From contractual serfdom to human rights liberation : doing justice to virtual lives
Gervassis, Nicholas J.
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Analysis of relationships between states and citizens has almost monopolised the Human Rights legal discourse. In my thesis, I start from the position that Human Rights is a philosophical and historical victory of humankind, whose application cannot be limited to dictating norms in traditional forms of governance; Human Rights primarily define the human being as an individual, as a group, as a societal entity. Therefore, when we discuss Human Rights we do not pursue what governing states 'ought' or 'ought not' to do, but how human beings 'should' endure their lives in a dignified manner; how they should be treated independently of who their acting opponent might be. The Internet, on the other hand, has evolved through the years into an uncharted virtual structure of uncounted online operations and services run by private commercial actors. Within this setting, where the online application platform performs as a land parallel and the private commercial host as the de facto ruler, online identity is mirrored into service accounts. Hence the human being‘s digital existence seems to be depending, to a large degree, on the private initiative – and will. Whilst exploring various relevant themes, the thesis revisits the issue of the application of Human Rights in private relationships through the lenses of online electronic communications and using the example of commercial online virtual worlds. According to my conclusions, a simple projection of the state/citizen model onto ISPs/users relationships does not give sufficient ground for contesting Human Rights within that context. What we need is to deconstruct predominant dogmas in modern Human Rights theory and legislation and to readjust our focus back on the human being and its universal manifestations.