Digital Constitutionalism: Promoting Public Values in Digital Technologies
How can we better protect fundamental rights and public values in the digital age? This panel examines the project of ‘digital constitutionalism’: attempts to articulate and promote the requirements of better, more legitimate governance of digital technologies.
Digital technologies are the outcomes of social processes and in turn they continuously transform our societies in fundamental ways. On the one hand, political, social and cultural values, beliefs and paradigms shape Internet architectures and design. On the other hand, the Internet and other digital technologies reorganize the way we work, keep in touch with friends, learn about the world or conduct our political affairs. In this context, the values that are embedded into digital technologies — through their design, their distribution, their governance, and their cultures of use — have a fundamental impact on our society.
The project of ‘Digital Constitutionalism’ seeks to find ways to ensure that the values of digital technologies align with shared, public values. The term includes a wide constellation of attempts to articulate fundamental rights and principles of legitimate governance of digital technologies. Digital Constitutionalism seeks to ensure that the power of both state and private actors is appropriately limited and constrained in order to protect rights and promote human flourishing. These initiatives include various undertakings by civil society, states, and business, to develop ‘Internet Bills of Rights’ and other constitutional principles that spell out adequate values for the digital age in a comprehensive way.
This panel is part of a working group that aims to foster new interdisciplinary research and collaboration about how basic rights and fundamental values can best be protected in a digital age. In this panel, we will discuss the political, legal and scientific challenges of Digital Constitutionalism. We are now at a moment of profound change in internet governance, as states and businesses seek to improve trust and legitimacy in the governance of digital technologies. We will explore the range of current transnational policy debates and ongoing shifts in self- and co-regulatory arrangements for digital technologies, in order to identify their varied impact on public values and fundamental rights. We will seek to understand the opportunities to develop real and substantial protections that can improve people’s lives, and identify the challenges and limitations facing implementation of these protections in the immediate future.