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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: International Human Rights in the Digital Era (LAWS10262)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will explore the impact of digital technologies on human rights at the international level. Two main perspectives will be considered: on the one hand, the course will critical assess the growing role that the private sector and tech companies in particular (especially digital platforms) play as global regulators and standard-setters, and what are the consequences of such shift on the governance of fundamental rights. On the other hand, the course will discuss, at a more granular level, the impact of digital technologies on a selection of specific human rights such as the right to freedom of expression, privacy, welfare rights, etc.
Course description The course will explore how the increasing power of global technology companies and the widespread uptake of emerging technologies, such as for instance digital platforms and artificial intelligence, impact on the enjoyment and protection of human rights. As stressed by the Council of Europe, ¿[n]ot only does [the emergence of digital technologies] require us to acquire a deeper understanding of their impact on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, but it also entails careful consideration of questions concerning where responsibility should lie for their adverse consequences.¿ The course thus aims to critically engage with such emerging questions while at the same time considering the possible opportunities and advantages offered by technological development to the cause of human rights. Alongside broader considerations, regarding the specificities of ¿digital¿ human rights and the impact of technology on the governance thereof, the course will look in detail at specific fundamental rights and their interplay with digital technologies. While regional (Council of Europe, EU) and international perspectives will be the main focus of the course, national models from a comparative perspective will be occasionally considered when relevant. The course aims to offer a wide yet detailed overview of the impact of technological development and the rise of digital platforms and automated technologies on human rights. Its main objectives are as follows: ¿ To provide an in-depth understanding of the emerging relations between digital technologies and human rights at the international and European level; ¿ To develop an in-depth understanding of the normative and social challenges of regulating technologies, and the different methods and techniques that make it possible (e.g. self-regulation, co-regulation, regulation by design, etc.); ¿ To develop a critical understanding and analytical capability in respect of technological advancements and their impact on the society.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 100 %, Coursework 0 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% written exam.
Feedback Students will have the opportunity to undertake a formative assessment (mock exam) in week 7 and receive feedback. Completion of the formative assessment is voluntary; feedback will provided within 15 days from submission.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the specificities and challenges of human rights¿ enjoyment and enforcement in the context of digital technologies
  2. Critically assess and discuss the interplay between public authorities (both at the national and supranational level) and private companies, especially in the IT industry, in governing and enforcing fundamental rights.
  3. Demonstrate a deep understanding of a selection of fundamental rights and their multiple facets in relation to digital technologies.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The students will develop the ability to investigate the ongoing relevance of existing legal principles, the emergence of new ethical and regulatory frameworks, and discuss the merits and drawbacks of each such option, in light of the emergence of new digital technologies.
Students will be encouraged to develop autonomous views on a range of current and emerging issues where definite answers do not exist (yet?) and compare them with those of their peers in seminar discussions.
Through oral classroom discussions and a written summative assessment, students will have the opportunity to practise both forms of communication and, by being asked to discuss and elaborate on the merits of laws and ethical frameworks, both orally and in writing, students will develop analytical abilities as well as the ability to articulate legal reasoning.
Finally, the students will develop familiarity with regulatory approaches and ethical frameworks to assess the impact on, and compatibility with, human rights frameworks of a range of emerging digital technologies, both from a theoretical and practical perspective thanks to a number of practical case-studies discussed through the course.
KeywordsHuman rights; digital technologies; artificial intelligence; ECHR; UN Guiding Principles on Busines
Course organiserDr Paolo Cavaliere
Tel: (0131 6)51 5137
Course secretaryMiss Susie Morgan
Tel: (0131 6)50 2339
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