On the 5– 6 March, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hosted a workshop on 4IR and Human Rights in Johannesburg.
The SAHRC is a Chapter 9 institution mandated by the Constitution to raise awareness of human rights issues; monitor and assess the observance of human rights; educate and train on human rights; address human rights violations and seek effective redress. Pursuant to that mandate, the Workshop sought to initiate conversation over 4IR and how it could impact human rights in South Africa.
Given the controversy on how hate speech is regulated in South Africa, the discussion on Internet Rights and Responsibilities: Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech was fascinating. Considering how controversial the narrative around hate speech is, how can we regulate it?
Samkelo Mokhine (Executive Director at Freedom of Expression Institute) discussed social media platforms (Facebook in particular). He emphasized the dire need for these companies to consult stating this is “…not just tick-box consultation but meaningful consultation/engagement with stakeholders on what they find offensive.” He further opined that if they cannot be trusted to take this initiative themselves, that perhaps they should be forced through regulation.
Another fascinating speaker was Wiliam Bird (Director of Media Monitoring Africa) who discussed how our approach to 4IR should be seeded in human rights. Bird is of the view that one way to achieve this is to prioritize critical learning and digital literacy skills. His research show that the only people that are/can benefit from 4IR are those who grew up with technology (i.e. those with money).