Buffering rights: How Europe's new due diligence regulation can help reverse tech rights risks
The current technology revolution has enormous potential for human development. But the dark side of technology is growing quickly, and human rights concerns around hate speech, fake news, intrusive surveillance, coercive algorithms, discriminatory artificial intelligence and pollution are on the rise. Currently, without adequate business regulation, inscrutable and abusive practice by irresponsible tech companies can enjoy impunity. The existing scale and scope of abuse risks squandering public trust in the tech giants for good, permanently endangering their social licences to operate.
Europe’s welcome draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive seeks to transform the European business model by stipulating that companies must undertake human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) to address human rights risks and harms in their global operations and supply chains. The Directive has enormous potential to insist the tech sector transforms itself to end abuse, and contributes to shared prosperity and effective democracy – but it must be strengthened in order to fulfil this potential and shape a rights-respecting technology sector. The good news is this task is relatively straightforward. The Directive is built on the UNGPs, and bringing the Directive fully in line with them will address its primary weaknesses.
This briefing explores key areas for strengthening the Directive, as identified by civil society, legislators, responsible companies and investors:
- Scope of companies and sectors
- Scope of rights
- Value chains and business relationships
- Stakeholder engagement
- Complaints procedure
An effective European due diligence law will help transform the tech sector’s all-too-frequent response to human rights abuse – from ‘how could we have known?’ to a proactive ‘how do we know (and act)?’. This shift is within reach.
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