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All Posts | Nov 28,2018

SFLC.in at IGF 2018, Paris: Overview of our Lightning Talk on Internet Shutdowns

The 13th Internet Governance Forum (“IGF”) was hosted by the Government of France at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris from 12 to 14 November 2018. The overarching theme for the event was ‘Internet of Trust’.

The IGF is a global multi-stakeholder platform to exchange information and share good policies and practices relating to the Internet and related technologies. The IGF also gives stakeholders from all countries, including developing countries, the opportunity to engage in the debate on Internet governance and it contributes to capacity building, allowing these stakeholders to build knowledge and skills that will facilitate their participation in existing Internet governance institutions and arrangements.

This year, at IGF, SFLC.in was part of a panel organized by Mozilla on - ‘Has it become a luxury to disconnect?’ and also gave a lightning talk on ‘Internet Shutdowns in India’. SFLC.in was represented by Shashank Mohan on both sessions at the IGF.

We wish to bring you summaries of these sessions at the IGF, as two posts.

(For a summary of our panel discussion organized Mozilla on ‘Has it become a luxury to disconnect?’ at the IGF in Paris, please click here)

Summary of our lightning talk on Internet Shutdowns in India

Speaker: Shashank Mohan

Key highlights

  • We (SFLC.in) define Internet Shutdowns to be - government imposed suspension of access to the Internet, as a whole, within one or more localities for any duration of time.

  • Certain regions in India have been disproportionately affected by Internet Shutdowns, such as – Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and West Bengal.

  • The current rules on Internet Shutdowns in India – Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, do not provide a formal mechanism of reporting shutdowns by the executive.

  • Internet Shutdowns have significant socio-economic costs for the country.

  • It is unclear whether Internet Shutdowns are effective in achieving the goals they are implemented for.

Summary

To illustrate the social effects of shutdown in India, Shashank started the talk by narrating the story of a school girl from Darjeeling (West Bengal), who was unable to apply for her higher education due to an Internet Shutdown of more than 100 days in her home town. He proceeded to then explain the definition of Internet Shutdowns (as adopted by SFLC.in) i.e. a government imposed disablement of access to the Internet, as a whole, within one or more localities for any duration of time. SFLC.in does not consider blocking of certain services or throttling of the network as an Internet Shutdown, he said.

He then moved on to informing the audience that India holds the number one position of all countries in the world to shutdown the Internet in the year of 2018. This year India has also seen the maximum shutdowns (125 at the time of giving the talk) since 2012, when one of the very first instances of an Internet Shutdown was reported in the country, he told the audience. Shutdowns are not uniformly imposed in all regions of India and they are not deployed for the entire country. They have been concentrated in few regions of the country like – Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and West Bengal, with the most shutdowns being reported from the Jammu and Kashmir region.

For the legal backing of Internet Shutdowns in India, he informed the audience that before last year i.e. 2017, governments across India had been using an archaic law, which was generally used in situations of public unrest to impose Internet Shutdowns (Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973). In 2017, the central government introduced rules under a British era law called the Telegraph Act, 1885 to formalise the procedure for imposing Internet Shutdowns in India. The rules called the – Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, introduced mechanisms of imposing a shutdown; reasons to be given for imposing a shutdown; and the formation of a review committee for ensuring that shutdowns are imposed by the due process of law. Crucially, these rules do not establish a formal mechanism of reporting the instances of shutdowns being imposed.

Moving on to the economic effects of Internet Shutdowns, Shashank told the audience that as per a study conducted by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), the internet shutdowns imposed between 2012 and 2017 costed the Indian economy a sum of nearly $3.04 billion. Similarly, according to a study conducted by the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, economic losses to India due to Internet Shutdowns are - $968 million.

Moving on to the work SFLC.in has been doing in India around Internet Shutdowns, Shashank told the audience that SFLC.in had been actively and comprehensively tracking shutdowns in India from the year 2012. SFLC.in maintains a real-time dynamic tracker at <https://internetshutdowns.in/> and has recently published a detailed report on Internet Shutdowns in India capturing the extent, socio-economic effects and the legal backing of shutdowns in India. SFLC.in has also filed ‘Right to Information’ applications with state governments under the Right to Information Act, 2005, to inquire about the extent of shutdowns in every state. Recently, SFLC.in has updated its tracker to retrospectively update un-reported shutdowns based on replies received to right to information applications from the state of Rajasthan.

To conclude, Shashank stated that barring the concerns of public safety and national security, India has started seeing instances of Internet Shutdowns for – avoiding cheating in exams and during public festivals. He also said that it is unclear whether Internet Shutdowns are effective in achieving the goals they are implemented for.

