Internet Governance

Open Call To The Next Generation of Internet Leaders – Apply for the IGF Youth Ambassadors Program

We are living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 has disrupted our world and it’s a crucial time for the Internet. We are facing issues related to misinformation, online education and connectivity. Challenges have been posed to encryption. Debates around the trade-off between privacy and contact tracing apps take place around the globe.

The acceleration of digital transformation worldwide has created immense opportunities and at the same time, uncertainty and challenges. Under these circumstances, youth must be represented in these discussions.

Young people know the benefits of connection, sharing and openness. Young engineers and programmers create new tools for the Internet every day, and many proposals about governance of new technologies come from interested people below the age of 30.

We grew up in cyberspace, and it has become an intrinsic part of many of our lives. We care for it, we value its principles, invariants and characteristics. Most of all, we understand how important the Internet is and how much of a force for good (or for evil) it can be.

The voice of youth matters and the Internet Society plays a significant role to empower the next generation of Internet leaders and to provide them with the freedom to voice out.

The IGF Youth Ambassadors Program provides youth with training and opportunities to participate in the global Internet ecosystem and to interact and engage with the broader Internet Governance community.

I must say that the experience of being a fellow from the Internet Society Youth Ambassadors program is unique. Since the beginning, the ambassadors have the opportunity to share their views on how Internet policy shall be made and learn from each other. Youth from across multiple continents are part of vibrant discussions as part of the online course.

Likewise, Youth Ambassadors participate in one of the world’s largest forums dedicated to a free and open Internet. It is an incredible opportunity to get mentorship, build networking and become change makers.

What impressed me the most is that at the forum there are no experts, everyone’s perspective was respectfully considered. We even had the amazing opportunity to be in a round table with Vint Cerf and raise our voices.

The program inspired me to deliver meaningful impact at a local level. After the forum I became part of the organizing committee of the first Youth Internet Governance Forum in Peru in December, 2019. Currently, with some IGF Youth Ambassadors we are working towards the organization of the Youth Latin American and the Caribbean Internet Governance Forum to be held remotely on August 1st and 2nd.

I wholeheartedly recommend the program. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn and network with the Internet pioneers and innovators who made significant contributions to the development and advancement of the Internet.

As youth, we expect to play a part in shaping the future of the Internet. We have the commitment to refresh ideas and share our perspectives for a trustworthy and open Internet. The IGF Youth Ambassadors Program is a path to fulfill that commitment.

The application process is open until June 28, would you miss this open call to the next generation of Internet leaders?

Encryption Internet Governance Strengthening the Internet

Disinformation: The Invisible Sword Dividing Society

Supermarkets have finally restocked their toilet paper in Hong Kong after weeks of panic buying when a rumor about toilet paper shortage due to closure of factories in China went viral. The toilet paper shortage did happen, but it was because of panic buying, not because of factory closure in China. How did the rumor spread? Was disinformation one of the culprits?

On February 25th, the Internet Society Hong Kong Chapter organized a Hong Kong Internet Governance Forum Roundtable on disinformation. On the panel was Eric Wishart, News Management Member at Agence France-Presse (AFP); Masato Kajimoto from the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong; George Chen, Head of Public Policy (Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mongolia) at Facebook; and Charles Mok, a local Legislative Councillor.

Did someone spread “disinformation” about toilet paper shortage?

While a lot of people think that the rumor on toilet paper shortage is a piece of disinformation or fake news, Masato reminded us that it actually is not. Disinformation is information that is deliberately created to deceive people, which is different from “misleading information.” In the case of panic buying toilet paper, some people made an opinion about toilet paper production in light of factory closure – that is, the shortage would logically happen if factories could not operate.

Masato didn’t care much about the rumor when he first read about it in the morning. But by the same afternoon, all the toilet paper was sold out. He did not expect this to happen as he thought it was just a prediction someone made and spread online. Journalists reported on this widely by emphasizing the empty shelves in supermarkets, which led to more panic buying, and this was how the rumor spread.

The trap for journalists in reporting

Journalist followed and reinforced the narratives of the rumor with the headline: “Empty Shelves in Supermarkets.” Eric pointed out that this is a big trap for journalists. It is easy for journalists to selectively choose stories that fit into certain narratives and ignore the facts, which Eric refers to as “confirmation bias.” This is where a critical mind needs to come in, and journalists should avoid falling into this trap of following narratives.

