hate speech).


Avoiding a purely partisan discussion, the most troublesome dimension of the suspension was that a corporation, not a court, was the one to balance such fundamental rights. One participant thought the decision appropriately balanced the rights involved. Turning to Cambodia, I asked if a nation’s particular culture and history plays a role in these decisions, and whether Cambodia’s standards should be any different from the U.S.; another participant said yes.


This is an important discussion for Cambodia, because the 2018 Inter-Ministerial Prakas, cl. 6(c) charges the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to “take action and shutdown websites and social media page that . . . [cause] discrimination and [undermine] national culture and tradition.” This is likely related to interpretations of the defamation and incitement to felony offenses contained in the penal code. Going forward, for any nation, it will be important to consider ‘Internet culture’ as a distinct, even self-contained, form of expression with its own norms and memes that do not necessarily translate to offline expression.