Digital practices that violate freedom of thought and opinion

By Thomas Vink, 3rd June 2021

Internet users are being profiled and targeted by various online and digital business practices in a way that influences how they think. Examples include the use of targeted advertising or the manipulation of social media feeds (Facebook, YouTube, health apps, etc). This profiling and targeting leads to potentially dangerous social outcomes, such as changing voting decisions or manipulating moods. Susie Alegre carried out research to identify which country, legal basis, and fact pattern would be best suited to take a strategic case challenging these practices and push for adequate regulations to be put in place.

Digital practices that violate freedom of thought and opinion

Organisation Name

Susie Alegre and Centre d’étude sur les conflits

Country/Jurisdiction

France, Ireland, Spain, United Kingdom

Thematic Area

Privacy and data protection

Current Status

Complete

Grant type

Pre-Litigation Research

Description

Internet users are being profiled and targeted by various online and digital business practices in a way that influences how they think. Examples include the use of targeted advertising or the manipulation of social media feeds (Facebook, YouTube, health apps, etc). This profiling and targeting leads to potentially dangerous social outcomes, such as changing voting decisions or manipulating moods. Susie Alegre carried out research to identify which country, legal basis, and fact pattern would be best suited to take a strategic case challenging these practices and push for adequate regulations to be put in place.

Susie Alegre completed the research in January 2021, publishing a summary report in English and Spanish to be shared with the wider field. Through the research, Susie identified a number of cases where arguments around freedom of thought and the right to mental integrity could enhance the legal analysis and standards of protection. She concluded that the issue of mental health websites sharing data for targeted advertising as an important fact pattern to start raising this issue, and submitted a legal opinion to support a case filed by Privacy International to the French Data Protection Agency in 2020. Following the completion of the research, Susie plans to continue follow up with organisations and contacts identified through the research to integrate freedom of thought arguments into other litigation.

"This leads to potentially dangerous social outcomes, such as changing voting decisions or manipulating moods"

Strategic Goal

That the courts or authorities make a ruling that sets strong precedent protecting the right to freedom of thought/opinion in online and digital contexts.

Organisation Name

Women’s Link Worldwide

Image credit: Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash