We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.

Stephen Hawking

Building a community that is just and fair

The digital environment has become a complex environment, especially in terms of rights and responsibilities of users. Digital citizens need to be aware and understand their own online rights and responsibilities in order to not infringe the rights and responsibilities of others.

Just as citizens in a society have certain rights and responsibilities, digital citizens in the online world also have certain rights and responsibilities. Digital citizens can enjoy rights of privacy, security, access and inclusion, freedom of expression and more. However, with those rights come certain responsibilities, such as ethics and empathy and other responsibilities to ensure a safe and responsible digital environment for all.

The internet can be a powerful tool for advancing ideas and communities, but it can also be a destructive weapon when users’ rights are impeded or if users are not given the opportunity to establish any rights whatsoever. Individual users, governments, industry and public institutions have an obligation to maintain the integrity of the internet community, whether it has local effects or international effects.

Devising just and fair participation mechanisms where users’ powers are distributed optimally will be the main challenge for the future. Inspiration can be drawn from existing and emerging good practices like Wikipedia and blockchain technology, which allow for the decentralisation of control and power, the advent of a “real” online direct democracy.
 

Rights and responsibilities: the first step begins with you

Once someone decides to use digital technologies, they can enrich their experience by reading and understanding their rights and responsibilities. While the golden rule, do to others as you would have them do to you, will take you far, users should also try to read through the terms of use on the websites, platforms and apps that they use. For every device, software system, app or program, there are corresponding legal documents explaining the rights and responsibilities of the user and, perhaps even more importantly, of the websites, platform or app.

How does it work?

You have the right to use any and all digital technologies, and you have the responsibility to use them in a safe and responsible manner. Taking this a step further, a right means that you have the freedom from interference by another user or institution, whereas a responsibility means that you have a duty to act in a certain way.

All democratic communities, wherever they are located, have placed emphasis on the just and fair: just and fair rules, just and fair opportunities, just and fair say. The digital community is no exception, and the European institutions have embodied concepts of fair and just in their fundamental documents.
 

Figure 16: Rights and responsibilities – Core digital citizenship competencesEducational value and citizenship value

Internet users need to understand what their rights are, as well as understanding what the procedures are in case their rights are violated. Users may also be called upon to report when other users’ rights are being violated online. Internet users of all ages should be aware of three major actions in the event of rights violations: ignoring the content, blocking the person who made the offensive remarks or reporting the person.
 

Figure 16: Rights and responsibilities – Core digital citizenship competences