Tech Hive Advisory, a leading technology policy advisory and research organisation with support from Omidyar Network is set to release a new report titled “The intersection of the right to freedom of expression online and protection of personal information in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.” The report which will be released on 1 September 2021 focuses on the relationship between two basic digital rights: the right to freedom of expression online and protection of personal information within the African context.
This became necessary as a result of the increased reliance on digital technologies especially during the COVID-19 pandemic which has further blurred the line between life offline and online. Today, the right to freedom to expression online and data protection are perhaps the most basic forms of digital rights and while these rights are protected under the international human rights instruments, we continue to see both State and non-State actors violate these rights. Therefore, as a response, this report provides analyses of these basic digital rights under international human rights law, the impacts of different local laws and policies on them and the responsibilities of both state and non-state actors in protecting these rights.
The report is divided into five major parts. The first part introduces the report, while the second part focuses on the international normative standards on the right to freedom of expression online and protection of personal information. This part examined thematic areas on the right to freedom of expression online such as hate speech online, network disruption, platform regulation and intermediary liability, and information disorder followed by various provisions on the data protection under these standards. It noted that the prominent areas of intersection of both rights are media freedoms, the right to erasure and, encryption and anonymity.
The third part focuses on the country reports in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria. This part is sub-divided into four major sections for each country. The first sections introduce the landscape on the right to freedom of expression online and protection of personal information. The second sections focus on the right to freedom of expression online and the protection of personal information through their various constitutional guarantees, laws, major incidents and court cases that impact them. The third sections then consider the intersections of both the rights while the final sections conclude.
The fourth part of the report which focuses on recommendations to stakeholders emphasises the role of the governments in each country in carrying out legal reforms on both rights in order to bring the problematic laws that impact them in line with international human rights standards. It also highlights the responsibilities of non-state actors such as civil society, researchers and philanthropy organizations and journalists in ensuring that these rights are adequately protected.
It is hoped that this report will add to other resources that assist policymakers, civil society and other stakeholders on the need to ensure rights-respecting policies on digital rights in Africa.