Human versus Inalienable Rights: Is there still a future for online protest in the Anonymous world?
The protection of legitimate political protest is one of the hallmarks of a functional liberal democracy. Certainly, there is increasing legal debate about the parameters of what constitutes legitimate protest and the appropriate scope of police powers to regulate it. However, there is no widespread call for the dismantling of the concept of a right to protest.
The same consensus is not present however when one considers the right to protest in cyberspace. This article considers the possible reasons for this beginning with the recent practice of protest online, then by considering factors which may affect the legitimacy of that practice or which are unique to the online environment.
The main argument of this paper is that human rights discourse as interpreted by the judiciary is very much focused on humans beings as embodied entities and thus has difficulty recognising that a human being acting in the disembodied sphere of cyberspace is still a rights bearing agent. In other words the disembodied human is alienated from their rights.
With this in mind we shall explore the legal framework in which online protest operates within the EU and offer some suggestions about how online protest could be better managed and protected.