1 in 2 unsure of the benefits of globalization

The World Economic Forum released a Pathways to Digital Justice report to fill systemic legal and judicial gaps and help guide legislative and policy efforts to tackle data damage. This is especially important with the increase in online activities and the digitization of services which, when misused, can present new types of risk.

“Global legal systems are set up in such a way as to deprive those who have been victims of digital damage of power. The concept of digital rights extends beyond the online realm and has implications across the justice system in terms of how we can rectify the power imbalances that currently exist and provide victims with more agency for their own sake. ‘ensure that the relief provided to them is relevant, meaningful and trauma informed,’ said Sheila warren, Deputy Director of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum.

The Forum’s Global Future Council on Data Policy worked with the Global Future Council on Media, Entertainment and Sport and the Global Future Council on Artificial Intelligence for Humanity, in conjunction with an advisory board of experts from around the world, to advocate that a new policy framework is needed to effectively address justice issues that arise in various digital contexts.

It is critical to note that this report does not claim that technology itself is the only source of harm or that regulation of technology is the only viable solution when it comes to predictive and data-driven technology. The technology will continue to advance and will indeed have the potential to bring positive benefits to society. This report draws attention to the inadequacy of legal and judicial systems, and quasi-legal and judicial systems offered by platforms, to deal with the types of harms resulting from these technologies.

In an example, Gibi, an American YouTuber and ASMR artist, has repeatedly been the target of deepfakes and harassment online. The problem became so serious that she had to change her name, move out of her home, and be extremely vigilant when she revealed potentially identifiable information about her. She has since discovered several online businesses in which others have taken advantage of the sale of her image without her consent in deepfakes and other bogus, often pornographic content.

“I can’t think of a single organization that is equipped to deal with this, lawmakers and different governments have simply let it go. I would like the culprits to be brought to justice and to know that it is a crime ”, declared GibI.

She is far from alone. According to Sensity.ai’s 2019 research, of the 85,000 deepfakes circulating online, 96% are pornographic, with over 99% of those pornographic deepfakes being female. But victims of deepfakes and other forms of digital damage lack effective means to seek justice.

What is digital justice?

Digital justice provides a space through which people can investigate community issues and generate solutions. Due to the fragmentation and lack of resources of the legal and judicial systems, as well as the jurisdictional challenges related to the regulation of international communication platforms, the harms associated with the technology have increased. What compounds this problem is that these default systems default to inadequate privacy-based protections, limited legal solutions, and a lack of fair process in automated decision-making.

Of most concern is that legal and justice systems currently fail to protect their citizens, especially women, LGBTQI +, BIPOC and other historically marginalized communities. Providing individuals with strong remedies and redress should be a critical aspect of how organizations and governments confront the ethics and governance of data-driven technologies.

What can the legal and judicial system do?

The report recommends two multi-stakeholder paths to digital justice:

  • Increase the capacity of the justice system to process more requests
  • Create a victim resource guide with at least the top 10 victim-centric components as outlined in the World Economic Forum’s digital justice document

There is an opportunity to center digital transformation initiatives and system design around the strengthening and protection of specific and articulated rights. Systems prioritizing this framework would achieve many of the same agency and remedy rights, but measure impact rather than volume.

To ensure that these systems maintain their integrity and independence, it is essential to have an accessible dispute resolution and professional stewardship infrastructure for those who cannot represent their interests.

Due diligence is another crucial legal construct that will help further conceptualize the criticality of effective remedies and digital due process rights. Duty of care is the common law term for the responsibilities that individuals owe one another, and although the nature of business and the marketplace has evolved in the digital age, little has changed. The notion of homework remains a useful tool and offers questions that help define responsible governance in digital ecosystems.


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Estelle D. Eden

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