For related posts on Internet Shutdowns, you may click here and here.
 

All Posts | Nov 28,2018

SFLC.in at IGF 2018, Paris: Overview of Panel Disucssion by Mozilla on Privacy and the Luxury to Disconnect

The 13th Internet Governance Forum (“IGF”) was hosted by the Government of France at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris from 12 to 14 November 2018. The overarching theme for the event was ‘Internet of Trust’.

The IGF is a global multi-stakeholder platform to exchange information and share good policies and practices relating to the Internet and related technologies. The IGF also gives stakeholders from all countries, including developing countries, the opportunity to engage in the debate on Internet governance and it contributes to capacity building, allowing these stakeholders to build knowledge and skills that will facilitate their participation in existing Internet governance institutions and arrangements.

This year, at IGF, SFLC.in was part of a panel organized by Mozilla on - ‘Has it become a luxury to disconnect?’ and also gave a lightning talk on ‘Internet Shutdowns in India’. SFLC.in was represented by Shashank Mohan on both sessions at the IGF.

We wish to bring you summaries of these sessions at the IGF, as two posts.

(For a summary of our lightning talk on Internet Shutdowns in India at the IGF in Paris, please click here)

Summary of the panel discussion by Mozilla - ‘Has it become a luxury to disconnect?’

Panel: Cathleen Berger, Mozilla (Organizer and Moderator); Solana Larsen, Mozilla (Speaker); Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, Article 19 (Speaker); and Shashank Mohan, SFLC.in (Speaker).

Key issues discussed by the panel:

  • Has it become a luxury to disconnect? With technology occupying each and every strata of human society and with the push to bring everyone online, do we risk the permanent loss of choice?

  • In a world where convenience and social norms hold high currency in human society, where does privacy stand and is there a global socio-economic divide on access to privacy?

  • How does privacy, or the lack of it, affect the rights of different sections of society, such as – child rights, LGBTQ+ rights, free speech, mobile finance etc.?

Summary

The discussion started with the moderator (Cathleen Berger, Mozilla) requesting each member to discuss a personal story on how they protect their privacy and what have been some challenges associated with such protection. Has it become expensive nowadays to get better protection, both security and privacy wise?

Solana Larsen (Mozilla) narrated her story about how she is navigating the world of technology with her 6-year old daughter. She stated that children are vulnerable whether online or offline and how we choose to connect our children is something that determines how much they are at risk from bad actors. We might not know the extent of the risk of sharing extensive personal data about our children until they're older, she said. Solana also pointed out to the reverse digital divide, where people who are less affluent and have less access to education and resources, let their kids spend more time with video games and cell phones as compared to more affluent people.

Shashank Mohan (SFLC.in) shared his story on Aadhaar and how after a government mandate, he had to enter the Aadhaar program to link his tax filings with the Aadhaar ID. He further went on to talk about the Indian Supreme Court’s privacy judgment, wherein the court recognized privacy to be a fundamental right under the right to life and liberty. He also pointed out that a couple of months back the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of the Aadhaar program by allowing the Indian government to mandatorily ask citizens to link their Aadhaar Ids with subsidies and benefits. With benefits, subsidies and tax filings linked to the Aadhaar, most Indians have been forced into the government’s Aadhaar scheme, without an option of opting out, he said.

Ephraim Percy Kenyanito (Article 19) talked about his experience in Kenya and how in 2010-11 citizens were being asked by political parties to be registered with them. Political parties were often getting personal data from telecom companies, as most citizens were registered with telecom companies to get access to mobile money. He said that this debate gave an insight into how financial inclusion was deeply linked with privacy and data protection. Similarly in 2014, in Kenya the government issued a contract for surveillance cameras to increase police protection and that time he tried to talk to the government to ensure that such data was secure and was not used to identify other common citizens.

Subsequently, the moderator (Mozilla) raised the question about the definition of privacy around the world. Shashank (SFLC.in) pointed out that according to the Supreme Court of India, privacy is defined to be strongly linked with the dignity and integrity of people and is declared to be a fundamental human right integral to the right to life and liberty. The moderator (Mozilla) pointed out that in Germany privacy was deeply entrenched in the social fabric of the larger community. Solana (Mozilla) added that as per her, currently, people are extremely confused about how much privacy they want and whether privacy is a good thing or a bad thing. Every year people’s perceptions are changing – some people value security more than privacy and the others wish for stronger anonymity and encryption norms. She stated that, we want connectivity and we want people to be connected, but at same time, we're also trying to find a balance and help decision makers navigate the space without falling into the trap of over reliance or censoring and limiting movement and freedom of thought and speech.

