Aiming for the stars: litigating for a tech-positive future

Aiming for the stars: litigating for a tech-positive future

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 21st November 2018

Sometimes, it is difficult to keep a focus on the positive when working in human rights. We are so engaged in fighting negative practices, legislation, and policies that it is easy for us to forget about positive developments that lie on the other end of the spectrum.

In the digital rights sphere, much of our energy and attention goes to battling mass surveillance, criticising discrimination in algorithmic decision-making, pushing back against online content regulation, etc., etc. The list is long and seems to keep on growing. Much of the strategic litigation work on digital rights runs along the same lines: challenging restrictive laws, seeking redress for human rights violations in the digital sphere –– work in the courts is often focused on obtaining judgments that change or redress negative situations.

What if we took a step back and considered what the positives are that we could aim for? Do some blue sky thinking and set our goals based on what it is we want to see, framed as a positive goal to pursue? During our recent “Future-proofing our digital rights” workshop, we had a number of conversations to do just that. We brainstormed about our future rights, crafting a “Universal Declaration of Digital Rights” on post-it notes and asked the question what cases we could win in the short-term for a better digital rights future.

These conversations brought into focus some of the positive ways our lives could be impacted by technology in the future. A greener world, for example, with fewer traffic deaths as we would have self-driving electrical cars that would spare the environment. Or a world in which the developments in tech have led to us needing to do less work, meaning we would have more time to do other things, such as create art and spend time with loved ones. Or a world where knowledge and learning is accessible to anyone, anywhere. In human rights work too, technology does not always have to be something we are fighting against. It may be that we will call upon international, regional and domestic authorities to utilise technologies for a fairer or more just world.

What would our litigation strategies look like if we aimed for such objectives? What kind of cases could we bring – now and in the future – if we aimed for the stars?

Compelling questions and ones we only just started the conversation on during our workshop. We would love to hear from you: if you could pursue any positive scenario you wanted, what would it be? And how would you do it? Get in touch to let us know!