At almost the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the consortium of 11 organizations from academia and civil society, AlSur, worked collectively to strengthen its Strategy for the coming years and articulate a perspective from the global South on the impacts of technologies on human rights.
Throughout the year 2022, we were able to observe several events that marked the international agenda. The main point of interest at the beginning of the year was the invasion of Ukraine, an event that undoubtedly generated a geopolitical crisis with global repercussions. The region, in turn, went through important electoral processes in Colombia, Chile and Brazil, the worsening political crises, as was the case in Peru, and tense social debates. Several of these moments demanded constant reflection and specific actions on the part of the consortium's organizations.
In terms of regulation, at the international level, the negotiations on a new treaty on cybercrime at the UN and the approval of the Second Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention were the subject of discussion regarding its scope and consequences. Several AlSur organizations were present throughout these processes. In partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) we published the report "Evaluating the new Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime in Latin America". With this report we seek to provide elements that, at the time of national debates for the ratification of this new instrument, will help to make informed decisions on transborder access to personal data and its implications for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Mass surveillance remains an issue of concern because of its indiscriminate and non-transparent implementation. Back in 2021, we published the report "Facial recognition in Latin America: trends in the implementation of a perverse technology", in which AlSur organizations mapped and analyzed at least 38 existing initiatives using facial recognition technologies in the region. In 2022, we saw positive advances with the declaration of unconstitutionality of the National Registry of Mobile Phone Users (PANAUT) in Mexico and the facial recognition system in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. However, these technologies are still being considered by different governments and their development requires constant monitoring.
Content moderation was an aspect on which several discussions were held during the year. Disinformation and the responsibility of authorities was addressed last year in the essay "La mentira de los funcionarios, ¿tiene patas cortas o efectos largos?" which was prepared by CELE and the Regional Office for South America of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights. In 2022, R3D from Mexico produced for AlSur the document "Content moderation from an Inter-American perspective" which addresses the interstices and complexities of the Inter-American standards on freedom of expression. It introduces the limitations of freedom of expression, the advances in content moderation and sheds light on aspects of its self-regulation, co-regulation and regulation by the States, at a time of great debate on the impact of online speeches for our democracies.
The topic was also on the agenda due to the purchase of the Twitter platform by billionaire Elon Musk. The announcements and decisions of the current owner of Twitter generated concern due to his absolutist perspective on freedom of speech. These took the form of massive layoffs of people in charge of content moderation and human rights policies, restitution of accounts of personalities such as Donald Trump, charges for account verification, among others, which demonstrated minimal interest in responsible management to mitigate possible abuses and risks in the use of Twitter. In December, Musk decided to close the Trust and Safety Council, a reason for which we protested due to its importance to allow a dialogue between the teams that manage the platform and civil society.
In addition to these events, there were others of great relevance for Latin American countries that have been mentioned by Derechos Digitales in its account of the year 2022. We highlight the increase in cases of spying on journalists, the criminalization and persecution of activists - such as the case of Ola Bini, in Ecuador - and the debates on regulation in different countries, including data protection regulations in Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, digital identity and zero-rating in Colombia or the Artificial Intelligence law in Brazil.
Immersed in this context, the organizations of AlSur seek in 2022 to rethink the foundations that united us as a consortium and, from these, to project our future actions. In the last six years, AlSur has become a diverse space to discuss a common agenda of actions, undertake research with a regional focus and promote coordinated advocacy in global forums. However, after two years of pandemic and complex global changes, new internal planning was needed to represent the perspectives and visions of member organizations.
Therefore, the internal strengthening of AlSur was sought by generating a new Strategy for the next four years, which was elaborated through a process with different stages. The process culminated in an annual coordination workshop in the city of Buenos Aires in September - the first face-to-face meeting of Al Sur organizations since the pandemic -. As a result, we were able to establish a common agenda on which we will align our future actions in three thematic areas: a) Internet access, b) Freedom of expression and content moderation, c) Privacy and surveillance technologies.
On the other hand, during the year, AlSur organizations prioritized the strengthening of their advocacy in international forums such as the Global Network Initiative (GNI), Civil Society Information Society Advisor Committee (CSISAC-OECD), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Civil Society Forum of the Ibero-American Data Protection Network (FSC-RIPD), as well as international advocacy spaces such as RightsCon, Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the Conference on Personal Data Protection in Latin America (CPDP - Latam). In these instances, the AlSur consortium has sought to make visible the human rights concerns that are common in the region, so that they are not only part of the global discussion, but also appear concretely in advocacy tools that are useful not only to the members of the consortium but to the entire civil society and stakeholders.
In the medium term, and based on our new Strategy, we seek to reinforce our actions on at least two issues.
On the one hand, we note how inequalities in terms of access to and use of technologies have widened and become more relevant since the pandemic. Fair access to meaningful internet connections has again become a critical issue for people's development and opportunities, so we must return to the debate and generate more specific initiatives to close the digital divide in the global South.
On the other hand, we detect a growing influence of automation, prediction and content generation tools from the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI has direct applications in content moderation, mass surveillance, decision making, among other issues that we have been analyzing in recent years. Despite the problems associated with AI with respect to its biases, false positives and possible malfunctions, several Latin American countries have advanced in the adoption or development of strategies for the implementation of these technologies for various purposes. The indiscriminate use of these technologies without ethical and human rights-based frameworks can generate multiple impacts on society.
In relation to both issues, it is important to point out that our research has shown an under representation of Latin American perspectives in the global debates that are taking place. In several international forums, recommendations and standards are being developed that seek to influence the formulation of policies, but do not take into account local realities. Therefore, it is necessary to articulate efforts, views and capacities to achieve a voice with greater impact.
The AlSur consortium is in a consolidation phase and seeks to become a space of great influence for regional and international public policies on technological issues and for the recognition of human rights in digital environments from a perspective sensitive to the diversity of gender, ethnicity and class. Through the new Strategy we are building, the year 2023 will be for us the moment to achieve this consolidation.