“Digital technologies are transforming our world and the multiple spaces in which we live and move,” the manifesto begins. “These technologies offer us new ways to communicate, to advocate for our human rights and dignity, and for our voices to be heard.” The document was presented on the last day of the 13-15 September symposium on “Communication for Social Justice in a Digital Age.” It will be further revised in the light of comments submitted online by participants with a definitive version being issued in the coming days.
The manifesto notes that digital technologies provide both opportunities and challenges.
“Digital platforms are also being used to spread deliberate disinformation and hate,” the text reads. “Politically motivated digital campaigns of ‘fake news’ undermine democratic processes and responsible journalism.”
Growing digital technology monopolies threaten a diversity of voices and perspectives, the manifesto notes. “Users have become the new commodity,” the text reads. “Private data is increasingly requested, collected, and controlled by a small number of platforms to take advantage of people for economic and political purposes.”
In their work over the three-day symposium, participants identified surveillance, marginalization, and militarization are significant threats.
“Cybersecurity concerns are increased, particularly in healthcare,” the manifesto reads. “In seeking to respond to the issues raised by digital transformation, we can find in many faith traditions an incredible depth of insight about what it means to be human and to live justly within the web of creation.”
The symposium also explored how digitalization raises ecological concerns. “Political, cultural, civil society actors, and communities of faith are all struggling to respond effectively,” reads the manifesto. “To respond to challenges and opportunities of the digital age, we need an inclusive and holistic participatory approach that is both international and intergenerational, based on the sacred value of social justice.”
The manifesto outlines a holistic, inclusive approach to create digital technologies that promote life, dignity, and justice.
“We need principles that allow all people to engage in transparent, informed, and democratic debate, where people have unfettered access to the information and knowledge essential to peaceful coexistence, empowerment, responsible civic engagement, and mutual accountability,” reads the manifesto. “To achieve digital justice, we need a transformative movement of individuals, communities, educational institutions, media agencies, and civil society – including communities of faith − and we need government policies and actions that are informed and supported by civil society, founded on human rights, human dignity, and democratic principles.”
Fundamental rights will not prevail on their own or through voluntary commitments by corporations, the manifesto notes. “We will create a grassroots, faith-inspired resistance to the forces challenging human dignity and flourishing in digital spaces.”
The draft manifesto can be consulted online.