What measures have news agencies taken to combat fake news?

In consuming news information, we should choose our sources carefully, and news agencies are one of the main sources. Eric shared the ways in which AFP has built its credibility. He stressed the importance of gaining public trust through transparency of editorial procedures and efforts of fact-checking in partnership with other organizations. For example, AFP has set up editorial standards and best practices, as well as principles of sourcing. AFP has also joined the International Fact-Checking Network and is an independent fact-checker for Facebook. These efforts have built AFP’s credibility, which AFP can utilize in the battle against disinformation.

What is the role of social media in combating fake news?

Another major source for news information is through social media platforms. George shared that Facebook partners with independent third-party fact-checkers like AFP to help them identify certain types of misinformation for removal, especially when the information violates their community standards. Repeated offenders will also have their account or page taken down. Another measure is to reduce the spread of misinformation in news feeds. When a piece of fake news is flagged, there will be a note under the post saying this is a misinformation verified by the fact-checker.

Is legislation a way out?

Although different sectors have contributed to the battle against fake news, we are still seeing its viral spread. Some legislative councillors in Hong Kong have thus proposed a fake news law in Hong Kong. However, Charles expressed his grave concern about such law. Charles pointed out that a fake news law can only function effectively when there are checks and balances in the government. But there has been an increasing number of requests made by the Hong Kong government to social media companies to remove certain content, and the Hong Kong Police Force has accused social media of damaging their reputation. Charles worried that a fake news law would be abused to suppress freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

Let’s face it: the weaponized fake news

We have discussed ways of combating fake news from different angles, but they cannot stop disinformation if people don’t distinguish between facts and opinions. Education is a major effort that the government, as well as different stakeholders, should push for.

Fake news is unfortunately an outcome of social and political conflicts, stemming from the huge pluralization in Hong Kong. A lot of the “fake news problems” we have witnessed in Hong Kong – posts about Joshua Wong’s U.S. green card, police pepper spraying a stray dog, etc. – were used to shape the information into narratives that favor certain sides of the political spectrum. In this regard, they are propaganda and therefore, political problems. Sadly, not much of the measures described above can help with these problems.

Watch the recorded live stream of the roundtable.

Encryption is essential for protecting freedom of expression and privacy. Read the fact sheet: How Encryption Can Protect Journalists and the Free Press.

Events Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Fourth Annual inSIG Boosts India’s Capacity to Shape the Internet’s Future

Earlier this month, the fourth India School on Internet Governance (inSIG2019) was held in Kolkata on 15-17 November, expanding its network of leaders and professionals active in shaping the Internet’s future.

With support from sponsors, 50 fellows from various academic, cultural, and regional backgrounds participated in inSIG2019. Through panel discussions, workshops, role plays, and group activities the three-day school covered a myriad of topics related to the Internet, boosting participants’ understanding of the complexity of Internet Governance and its importance in the future of the Internet.

The sessions covered fundamental topics like the history, principles, and status of the Internet. The hurdles around online safety, human rights, online radicalization, and cybersecurity were extensively examined and many perspectives were brought out which were thought-provoking and ingenious. Status and challenges of emerging technologies, content regulation, and the multilingual Internet were also discussed widely, and valuable feedback and inputs were provided by the participants.

The importance of the multistakeholder model of Internet Governance was stressed upon, and the Dutch approach to Internet Governance was presented in which Arnold van Rhijn spoke about how a collaborative consultation with multiple stakeholders reduces future friction in policymaking.

The event had global experts from Internet-related organizations such as APNIC, CISCO, ICANN, IETF, the Internet Society, and SFLC, representing various stakeholders such as academia, law, civil society, government, technical groups, and the private sector. The multiple outlooks from these varied organizations gave this event a holistic view of Internet Governance issues.

This year, inSIG2019 was a part of the India Internet Week, and had two Day 0 events: the Second YouthIGF India and the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise Triple-I Workshop. The YouthIGF India brought together about 150 young people from all across India to deliberate on various Internet Governance challenges and plan for enhanced youth engagement in policy discussions. The Triple-I Workshop, facilitated by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, brought together top experts in security with participants from industry, civil society, government organizations, and the technical community to examine ways to improve the security of the Internet and the trust of its users.