Shashank (SFLC.in) also pointed out that in the Aadhaar case, the Supreme Court of India has stated that under the scheme only minimal data was collected. With finger prints, iris scans and demographic information – how is the collection of data minimal, he questioned. With concepts like data localization and social media monitoring hubs, the Indian government was pushing for increasing access to the personal data of Indian citizens.

Key takeaways:

  • Privacy is a concern across the world, but different countries have varying outlooks of its importance. In parts of the world like Kenya and India, it can be said that disconnecting is a luxury.

  • People with lesser access to education and resources form part of a reverse digital divide, wherein children from such families may be at a greater risk as they tend to spend more hour interacting with video games or cell phones.

  • We need to encourage the adoption of social norms around data sharing and raise awareness about privacy concerns.

  • Governments and corporations need to be challenged and held accountable for adoption of policies which are not privacy friendly. Collection of data and intrusions to privacy need to be necessary and proportionate.

For our post on the key highlights of the Aadhaar judgment, you may click here and for our press release on the privacy judgment of the Supreme Court of India, you may click here.

All Posts | Jan 07,2017

Summary Report: Internet Governance Forum, 2016 (6 – 9 December; Jalisco, Mexico)

The 11th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was held from 6th to 9th December, 2016 in Jalisco, Mexico, with the overall theme of “Enabling Inclusive and Sustainable Growth”. The mandate for the IGF is contained in 2005′s Tunis Agenda of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and the first IGF was convened in Athens in 2006 by the United Nations Secretary General. It is meant primarily as a facilitating forum for dialogues amongst participants, to identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and where appropriate, make recommendations.

IGF 2016 served as a platform for discussions on how the Internet can support and help enable sustainable growth as envisaged by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. More than 2000 delegates from 83 countries participated over the course of four days in roughly 200 sessions addressing a broad range of themes and issues. The sessions covered, among other topics, the Internet and sustainable development; access and diversity; youth and gender challenges pertaining to the Internet; the protection and promotion of human rights online; cyber security; the need to enhance multi-stakeholder cooperation; critical Internet resources; Internet governance capacity-building; and other emerging issues that may affect the future of the open Internet. (The Chair’s Summary of IGF 2016 is available here)

SFLC.in was represented at IGF by Mishi Choudhary (Executive Director), and Arjun Jayakumar (Jr. Policy Director). We organized two sessions at the meeting and participated as speakers in five others.

Sessions organized

  • WS109 – Analyzing the Causes and Impacts of Internet Shutdowns (December 9; 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM): This session, styled as a panel discussion, sought to explore the causes and ground-level impacts of Internet shutdowns with a view to uncovering the motivations behind such measures, laws and policies that allow them to happen and ways to prevent them. The panelists for the session were Brett Solomon (Executive Director, Access Now), Nicolas Seidler (Senior Policy Advisor, ISOC), Amos Toh (Legal Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur, David Kaye), Hibah Kamal-Grayson (Senior Policy Analyst, Google), Rajan Mathews (Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India), Nanjira Sambuli (Digital Equality Advocacy Manager, World Wide Web Foundation), Gisela Perez de Acha (Public Policy Manager, Derechos Digitales), and Jan Ryzdak (Global Network Initiative). The session was moderated by Arjun Jayakumar.

    It was said over the course of the discussion that there needed to be better common understanding on the scope of the term “Internet shutdowns”, and that it should be understood to cover both blanket and surgical shutdowns of the Internet. It was felt that there is a lot left to be done in terms of linking the rights-impact of Internet shutdowns to its economic impact i.e. it needs to be demonstrated that enabling free expression can lead to sustainable economic growth. It was also acknowledged by the panel that national security is at times a real concern and that thinking in bubbles will do little to arrive at workable solutions that are acceptable to all involved and mindful of all relevant concerns.

    A post-session report of this session is available here, and an official transcript here.

  • WS107 – Practical Challenges in Tackling Online Harassment (December 9; 2:40 PM – 3:00 PM): Arjun Jayakumar delivered a 20 minute lightning talk about the findings from SFLC.in’s conversations with 18 public figures who routinely face online harassment. These findings are contained in our report titled “Online Harassment: A Form of Censorship”, published in November 2016.

