Political Values in Technical Systems: Human Rights Protocol Considerations
Can you create political change by building politicized technologies? Should you try? Farzaneh Badiei and I are wrapping up an initial paper on how this issue is being debated in the IETF, the major Internet standards body. We ask that it not be cited until the completed version is out (soon). Here is the draft abstract:
Values in Design’ (ViD) is a framework that advocates for Internet protocols which, by themselves, further human rights. Recent work in this area draws heavily on thinkers such as Lessig (2006) and DeNardis (2009), and is pursued in RFCs (ten Oever and Cath 2017), Internet-Drafts, and the Human Rights Protocol Considerations (HRPC) Research Group of the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).
This draft revisits the relationship between Internet protocols and human rights. It does so by investigating i) the historical and logical basis of the idea, ii) cases derived from the history of Internet and related communication protocols, and iii) additional implications of treating Internet protocols as political objects.
We propose a tentative research agenda for understanding the relationship between protocol design and human rights. Our agenda diverges from recent work on this topic in that it does not propose to consider human rights values during the process of developing protocols. We argue that while it is not possible to ‘encode’ human rights in technical systems such that those values are maintained in any social context, there are still productive ways forward for organizations interested in considering the consequences of Internet protocols on human rights.
You can view the full draft below.