A Realist’s Take on the Future of the Internet: Can we keep the good but jettison the bad?

by Matthew Burton, Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School

The explosion in social media platforms and their ever-increasing role in our lives since the mid-2000s has forced us to consider deep and important questions about how we interact, how we talk to each other and communicate in the 21st century. There are a litany of charges levelled against social media platforms, including the incitement of hatred and violence (there are credible claims that Facebook enabled a genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.); encouraging polarization and echo chambers; harvesting our data in pursuit of surveillance capitalism and promoting false and harmful lifestyles. Discord, Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. All of them have come under justified fire. (more…)

Protecting civil society against shrinking spaces

By Prof Sir Malcolm Evans, Professor of Public International Law (University of Bristol Law School) and Chair, United Nations Subcommittee for Prevention of Torture.

On Thursday 26th January a debate took place in Parliament* on the ‘shrinking space for civil society’ in international human rights protection. I was recently at a meeting where it was pointed out that this description of the problem – which is much discussed in international circles at the moment – made it sound vaguely as if it was something to do with washing things at the wrong temperature, and meant very little to most people. To the extent that effective human rights protection is based on openness and transparency, which might be summed up in the idea of ‘washing dirty linen in public’, the idea of human rights being ‘shrunk in the wash’ at the moment is not altogether a bad one – but this hardly helps convey the significance of what is taking place and why it matters enough to warrant a debate in Parliament. The reality is that there is something extremely worrying going on in many parts of the world – which is that those who stand up for those in need are themselves increasingly subjected to various forms of attack, including physical attack, for doing so. (more…)