Briefing paper

Our thoughts, feelings and opinions are all formed and changed in our inner world, influenced by the information, relationships and experiences we receive from and share with the world around us. This inner world is known as the forum internum, and it is a space that is protected absolutely in international law.

Our inner freedom is threatened by the fast pace and ubiquitous nature of technological and scientific developments specifically designed to get inside our heads. Freedom of thought (which includes the right to keep our thoughts private, the right not to have our thoughts manipulated and the right not to be penalised for our thoughts alone) is the key to our technological future.

This policy brief says that to guide technological development, we must understand the threats to freedom of thought in the digital age. The manipulation of our minds, whatever the technology used, undermines peace and democracy around the world, shaking the foundations of the UN charter. The author argues that the United Nations should establish practical frameworks to guarantee our absolute right to freedom of thought, now and for the future.

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CIGI Policy Brief No. 176