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Monday, November 26 • 6:15pm - 7:45pm
Forum debate: Are tech companies a threat to human rights?

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Organized by the German Institute for human Rights

Background to the discussion:
Blanket statements about the internet’s role in society now and over the last twenty-five years almost all come across as banal. Whether in the global north or south, in developed or developing countries, in urban or rural areas, the vast majority of human lives are touched in some way by the internet. Even if its political implications originally seemed limited to things like freedom of speech, it is now clear from the events of the last ten years that the internet can topple dictatorships and serve as the catalyst for sweeping social movements—and that it can also fuel violence against minorities and derail elections by propagating conspiracy theories.
Private companies play a central role in all this. The internet itself is just a technical standard; it is private companies—social networks, chat software, news sites, payment providers—that determine what can be done with it, how, and by whom. They are the entities that shape what we really refer to when we talk about the societal phenomenon that is the internet. And so this session asks: are these companies a threat to human rights? Are they tools of liberation or surveillance service providers for oppressors? Experts in the field will step away from their normal positions and institutional roles and have a debate about first principles in a way rarely allowed for by panel discussions.

Session format:
The debate will follow the British parliamentary debate format, similar to the format used at the Oxford Union and elsewhere. The session will begin with four speakers, two in support of and two in opposition to the question. There will then be a brief period in which the floor is open to audience interventions in response to the speeches. The debate will be concluded by a final speech from each side, followed by an audience vote on the question.
The result of the vote will be announced at a drinks and canapes reception following the debate.

How to participate:
No advance registration is required. Audience members will have the opportunity to make spontaneous interventions during the middle part of the debate.

Moderator/ Introductory Remark...
CS

Christopher Schuller

German Institute for Human Rights

Speakers
avatar for Isabel Ebert

Isabel Ebert

University of St. Gallen
Research Associate Big Data, AI, Ethics, Business & Human Rights at Institute for Business Ethics, University of St. Gallen, President Data Science & Tech Club, Former EU representative of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, background in Politics and Management (University... Read More →
avatar for Coraline Ada Ehmke

Coraline Ada Ehmke

Software engineer and creator of the Contributor Covenant, Contributor Covenant
My work centers on making the technology industry more welcoming and inclusive of people from marginalized populations.
avatar for Faris Natour

Faris Natour

Co-Founder and Principal, Article One
Faris Natour is an internationally recognized expert with over fifteen years of experience working at the intersection of business and human rights. As Principal of Article One, Faris advises corporate and institutional clients across sectors and regions on human rights strategy and... Read More →
avatar for Luis Neves

Luis Neves

Managing Director and CEO, Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)
Luis Neves was born in Covilhã, Portugal. In 1975 he finished his University degree in History. He worked for Marconi (today Portugal Telecom) as Head of Department and at the Corporate Office. Later he started an international career in Switzerland and developed an intensive activity... Read More →


Monday November 26, 2018 6:15pm - 7:45pm
Room XVII