    Arjun spoke about how relentless online harassment caused some interviewees to substantially change their usage of online speech platforms like social media websites and in some cases stop using them altogether. The shortcomings of India’s law enforcement machinery when it comes to addressing grievances related to online harassment was covered, as many interviewees had pointed to how police officers are often not equipped to handle such complaints. Arjun also spoke about the interviewees’ views on existing content reporting mechanisms offered by online speech platforms i.e. how many felt the turn-around times were far too long, how the whole process seemed entirely non-personal, and how this made them not utilize reporting mechanisms to the extent intended.

    Some members of the attending crowd shared their insights into the legal responses to online harassment in other jurisdictions, and the general undesirability of emphasizing legal responses to online speech issues as this comes with the danger of restricting legitimate free speech as well.

Sessions participated in

  • Operational Responses to Online Harassment (December 5; 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM): This Day 0 session was organized by International Media Support, and examined the effects of online harassment especially on individuals with weak networks, its harmful effect on the diversity of voices when journalists, bloggers and others are targeted, community responses to online harassment, and ways to balance legal responses to online harassment with the right to freedom of expression. Mishi Choudhary spoke on SFLC.in’s behalf at this session, and presented our report on the topic along with some of its findings. She covered among other things, the report’s findings on shortcomings with social media’s content reporting mechanisms, under-preparedness of law enforcement in handling relevant grievances, and how the effect of online harassment on particular individuals was seen to be highly subjective. A post-session report of this session can be accessed here and an official transcript is available here.

  • IGF High-Level Meeting (December 5; 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM): 2016′s High-Level Meeting was held on Day 0 of IGF, and focused on the opportunities that the multi-stakeholder model offers to Internet Governance regarding social inclusion and digital abilities for the future, emphasizing the necessary skills for an environment marked by the contribution of the Internet to the development of citizens and nations in diverse aspects, including the economic one. Mishi Choudhary was a speaker at the meeting, and spoke about how multi-stakeholderism has become all the more relevant in light of the rising importance of the Internet, how the model facilitates discussion around crucial issues like surveillance, how even democratically elected governments can at times fail to reflect its people’s values, and generally on the need to focus on freedom and liberty as much as multi-stakeholderism in conversations around Internet governance. She also addressed the need to promote the widespread use of encryption and Free and Open Source Software, the need to guard against initiatives that inject discrimination and surveillance into the Internet under the garb of charity, building intelligent conversations around cyber security, and taking steps against online harassment.

  • WS14 – Asia and the Next Billion: Challenges in Digital Inclusion (December 6; 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM): This session was organized by the Internet Society, Trivandrum, and sought to take stock of the challenges in enabling digital inclusion in a cross-section of countries in the Asia-Pacific, including Pacific Islands, China, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Armenia and China, and propose a set of strategies to address the issue of Digital Inclusion in the region, with the intention of strengthening community action towards equitable inclusion. Arjun Jayakumar spoke on SFLC.in’s behalf at the session.

    An official transcript is available here.

  • WS21 – Open Source: A Key Enabler on the Path to the Next Billion (December 7; 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM): This session was also organized by the Internet Society, Trivandrum, and focused on ways in which communities can deploy Free and Open Source Software and build capacity within the community to meet the challenges arising out of joining the Internet. SFLC.in was represented by Arjun Jayakumar at the session. A post-session report is available here, and an official transcript here.

  • WS267 – Surveillance and International Human Rights Law (December 8, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM): This session was organized by Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales. It provided an overview of how electronic surveillance has been approached by international human rights bodies, through a discussion on the trends, challenges and opportunities for the development of standards in international human rights law. Arjun Jayakumar spoke on SFLC.in’s behalf at this session. A post-session report is available here, and an official transcript here.

All Posts | Dec 03,2016

SFLC.in at IGF 2016

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a multi-stakeholder public policy dialogue initiated by the United Nations Secretary-General, has been an annual affair for more than a decade. The 11th IGF is set to take place from 6th to 9th December at Guadalajara, Mexico with the theme of ‘Enabling Inclusive and Sustainable Growth’. This 4 day conference is an opportunity to discuss current as well as emerging issues in the field of digital freedoms, cyber security, Internet governance, and others, that require brainstorming, expert views, and co-operation amongst all stakeholders. At the IGF 2016, SFLC.in will be represented by our Executive Director, Mishi Choudhary and Jr. Policy Director, Arjun Jayakumar. We will be organizing two sessions on the topics of Internet shutdowns, and online harassment, and are excited for the opportunity to discuss our work, gain insights from across the globe and expand it further!

