In a thought-provoking article, Piyumani Ranasigha discusses the impact of internet intermediaries, such as tech businesses, on human rights in Sri Lanka. It argues that the proposed Online Safety Bill does not adequately address the threats to human rights posed by internet intermediaries.
The article begins by discussing the role of internet intermediaries in connecting people and enabling them to participate in their socio-economic and political lives. However, it also notes that the concentration of power on a handful of tech companies has raised concerns about human rights violations. These concerns include the threat to privacy, the spread of inflammatory content, and the creation of online echo chambers.
The article then discusses the concept of “surveillance capitalism” and how it is used by internet intermediaries to extract human experiences as raw material and concentrate unprecedented power on business entities. It argues that this business model can lead to human rights abuses, such as the promotion of violence, hatred, and discrimination.
The article next discusses the role of states in regulating internet intermediaries. It argues that states have an obligation to act in order to ensure due diligence of such businesses. It also notes that transnational corporations, such as internet intermediaries, operate in multiple countries and regions, which makes it difficult to hold them accountable for human rights violations.
The article then discusses the example of Facebook and its role in the 2018 Digana riots in Sri Lanka. It argues that Facebook’s failure to comply with human rights due diligence in its operations in Myanmar contributed to the violence
The article concludes by arguing that the proposed Online Safety Bill does not adequately address the threats to human rights posed by internet intermediaries. It calls for a more critical approach to regulating internet intermediaries and for greater scrutiny of the role of private business actors in digital spaces.