Skip to main content

Human Rights Protocol Considerations (hrpc)

RG Name Human Rights Protocol Considerations
Acronym hrpc
State Active
Charter charter-irtf-hrpc-01-05 Start Chartering/Rechartering (Internal Steering Group/IAB Review)
Document dependencies
Additional resources Issue tracker and document repo
Zulip stream
Personnel Chairs Mallory Knodel, Sofia Celi
Tech Advisors Daniel Kahn Gillmor, Melinda Shore
Mailing list Address
To subscribe
Chat Room address

Charter for Research Group


The Human Rights Protocol Considerations Research Group is chartered to research
whether standards and protocols can enable, strengthen or threaten human rights,
as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) [1] and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [2], specifically,
but not limited to the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom
of assembly.

The research group takes as its starting point the problem statement that
human-rights-enabling characteristics of the Internet might be degraded if they
are not properly defined, described and sufficiently taken into account in
protocol development. Not protecting these characteristics could result in
(partial) loss of functionality and connectivity.

As evinced by RFC 1958, the Internet aims to be the global network of networks
that provides unfettered connectivity to all users at all times and for any
content. Open, secure and reliable connectivity is essential for rights such as
freedom of expression and freedom of association. Since the Internet’s objective
of connectivity makes it an enabler of human rights, its architectural design
converges with the human rights framework.

The Internet was designed with freedom and openness of communications as core
values. But as the scale and the industrialization of the Internet has grown
greatly, the influence of such world-views started to compete with other values.
This research group aims to explore the relations between human rights and
protocols and to provide guidelines to inform future protocol development and
decision making where protocol s impact the effective exercise of the rights to
freedom of expression or association. Objective

This research has these major aims:

  • To expose the relation between protocols and human rights, with a focus on
    the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

  • To propose guidelines to protect the Internet as a human-rights-enabling
    environment in future protocol development, in a manner similar to the work
    done for Privacy Considerations in RFC 6973.

  • To increase the awareness in both the human rights community and the
    technical community on the importance of the technical workings of the
    Internet and its impact on human rights.


The research group plans on using a variety of research methods to create
different outputs including, but not limited to:

  • Internet drafts, some of which may be put on IRTF RFC stream. These will
    concern progress of the project, methodology, and will define any possible
    protocol considerations.

  • Policy and academic papers, for in-depth analysis and discussion of the
    relationship between human rights and the Internet architecture and

  • Film and textual interviews with a diverse set of community members, to give
    an accessible insight into the variety of opinions on this topic represented
    in the IETF.

  • Data analysis and visualization, to research and visualize the language used
    in current and historic RFCs and mailinglist discussions to expose core
    architectural principles, language and deliberations on human rights of
    those affected by the network.

  • Protocol analysis. Data analysis and visualization of (existing) protocols
    in the wild to research their concrete impact on human rights.


Membership is open to any interested parties who intend to remain current with
the published documents and mailing list issues.



Date Milestone Associated documents
Aug 2017 Submit Research Into Human Rights Protocol Considerations for publication as an Informational RFC (IRTF Track)