“Digital rights of minorities need to be re examined as the pandemic made digital even more prominent in our lives” Antonia Luciani at #NMBR21

News / 24.8.21

Antonia Luciani, Secretary General of Coppieters Foundation, opening adress of the 2021 Summer School on National Minorities in Border Regions which this year explores the notion of a “new digital paradigm”

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The theme of Digital rights is particularly relevant as we are still living through a pandemic that has made digital spaces even more important in our lives than ever before.

Such spaces are critical for those belonging to minorities and who would choose to advocate for their rights and promote their culture and languages.

Most of this activism has indeed moved to the digital area during the pandemic.

Coppieters has been exploring this theme this year through a series of discussions with experts, online conversations on digital rights with a focus on the current state of play in Europe when it comes to the human and legal rights allowing people to access and use digital Media.

We ask ourselves what are the main challenges Europeans face, specially Europeans belonging to minorities, in accessing and safely using the Internet. How the right to privacy is being affected by this current pandemic and what’s the state of play is regarding digitalisation and the digital economy in Europe.

What are the negative elements of the rise in importance of the digital spaces

As we all know, these spaces can be challenging for minorities, as many face hate speech, can be the target of rumours, scapegoating and harassment on social media,

We raised our concern on a speech on the 2020 Forum on Minority Issues organized by the UN, pointing out that the phenomenon has increased in recent years and contributed to a rise of hate crimes against minorities.

Beyond this issue, part of the population also simply lack basic access to a functioning internet, which creates critical inequalities.

One of the experts we talked to in the framework of our conventions Simona Levi, stressed the importance of making digitalisation available to all, through concrete political decision making and policies.

In 2021 Europe it is concerning that, for instance, some families still must make a choice between home schooling, teleworking and all their daily tasks because they only possess a single computer connected to Internet or their Internet connection is weak.

Anoter pressing issues regards to the development of  artificial intelligence and how that interacts with minoritised identities. Predictive policing, use of artificial artificial intelligence in the context of migration control or the use of algorithms to determine rates of recidivism, could all be considered harmful uses of artificial intelligence with particularly negative impacts on minorities.

The European Commission recently put forward a legislative proposal on artificial intelligence, and many human rights organizations are questioning whether it is sturdy enough to ensure respect for all Europeans’ fundamental rights.

This worrying topic deserves to be addressed in depth.

Let me conclude with some positive elements of the increased importance f digital spaces. The digitalisation provide minorities with opportunities. The digital spaces and movements having emerged online are ways to celebrate minority voices and narratives in a way that is sometimes easier than in the offline world. In that sense, digital spaces and social media can be celebrated as places of diversity and pluralism. (I.e. Minority Media, use of minority languages online, celebration of certain aspects of minority, culture, etc, etc.)

Online spaces can be placed where web based communities emerge, reinforcing a sense of solidarity among a particular minority or group, then enabling them to speak up together, feel stronger, and perhaps build a movement together to champion their rights.

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This speech is the opening address for the #NMBR21 a joint initiative of the Coppieters Foundation and the European Centre for Minority Issues. The event is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the summer school or the opinions of the speakers.

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