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“We shouldn’t be trying to persuade populists, but instead undermine them. We can do this both by using law much more and challenging their lies in real time,” Michael O’Flaherty said.

At the same time, he and co-panellists Brett Solomon, Executive Director of the event’s organiser Access Now and Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agreed that people are increasingly turning away from the human rights system as a reference point. “People are passionate about human rights, but only when they understand it concerns them,” FRA’s Director said. “All too often, inequality translates into poverty. Human rights are about getting food on the table: real issues of real people.”

RightsCon brings together human rights experts, business leaders, technologists, engineers, investors, activists, and government representatives from around the world to discuss internet freedom and human rights in the digital age. Topics at this year’s conference included countering violent extremism and responding to hate speech, freedom of expression, truth in an age of fake news, and empowering communities at risk.

On 31 March, FRA will present its project on large-scale surveillance in the EU. The findings of the first part of this project were released in November 2015 after the European Parliament called on the Fundamental Rights Agency to research rights protection in the context of mass surveillance. The results of the second part of the project, including in-depth analysis and recommendations, will be published in October 2017.

Watch the recording of the discussion: