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NYC, Amsterdam and Barcelona launch Cities Coalition for Digital Rights

The new Cities Coalition for Digital Rights marks the first time that cities have come together to protect digital rights on a global level.


Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York City this week launched the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights. The joint initiative will promote and track progress in protecting residents’ and visitors’ digital rights.


The cities will develop policies, tools and resources in line with the Charter for Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, established by the UN’s Internet Governance Forum around five core shared principles.

  1. Universal and equal access to the Internet and digital literacy
  2. Privacy, data protection and security
  3. Transparency, accountability and non-discrimination of data, content and algorithm
  4. Participatory democracy, diversity and inclusion
  5. Open and ethical digital service standards

Francesca Bria, Barcelona’s Technology and Digital Innovation Commissioner, says the Coalition’s work will lay the foundations for a “people-centric digital future".


What are digital rights?


The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights is based on the principle that the same human rights that people have offline must also be enjoyed and protected online.


The move comes at a time of growing concern around issues such as movements and communications being monitored, shared and sold without consent; ‘black box’ algorithms making unaccountable decisions; social media being used as a tool of harassment and hate speech; and democratic processes being undermined.


Human-centred innovation


Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin, City of New York, commented: “Protecting human rights in a digital world is essential to global unity and our ability to serve all people fairly and equally.”


“A human-centric digital society shall reflect the openness, diversity and the inclusion that are at the core of our societies and values. We want an open Internet that allows every citizen to take part in the online society,” added Deputy Mayor Gerardo Pisarello of Barcelona. “We want an Internet that empowers citizens not discriminates them. We are very proud to join forces with NYC and Amsterdam to protect citizens’ digital rights, such as their privacy, data protection and right to information self-determination.”


Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani of Amsterdam commented: “Through digital technologies we can connect to everything and everyone across the world. At the same time we are discriminated by algorithms and locked into digital bubbles. The city of Amsterdam feels the responsibility to found this global cities movement, and demonstrate that cities lead the way in human-centred innovation.”


What’s next?


The Coalition is looking to recruit other cities and will plan working groups to monitor and report on progress around each of the five principles.


During this week’s Smart City Expo World Congress, 42 cities, including Barcelona, Amsterdam and New York, also agreed to 10 principles for the platform economy – to enable cities to take advantage of the benefits of platform models while avoiding negative effects around labour rights, data sovereignty and more.


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