Digital rights and citizenship

  • News
  • 02/06/2016
  • João Pedro, Youth ambassador, Portugal

Youth participation is an important aspect of the Better Internet for Kids strategy, and we regularly work with youth panellists and youth ambassadors from across the European network of Safer Internet Centres to gain their views on online trends and issues surrounding internet governance. Here, João Pedro, a youth ambassador from Portugal, shares his views on digital rights.

"More than ever, the gap between the real and digital world is decreasing, and we can no longer ignore the impact of our online presence on our offline life, or the other way around. For that and other reasons, we should focus on reflecting the rights and responsibilities that we have, as citizens, in our everyday lives into the digital world.
 
"I had the opportunity to talk to a programming expert/artificial intelligence researcher - who was also my professor in my first semester at university – about some of these issues, and I would like to share some of the conclusions we drew.
 
"Many of the problems related to the use of the internet are due to people who do not behave properly or have bad intentions towards others. We need to balance the restrictions we create to deal with such people, without compromising other user's freedoms, so being safe is both a right and a responsibility. Interestingly, while we talked on the matter, it was clear that my professor was of the idea that we cannot only enforce the rules of the game, we also have to work on the education aspect which is critical. As in real life, the values we are taught are essential to ensure that we play a positive role in society. Even from the programmers' point of view, they can only predict and prevent misuses up to a point, just like the authorities.
 
"But before being safe online, you need to be able to access it. To my professor and me, this is directly the responsibility of governments and internet providers to work together to spread the infrastructure as far as necessary to reach everybody. I am not comparing the internet to water, although it is definitely becoming more and more important as a means of communication and information sharing, so equality should be guaranteed on that matter. Access without costs is, unfortunately, utopian, so governments should control and assure fair prices for standard internet connections. 
 
"At the end of our discussion, I had the opportunity to ask my professor his views on artificial intelligence controlling the internet. His response was that total surveillance is not the way, whether done by humans or by machine.
 
"Good digital citizenship can only be achieved through individual and collective action and effort. It is up to each one of us to behave appropriately and to be an example to others when online. It is up to governments to legislate and regulate the use of the internet, encouraging and supporting those who have a correct attitude, and putting sanctions in place for those who do not."

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