The Arab Digital Rights Dataset is a database of Arab legislation, caselaw, and draft law that affects digital rights developed by the Beirut-based NGO Social Media Exchange (SMEX). It is an open dataset meant to help activists, journalists, civil society, human rights defenders, lawyers, judges, and others more readily access, visualize, and interpret the emerging legal frameworks for digital rights in the Arab region and their impact on fundamental rights and freedoms. In doing so, we hope that they, in turn, can more consistently and compellingly hold governments accountable to their obligations to respect, protect, and promote human rights in a digital age.
The first version of the dataset, a simple spreadsheet, was published in 2014, with the laws of six Arab countries and Iran. The second version of the dataset contained the laws of 20 Arab countries, many of them collected by volunteer researchers, and was published on the now-deprecated Silk platform in August 2015 and was last updated in May 2016.
Work is now underway on the third iteration of the dataset, which aims to improve upon the methodology of the earlier version as well as expand the types of data gathered to include regulations, draft law, and case law in addition to primary legislation and include more information about data sources. This iteration will also identify key provisions in laws and draft laws that pertain to or have had a notable impact on digital rights. Meanwhile, irrelevant legislation will be removed. Data collection for Version 3 is now being conducted by a group of 15 lawyers and human rights researchers from the region and is expected to be complete and peer reviewed by early summer.
In parallel, SMEX is developing technical requirements for hosting the data to encourage its use in digital rights reporting, analysis, and policy formation. Specific attention will be paid to engaging technologists and organizations building complementary digital rights databases.
Ultimately, we have two goals:
First, we want to create a complete, accurate, and accessible set of laws and key caselaw affecting digital rights in the 22 Arab League countries. In doing so, we hope to advance the development of rights-respecting Internet policy in the Arab world.
Second, by sharing our methodology, use-case ideas, and code, we hope to encourage legal and human rights researchers in other regions to create similar and similarly interoperable databases, so that we can leverage our collective knowledge not just to visualize the legal framework for digital rights in a single country or region, but also to envision what human rights should look like legally in a digitally networked world.