The creation of the World Wide Web, better known as the Internet, has radically changed humanity over the past 30 years.
Since then, several social processes have been transformed to the extent that there are entire generations who have lost their links with the immediate past and do not see the world as “disconnected”.
In 1990, only 0.25% of the world’s population had access to the Internet; last year, nearly six in ten people were connected to the network.
In Latin America, the connection rate is even higher. In 2020, 67% of Latin Americans had access to the Internet, with Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico being the countries with the most users.
In a very short time, the Internet ceased to be an instrument comparable to radio, cinema or television and became a virtual space or cyberspace, as a deployment of real space.
A large part of the world’s population has moved their activities to cyberspace thanks to the creation of applications (apps).
According to the Hootsuite 2020 We Are Social report, nearly half of the world’s population interacts on the internet daily through a digital social network. In Latin America, the average is 65%, with Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil leading, well above the world average.
E-commerce has changed consumption habits: last year, it represented 4.4% of global GDP.
In contrast, according to Latinobarôetro data from 2018, only one in four Latin Americans have made or would be willing to shop online. The same data showed that e-commerce has greater penetration in countries with higher GDP per capita, with more internet users and a better human development index, such as Argentina, Chile, l ‘Uruguay, Costa Rica and Colombia.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic intensified the use of the Internet and its applications and accelerated certain processes in transition, such as teleworking and online education, but did not have a significant impact on electronic commerce.
According to the Inter-American Development Bank report “COVID-19 Shock: A Boost to Build Trade Resilience After the Pandemic,” exports from countries in the region fell 12%, a contraction significantly larger than the global contraction.
Despite the sustained annual growth of e-commerce, its share in regional GDP barely reached 2% in 2020.
Cyberspace as a deployment of public space
Cyberspace opened up as a space for emancipation from the politically dominated public space, but in a short time it was subjected to various forces: market competence, private morality and state control.
What are your limits?
The Internet is a service provided by private companies, but its use is public, making cyberspace virtually a common good.
It is accessible to ordinary citizens, governments, and public and private institutions, and in recent years the “traditional means” of communication have moved there.
Cyberspace is not just another medium of communication, but it literally becomes the space that rivals or even replaces the everyday public space.
Market relations dominate cyberspace and, if the state intervenes, it does so not as an intrusion, but as a necessity so that people are not left unprotected.
Cyberspace creates situations, not so hypothetical, in which the law of the strongest prevails, that is, behavior motivated more by passions than by reason. And this is probably the biggest justification for the need for digital rights.
New rights for a new (virtual) reality
Human rights are born from historical-social situations which promote them and accelerate their integration into the existing system of rights, such as political and economic revolutions. Rights may disappear, be replaced by others, or rights may be created entirely new, such as digital rights.
Well, the transformations of the last decades derived from technico-physical evolution, a term developed by Dora Costa and R. William Fogel, and the revolution of new technologies that developed in the exceptional 20th century, force us to think digital rights from a different perspective, and they can be classified into three main groups:
– “non-translatable” are rights which already exist in all spaces and which are “stretched” to cyberspace while preserving their essence. Examples are the rights of justice and restorative justice, the protection of minors, the political rights of freedom, equality, association and non-discrimination;
– “Translated rights” are derived from existing rights, but must be translated in cyberspace. For example, the protection of personal data, the restoration of moral damages, the digital will, the freedom of consumption, the quality of online education, the quality of services provided by the private and public sector and copyright. , among others;
– properly digital rights, of “new creation”, require a new language: free, equal and secure access to the network, which for some should be a human right; the right to privacy and privacy, such as the limits of geolocation; the right to be forgotten in virtual space; the right to disconnect, a labor right that urgently needs to be implemented; the right to non-obsolescence and portability, because it generates digital divisions; the right to net neutrality, that is to say not to interfere with political positions and to fight against political correctness; and above all the right to the truth, as a means of combating disinformation, called infodemia and post-truth.
In several countries, some of these rights have been gradually incorporated; in others, the pandemic is at the root of their needs.
In Mexico, in December 2020, labor laws were amended to regulate teleworking and recognize the right to disconnect.
In Argentina and Brazil, telephony and Internet access have been declared “essential services”. But the absence of regulations has also allowed, in a justified but dangerous way, the use of geolocation to identify cases of contagion, as in Brazil and Mexico.
Spain is probably one of the Latin American countries that has made the most progress in the area of digital rights.
In addition to criticism for its little discussion during the passage of the Organic Law on Data Protection in Congress and the Senate in 2018, it is a pioneering law in the global context and includes many of the rights mentioned here. -above.
There is still a long way to go, but digital rights must be designed from the principles of human freedom and equality.
In his discussion, there is a tendency to formulate principles supposedly derived from private morals and politically correct rights, confusing rights with prohibitions, and this logic spreads through the network like a computer virus.
Banning can solve problems, but it does not create a better society. This is why digital rights should be seen as a way to improve existing rights, not to limit or cancel them.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima