Joint Statement on Protecting Human Rights Defenders Online

The text of the following statement is released by the Governments of the United States of America and the European Union in advance of the third U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Ministerial in Washington, D.C. on December 5, 2022.

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The U.S.-EU partnership is a cornerstone of our shared strength, prosperity, and commitment to advancing freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights around the world.  In the framework of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, we address the misuse of technology threatening security and human rights and have committed to strengthen our cooperation on protecting human rights defenders online; promoting the open, free, global, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet as stated in the Declaration for the Future of the Internet; combatting online harassment and abuse; eliminating arbitrary and unlawful surveillance; combatting government-imposed Internet shutdowns; and countering disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference.

Digital technologies are a vital resource for human rights defenders and civic actors around the world, including in the context of documenting human rights violations and abuses, and international humanitarian law violations.  However, these technologies can also be misused to target human rights defenders and undermine civic space.  The United States and the European Union (EU) are deeply concerned by the rapid growth of online threats against human rights defenders and the ongoing contraction of civic space around the world.  Human rights defenders continue to face threats and attacks, including arbitrary or unlawful online surveillance, censorship, harassment, smear campaigns, disinformation to include gendered disinformation, targeted Internet shutdowns, and doxing.  Online attacks often pave the way for physical human rights violations and abuses, including beatings, killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention.

Women human rights defenders are disproportionately impacted by threats and attacks, which are more often gendered and sexualized than threats against their male counterparts and increasingly take place online.  Many women human rights…