The Internet Governance Forum
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is the largest annual gathering for internet and digital rights, bringing together civil society, industry and governments from all around the world.
The IGF will take place from 10 to 13 November in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. The week involves workshops, strategic meetings, and coalition-building on key internet freedom issues of the day, on a huge variety of topics, from the Italian Internet Bill of Rights to the Ranking Digital Rights project on corporate accountability for digital rights.
ARTICLE 19 at the IGF
ARTICLE 19 will have representatives from our offices in Brazil, Kenya, Tunisia and London attending the IGF, aiming to raise awareness of violations of freedom of expression and privacy online worldwide. We’ll be working to convince governments, key industry figures and key stakeholders to increase their focus on freedom of expression and freedom of information on the internet. We’ll also be looking to improve partnerships, identify regional coalitions (particularly in North Africa and South America), and synchronise efforts with other stakeholders.
ARTICLE 19 will be involved in discussions on Encryption and Online Anonymity, the Right to Protest Online, Hate Speech, Gender, Intermediary Liability, and Internet Access.
Protecting our Rights online
Six months after the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression’s report on encryption and anonymity, the panel will discuss concerns around the policies of countries such as India, Iran and the United Kingdom. How can law enforcement demands be met while ensuring that individuals still enjoy strong encryption and unfettered access to anonymity tools? What steps should governments, civil society, individuals, and the private sector take to avoid the legal and technological fragmentation of the internet – a tool now vital to expression and communication? How can individuals protect themselves from mass surveillance in the digital age? ARTICLE 19 will share insights from our Right to Online Anonymity policy.
The panel will seek to answer questions such as what protest means in the digital environment, whether ‘virtual protest’ should be protected and if so, what legislative and policy steps are needed to allow for protection of ‘online protests’. ARTICLE 19 will also present The Right to Protest Principles, which set out standards on contemporary forms of protests, including protest online.
Freedom of expression online necessarily requires interacting with and through ‘Internet intermediaries,’ but governments around the world increasingly seek to regulate expression online through the imposition of intermediary liability. It is vital to protect internet intermediaries from liability for the speech of others. These discussions will develop our thinking on Internet intermediaries and terms & conditions, and build on our earlier work on Internet Intermediaries: Dilemma of Liability, and the Manila Principles themselves.
‘Violence’ Extremism, Hate Speech, and Gender-based Violence online
There is a growing tension between defenders of freedom of expression and vulnerable groups targeted by online threats and harassment. Many of those whose voices and online participation have resulted in harassment and online intimidation seek additional mechanisms for de-anonymizing harassers, and for blocking online content. These campaigns raise serious concerns about the censorship-based approaches, which will be shared and discussed by ARTICLE 19.
How can we tackle gender-based ‘online violence’? The discussion will explore the balance between calls for safer and protected online spaces for women, and freedom of expression. It will examine whether social media platforms have a duty of care towards their users, including obligations to monitor, block, and censor. We will seek to understand to what extent there is a contradiction between the defense of women’s rights and freedom of expression, and how progress can be made towards both safety and freedom.
The panellists, which include ARTICLE 19, will discuss how young people can be empowered to contribute to a more peaceful and sustainable world in the context of rising ‘online extremism’. UNESCO will share its research and recommendations for better understanding the challenges, mobilising civil society, lobbying internet intermediaries, and providing better information to young people.
From police powers to takedown ‘extremist’ websites to measures banning or undermining encryption, we will highlight our concerns around new surveillance and filtering laws in France, and the UK counter-extremism strategy. We will discuss our intervention before the Conseil d’Etat on website blocking of ‘terrorist’ content and new draft surveillance legislation in the UK.
Governance and Core Principles for the Internet
Human Rights, Access and Internet Governance
ARTICLE 19 will be joining the IGF’s main session to discuss Human Rights, Access and Internet Governance. In particular, we will be discussing our work on human rights in technical organisations, including ICANN and the IETF.
The need to defend citizen rights on the internet calls for a stronger and more coherent means of bringing together different actors across the globe to defend rights and establish principles to support and guide internet policy, legislation and practice. Despite different degrees of consensus, the space for dialogue has been growing and gaining more attention, with initiatives like the Manila Principles and the Right to Protest Principles demonstrating how civil society initiatives can help shape policy on the ground.
Declaring democracy, accountability and human rights as a basis for policy-making in Internet Governance is only the first step to effectively promote these core principles. Next steps should tackle the challenge of implementing such concepts. ARTICLE 19 WILL present the technical implications of promoting and implementing human rights at the internet governance level, with a focus on ICANN.
Small island developing States (SIDS) are, along with other targets (such as Africa), the object of several programmes by private sector actors to bring Internet access at either free, extremely cheap rates. Many have welcomed this intervention, given the limited resources of the Government and local private sector operators, but there are concerns around the neutrality of the services provided by these ‘internet.org’ initiatives: ARTICLE 19’s Niels ten Oever will argue that such this “free” access to a limited version of the Internet, is actually akin to “being locked up in a corporate digital prison.”
ARTICLE 19 will also actively take part in the Freedom Online Coalition Open Forum and the Council of Europe Open Forum. We will share our perspective on how to make the Freedom Online Coalition more effective and discuss our contribution to the Council of Europe expert group on Internet freedom.