Human Rights, Democracy and Digital Technology

Course content

This course examines the promise and peril of emerging digital technologies in the context of human rights protections and underlying democratic values and probes into the legal challenges raised by modern technologies in these areas. As a result, the course also draws on the ongoing normative efforts in the EU and worldwide to address those potential threats emerging from the misuse of technology by reviewing different novel legal instruments on the matter.


First, the course will begin with an introduction to the concepts of law, regulation, human rights and emerging digital technologies. This introductory section will elaborate on the rationale for investigating the opportunities and challenges posed by digital technologies to protect human rights and uphold democratic values. 


The second section, which is the core of this course, critically examines the effects these technologies and their applications have on specific human rights, such as non-discrimination, the right to privacy and freedom of expression. In this sense, diverse scenarios where human rights face potential constraints due to digital developments in technology and innovation, like the implementation of automated decision-making in the public sector, the (mis)use of online platforms for disinformation and hate speech, state surveillance tools 2.0, and the relationship between digital technologies and crime, including mass atrocities, are going to be developed. Under this context, the regulatory framework will be articulated under the human rights conventions and other related frameworks and instruments (e.g. 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ICCPR, ECHR, Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the declaration on digital rights and principles for everyone in the EU).


The third section examines different regulatory tools available or soon to be available to specifically address digital technologies' potential negative impact on democracy and human rights. This will include groundbreaking legal instruments like the Canadian Directive on Automated Decision-Making, the German Network Enforcement Act or the Chinese Internet Information Service Algorithmic Recommendation Management Provisions. However, the main attention will be on the EU secondary law. As such, new regulatory tools emerging on the topic in the region (i.e., the Artificial Intelligence act, Digital Services Act, General Data Protection Regulation) are going to be studied. 


Finally, the course concludes with a section that focuses on future gazing and problem-finding: exploiting the adjacent possibilities opened up by the course to chart the edge of where digital technologies interact with the law, human rights and democracy. This sets students up to navigate through the myriad of legal responses to the challenges posed by digital technologies already tabled, as well as inviting students to come up with their own interpretation and response towards the legal issues raised (either in the global, regional or national context), as they work towards their final written assessment.

Learning outcome

Main course objectives will enable students to:

  • Present and explain theoretical and practical legal issues arising in the emerging field of human rights, democracy and technology;
  • Identify complex legal problems at the intersection of human rights and technology, as well as democracy and technology.
  • Find professional global and/or national solutions for legal problems in light of the lack of the adequate regulatory framework within the field of human rights, democracy and technology; as well as the misuse of new technologies in violation of the fundamental human rights).
  • Apply legal analysis to the actual problems in the area of human rights and technology, and democracy and technology; and analyse the existing accountability mechanisms under international and national law to uphold digital rights. 
  • Present and challenge arguments pertinent to the subject matter of the course;
  • Develop critical skills in assessing the existing state of the legal framework (international, regional and/or national) governing human rights and technology, and come up with reasoned theoretical and practical solutions with respect to the design of new normative solutions aimed at the prevention of the abusive use of technology leading to human rights violations or interfering with democratic processes.  

case studies, group work, in-class discussions

There is no uniform textbook in the field. Therefore, study course materials will be a compilation of relevant book chapters, research articles, policy papers, legislation (international and national), relevant case law, and reports (e.g. UN, EU, CoE, national parliamentary reports). The volume of the assigned study materials will not exceed 750 pages as requested by the Faculty’s rules (70 pages of assigned readings per each study block).



1) Molly K Land and Jay D Aronson (eds), New Technologies for Human Rights Law and Practice, CUP (2018) (selected chapters).

2) Rikke Frank Jørgensen, Human Rights in the Age of Platforms, MIT Press, 2019 (selected chapters)


Selected reports

3) United Nations, General Assembly, Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (2022).

4) D. Leslie, C. Burr & Others, Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law: A Primer. The Council of Europe (2021).

5) C. Dumbrava, Key Social Media Risks to Democracy. European Parliament Research Service (2021).

6) A Koenig, The New Forensics: Using Open Source Information to Investigate Grave Crimes, Human Right Center, University of California, Berkeley (2018), 22 p.


It is illegal to share digital textbooks with each other without permission from the copyright holder.

It is desirable that students have completed a basic course in human rights and/or public international law. Furthermore, an awareness of and interest in developing digital technologies would be an asset.

A good knowledge of English is a minimum requirement.

The course tailors well with the Faculty’s strategic direction on the promotion of digitalization in legal studies and CECS’s research agenda.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Home assignment
Type of assessment details
Individual written assignment

Read about the descriptions of the individual exam forms, including formal requirements, scope and deadlines in the exam catalogue

Read about practical exam conditions at KUnet

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period

Hand in date: January 13, 2025


Hand in date: February 18, 2025

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law or holding a pre-approval: No tuition fee
  2. Professionals: Please visit our website  
Please see timetable for teaching time
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinators
  • Hin-Yan Liu   (11-707176358169763674717d48727d7a36737d366c73)
  • Iryna Marchuk   (13-737c83786b38776b7c6d727f754a747f7c38757f386e75)
Saved on the 30-04-2024

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