Defender of your Digital Freedom

All Posts | Dec 23,2017

SFLC.in at Internet Governance Forum 2017

The twelfth annual meeting of Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was held in Geneva, Switzerland at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) from 18 to 21 December, 2017. The theme for the meeting this year was ‘Shape Your Digital Future!’

IGF is a global multi-stakeholder platform to facilitate inclusive, productive discussions on Internet related public policy issues from a general perspective. The purpose of IGF is to maximize the opportunity for open and inclusive dialogue and the exchange of ideas on Internet governance related issues; create opportunities to share best practices and experiences; identify emerging issues and bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public; contribute to capacity building for Internet governance.

SFLC.in was represented by Mishi Choudhary, President and Founding Director at the annual forum. She participated as a speaker at the following sessions:

  • WS 129: Making artificial intelligence (AI) work for equity and social justice (20th December, 15:00-16:30):
    This session was organised by Just Net Coalition in collaboration with Social Watch. This workshop discussed various pertinent issues such as what humans can expect from AI systems and how to control them, the ethical and regulatory commands that can be inculcated into upcoming technology, amongst others.
    The official transcript of the session can be accessed here.
  • WS 8: Open Source: Defending Freedoms in the Digital Future (20th December, 11:50-13:20):
    This session was co-organised by ISOC-TRV and FOSS Foundation for Africa. The session had detailed discussions in three breakout groups on following topics: (1) tools and technologies provided by FOSS; (2) methodologies, processes and best practices in dealing with the processes of content generation, validation and distribution; and (3) policy initiatives. The session comprised of following speakers:  Mishi Choudhary, Glenn Mcknight, Sarah Kiden, Olivier Crepin-Leblond, Panayotis Antoniadis, Oktavia Hrund and Nicolás Echániz.
    The official transcript of this session is available here.
  • WS 154: The Distributed Denial of Democracy: Threats to Democratic Processes Online (21st December, 10:40 - 11:40)
    Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) in collaboration with National Democratic Institute (NDI) organised this session.  This panel highlighted a number of threats to online democracy and effective solutions for addressing those threats. The panelists for this session included Hanane Boujemi, Martha Roldos, Chris Doten, Jehan Ara, Mishi Choudhary and Matt Chessen.
    The official transcript of this session is available 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.