The details of our sessions are as follows:

WS 109: Analysing the causes and impacts of Internet Shutdowns [December 9, Workshop Room 4, 12:00PM (CT)]

Blanket shutdowns of Internet services, usually as a means to forestall violence and civic unrest, have been gaining traction in recent times, especially in developing countries. Restricting Internet access to large sections of the population has several wide-ranging consequences, including compromising the right to free speech and freedom of information and knowledge, in addition to making for an inhospitable environment for businesses and other entities that rely on the Internet for functioning. For details, please refer here.

If you wish to participate remotely, please register yourself here.

Lightning Session: Practical challenges in tackling online harassment [December 9, Lightning Session Area, 14:40-15:00 hrs (CT)]

While the Internet has proved over the years to be a critical enabler of free speech and expression, the very attributes of the Internet that make it so have also brought forth numerous complex challenges without precedents for effective resolution. Online harassment is one such challenge, the prevalence of which threatens to compromise the Internet’s role as an enabler of free speech. As the Internet also serves as a platform for harassing speech, users are expected grow weary of what they choose to express online and how, which takes away from the Internet’s most cherished attributes. For details, please refer here.

This 20 minute talk will be given by Arjun Jayakumar where among other things, he will discuss recommendations and suggestions from our recently published report on Online Harassment: A form of Censorship. A copy of this report can be accessed here.

Apart from the above two sessions being organized by us, Mishi Choudhary will be speaking at the following events:

  • IGF High Level Meeting [December 5, Main session room, 15:00-18:00 hrs (CT)] For details, please refer here.
  • Digital Rights Litigators, Pre-event organized by Access Now [December 5, Bilateral 5, 14:00-16:00 hrs (CT)]
  • International Media Support- Operational responses to online harassment [December 5, Workshop room 7, 9:00-10:00 hrs (CT)] For details, please refer here.

Arjun Jayakumar will be representing SFLC.in on the panel on Surveillance and International Human Rights Law [December 8, Workshop room 4, 15:00-16:00 hrs (CT)]. For details, please refer here.

All Posts | Aug 23,2014

Internet Governance Forum Annual Meeting

The ninth annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) will be held from 2nd to 5th September, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. The overarching theme for the 2014 meeting is: "Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multistakeholder Internet Governance".

Formally established in 2006 as mandated by the World Summit on the IGF is a multi-stakeholder forum for international policy-dialogue on contemporary and emergent issues associated with Internet governance. It aims to bring together all stakeholders - be it Government, industry, civil society or academia - through an open and inclusive process so as to highlight and address relevant issues in global Internet governance.

Mishi Choudhary (Executive Director) and Prasanth Sugathan (Counsel) will represent SFLC.in at IGF 2014. Follow us on Twitter for live updates from the meeting.

Read more: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/

All Posts | Apr 12,2014

RTI reveals expenditure/organizational details of the 3rd Annual IGF Meeting held at Hyderabad

The Tunis Agenda envisaged convening the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as a multi-stakeholder platform to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance. To understand more about the processes related to hosting of the event SFLC.IN filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 requesting for the Host Country agreement and details regarding the expenditure of the third annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum that was held at Hyderabad from 3rd to 6th December, 2008.

We received a response dated March 28, 2014 from the Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY) providing the requested information. The documents revealed the following facts:

The Meeting was hosted by the Government of India (represented by the Department of Information Technology) at a total expenditure of Rs. 5,40,15,197. Of this, Rs. 2,32,71,000 ($ 517,128) was paid to the UN as reimbursement of actual additional costs incurred by the UN towards holding the Meeting in India rather than Geneva, where the IGF is headquartered. This includes costs of travel and staff entitlements of UN officials assigned to plan/attend the Meeting, as well as the costs of shipping any necessary equipment and supplies. Of the remaining amount:-


  • Rs. 35,00,000 was paid to the National Internet Exchange towards meeting Daily Subsistence Allowance and Terminal Expenses of 50 members including UN officials
  • Rs. 2,72,44,197 was paid to M/s Cyberabad Convention Centre Pvt. Ltd. as booking charges for the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, and hotel accommodation for UN Staff and organizing team.

As per the Host Country Agreement entered into between the UN and the Government of India, the UN was responsible for invitation and selection of international participants, planning/running of the Meeting and preparation of appropriate documentation, substantive support before, during and after the meeting, and the official IGF website. The Government on the other hand, was responsible for:


  • Venue, facilities and technical requirements for the meeting

  • Providing local counterpart staff to assist with the planning and preparations for the Meeting

  • Office supplies and equipment for UN staff

  • Providing support to UN participants and officials in securing hotel accommodation

  • Other necessary logistic and organizational services as requested by the UN

  • Administrative arrangements, and costs relating to issuance of airline tickets and DSA for officials of the UN Secretariat
  • Host Country website