[IRP] Blogpost: Is-facebook-a-human-right? Egypt-and-Tunisia-transform-social-media.

Michael Gurstein gurstein
Tue Feb 8 20:04:03 EET 2011

Thanks very very much for this Lisa...

I take all of your points and am really delighted that I was able to
stimulate and provoke you to apply your knowledge and insight in directions
where I was hoping they would go ;-)  The post wasn't meant to be definitive
but rather to raise some questions in light of current events and hopefully
to steer people towards reflecting on those issues in light of the Charter
when we start releasing it for more general discussion.

I think the more fundamental issue which is IMHO rather more policy than HR
is what does the notion of the public good, the public interest, or public
ownership/public space mean in the context of electronic/cyber space. The
title of my blogpost was meant to be rather startling to raise precisely
those questions.

That's the issue that Parminder and to a more modest extent myself have been
raising on the governance list and whether that's approached through HR (as
for example,the applying HR in the private mall example) or more directly
through global public policy and institutions is to my mind still an open

BTW, it would be great if you could add your comments in the "comments"
section on the blogpost... The post is getting a fair amount
<http://www.realitysandwich.com/egypt_transform_social_media> of exposure so
it would be great if your comments could add to the overall "public"
discussion as well.

Best and thanks again,


-----Original Message-----
From: irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
[mailto:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org] On Behalf Of Lisa
Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2011 8:32 AM
To: 'irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org'
Subject: Re: [IRP] Blogpost: Is-facebook-a-human-right?

Hi Mike

This is a great post.  The private companies that host expression and
association online are crucial actors in making sure that our rights are
protected and fulfilled.  Just as the offline media have special protections
but also responsibilities that stem from the central role they play in
supporting free expression, so should online media.  What's tricky for me
though is the question of how we balance the need for the Internet
environment to be innovative and flexible, with the need to regulate to
ensure that rights are protected by private intermediaries.  Would facebook
and google have developed in the first place if they were under threat from
human rights lawsuits?  Do we say that once a platform develops a critical
mass of users/has a certain degree of influence, they have greater
responsibilities?  Would it be possible to define that threshold?  I think
we need to do a lot more thinking about corporate social responsibility from
a human rights framework.  John Ruggie's
  "protect, respect, fulfill" framework is useful...(companies have
responsibilities to make sure they're not violating rights), but it's
rendered fairly toothless when it's the governments themselves are
committing rights violations via social media..

On another note, I'd personally be wary about asking whether facebook itself
(or social media more broadly) is a human right.  Expression and association
are the rights, no matter where and how we exercise them.  People taking a
human rights-legal perspective often push back when we start talking about
tools and instruments as rights, rather than as tools or spaces for
exercising fundamental rights...and I find that these arguments distract
from the fact that we're all fundamentally in agreement with each other
about the basic points around expression and the role of the private sector
online.  For me, human rights are those things that make us human...without
them, we're being denied key aspects of our humanity.  I wouldn't say
facebook is part of what makes me human, but I would say that the ability to
communicate and assemble are. 

The most useful analogy I've heard is the notion of a public space or
street.  Streets are public places and facilities that we all have a right
to use.  I can exercise my right to peaceful assembly there, but there do
have to be regulations about what is and is not permitted there so that we
can all enjoy it and use it.  I think of internet spaces in the same way.
But I guess what you're saying is that they're privately owned spaces, that
are becoming crucial for exercising rights.  I guess the offline analogy
would be a shopping mall...I may want to protest there because that's where
most people are going to be.  But the owners of the mall have the right to
monitor my movements and move me on, as it's a private space.  As long as
there are also public places I can use, I guess I don't have a real problem
with that.  So we need public rivals of facebook...or rather preferably open
source, community owned spaces.  I'm interested in the new FOSS facebook
alternative Diaspora.  ..I hope it takes off!

Sorry for the rushed and delayed response....

All the best,

-----Original Message-----
From: irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
[mailto:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org] On Behalf Of
Michael Gurstein
Sent: 04 February 2011 19:20
To: IRP; governance at lists.cpsr.org
Subject: [IRP] Blogpost: Is-facebook-a-human-right?


Something a bit provocative from my blog.

Comments/critique sincerely welcomed...



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