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Civil Rights protection on Social Media through Human rights-based AI/Machine Learning

Security is the state of being free from threat. To mitigate the threat, we require technology. The technology uses scientific knowledge in the form of new processes, materials, devices, systems or tools. For all of us, most important is human security which means freedom from threats to our lives, safety and rights.


United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)  have identified seven essential human security elements:

1. Economic: creation of employment and measures against poverty.

2. Food: measures against hunger and famine.

3. Health: measures against disease, unsafe food, malnutrition and lack of access to basic health care.

4. Environmental: measures against environmental degradation, resource depletion, natural disasters and pollution.

5. Personal: measures against physical violence, crime, terrorism, domestic violence and child labour.

6. Community: measures against inter-ethnic, religious and other identity tensions.

7. Political: measures against political repression and human rights abuses. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) document outlines the human rights that all people are entitled to such as freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to seek asylum. When those rights aren’t protected or blatantly disregarded, they are violated


As described in the UDHR, economic, social, and cultural rights include the right to work, the right to education, and the right to physical and mental health. As is the case with all human rights, economic, social, and cultural rights can be violated by states and other actors.


The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights gives a handful of examples of how these rights can be violated. They include:

  • Discriminating at work based on traits like race, gender, and sexual orientation (The right to work)
  • Failing to provide maternity leave (protection of and assistance to the family)
  • Not paying a sufficient minimum wage (rights at work)
  • Segregating students based on disabilities (the right to education)
  • Forbidding the use of minority/indigenous languages (the right to participate in cultural life)

UN Sustainable Development Goal 10 aims at reducing inequality within and among countries. This SDG calls for reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status within a country.


Human rights on Social Media

While living in an ever-more connected world provides us with easier access to lot of useful services and information, it also exposes large amounts of our personal information including our personal data, habits, and life to a wider world.

These risks may include cybersecurity vulnerabilities that may be exploited to gain unauthorised access to information (cyberespionage, be it for economic or political reasons) or for other malicious purposes (cyberattacks aimed at disrupting or destroying systems and data).

In terms of human rights, social media platforms have a huge impact on how an individual may express, search for, and encounter information. Individuals may be subjected to discrimination through or by the platforms, or have their personal data and privacy restricted.

The services provided by their platforms have an impact far beyond determining who can participate in public debate, and touch upon a broad array of human rights and public policy issues related to discrimination, privacy, data protection, access to information, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, among others.


Civil Rights objectives and requirements

Human rights law is based on a societal vision that aims for inclusive, equitable, and diverse public participation that supports a broad range of different and potentially conflicting viewpoints. At the same time, it provides for restrictions to counter content that incites violence, hate, and harassment tailored to silence individuals, specific groups, or minorities.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression has recommended that companies follow international freedom of expression standards in their content moderation practices. This implies that their decisions on content shall be guided by the same standards of legality, necessity, and legitimacy that bind states when they restrict freedom of expression.

It calls for specific attention to vulnerable groups and communities at risk, and as such provides a normative framework for content moderation that incorporates both the values of free speech and protection against abuse, violence, and discrimination. Prevention of hate speech that attacks against concepts, ideas, practices, beliefs or pose a risk of harm, intimidation, or exclusion.

Enhancing user privacy and security, privacy by design approach

Prevention of foreign interference in election by preventing voter suppression and intimidation and through educating and empowering voters

Increased representation of women and marginalized communities in its workforce


Facebook audit for civil rights

This investigation into Facebook’s policies and practices began in 2018 at the behest and encouragement of the civil rights community and some members of Congress, proceeded with Facebook’s cooperation, and is intended to help the company identify, prioritize, and implement sustained and comprehensive improvements to the way it impacts civil rights.

The Audit was led by Laura W. Murphy, a civil rights and civil liberties leader, along with a team from civil rights law firm Relman Colfax, led by firm partner Megan Cacace.

At the outset, the groups identified the topics on which they wanted Facebook’s greater focus, including voter suppression and voter information, building a civil rights accountability infrastructure, content moderation and enforcement (including hate speech and harassment), advertising targeting and practices, diversity and inclusion, fairness in algorithms and the civil rights implications of privacy practices.

The Civil Rights Audit was not limited to racial justice issues. Civil rights are the rights of individuals to be free from unfair treatment or discrimination in the areas of education, employment, housing, credit, voting, public accommodations, and more — based on certain legally-protected characteristics identified in a variety of state and federal laws. Those protected classes include race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, national origin, religion, and age, among other characteristics.


New Machine learning models

The ongoing wave of AI includes all machine learning techniques where machines define rules by clustering, classifications and use those models to predict and make decisions. But the problem with deep learning is that it is a black box, we don’t know the reasoning behind the decisions it makes. This makes it hard for people to trust them and humans working closely with robots risky.


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published guidance to businesses that states definitively that if a business uses a discriminatory algorithm to make automated decisions, they may be violating federal law. The FTC highlighted how superficially ‘neutral’ AI can produce and reinforce discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics like race, religion, or sex.


Researchers are new developing AI theory and applications that make it possible for machines that can explain their decisions and adapt to changing situations. Instead of learning from data, intelligent machines will perceive the world on its own, learn and understand it by reasoning. Artificial intelligence systems will then become trustworthy and collaborative partners to humans.


In future AI systems will have common sense and understand ethics. They will make decisions based on ethics, regulations, and law to avoid their misuse. The United Nations has launched an initiative, Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation which sets eight key areas for action. One of the key areas is “Supporting Global Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence” Its aims to build global capacity for the development and use of AI, in a manner that is trustworthy, human rights-based, safe and sustainable, and promotes peace.


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