Overall, inSIG2019 was well structured and rendered a great balance between the technology and policy aspects of Internet Governance. The well-rounded knowledge and insights provided the foundation for establishing a strong alumni network of Internet leaders and practitioners who will leverage the inSIG platform for further contribution and collaboration.

InSIG was established in 2016 and previous schools events were held in Hyderabad (2016), Trivandrum (2017), and New Delhi (2018). inSIG2019 was organized through a partnership of four Internet Society Chapters of New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Trivandrum. The event was supported and sponsored by NIXI, Facebook, the Internet Society, APNIC, ICANN, Neustar, APASA, and MediaNama.

The fifth inSIG, is scheduled to be organized during October-November 2020 in Mumbai.

Internet Governance Public Policy Shaping the Internet's Future

Lessons Learned from the Multistakeholder Process in the Philippines

In 2018, we began collaborating with the Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to develop the country’s National ICT Ecosystem Framework (NICTEF), a successor to the Philippine Digital Strategy for 2011-2016.

The DICT, like all Philippine government agencies, is mandated by law to hold open consultations as a means of improving transparency and encouraging public involvement in the policymaking process. But it took this initiative further by ensuring that NICTEF is fully reflective of the needs and priorities of different sectors across the archipelago. For one year, the DICT led capacity building workshops, focus group discussions, writeshops, an online public survey, and regional consultations in each of the country’s major island groups, localizing the multistakeholder approach in the process to reach important and difficult decisions.

The NICTEF is now an authoritative guide on the Philippines’ digital ecosystem, and a roadmap to harmonize and coordinate the country’s ICT programs. The multistakeholder process adopted by NICTEF has been documented in a case study, offering other countries in the region a reference in developing public policies that are forward-thinking, inclusive, and suited to the needs of a steadily-interconnected world.

Below are some of our key takeaways from the process:

Develop and clearly present a value proposition to ensure that the multistakeholder process is productive and outcome driven.

In invitations and announcements, it is helpful to clearly specify to stakeholders why they should participate and what they would gain from their involvement in the policymaking process. This would help organizations identify appropriate representatives to take part in consultations and enable them to prepare their inputs.

Build strategic and sustainable partnerships for the implementation of a collaborative, multistakeholder model.

The multistakeholder model needs to be a continuous and sustainable process rather than a one-time initiative. For example, the DICT found it effective to initiate discussions with the policy and planning division of other government agencies. This division is most likely to be familiar with the overall direction, as well as the deliverables of each ministry, and would be able to provide guidance on possible collaboration and relevant divisions that may be tapped to contribute to the NICTEF.

Conduct face-to-face consultations at the regional level to hear from the countryside and harder-to-reach stakeholders.

Working with its regional and provincial offices, the DICT conducted public consultations across the country to reach out to each island group and accommodate different levels of development, priorities, and perspectives.

Tailor the multistakeholder process to the culture of the country.

In many Asian cultures, individuals tend to be reluctant to speak up when senior or governmental personnel are in the room. There is therefore a need to offer multiple ways for individuals to voice their concerns, even anonymously through surveys.

Focus on the entire ICT ecosystem, not just what the government or the ICT sector is doing.

A crucial part of ICT policymaking is identifying existing gaps in different sectors where policy interventions might be useful. To reach individual companies and organizations, DICT engaged with industry and professional bodies, such as the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators and the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines. Discussions and consultations were open to all and were announced online on government websites and social media sites.

Previous ICT policymaking exercises focused on governmental efforts in the ICT sector. NICTEF, however, is a national framework for the entire ecosystem of stakeholders to work collaboratively. It represents what the people of the Philippines collectively want for the country, and within this framework, the role that government can play.

Read A Multi-Stakeholder Model in ICT Policymaking: Case Study from the Philippines.

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Meet Three APrIGF 2019 Fellows

The Internet Society, APNIC, and Coordination Center for TLD .RU sponsored 20 fellows to the 10th Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF 2019) held in Vladivostok, Russia in July. Let’s meet three fellows from Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Singapore as they share their experience at APrIGF 2019, as well as their interests and future aspirations.

Shah Zahidur Rahman, Technology Business Consultant, Bangladesh

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the American International University-Bangladesh and have many technical course certifications. Currently, I am a technology business consultant for small- and medium-sized enterprises and startup companies. I have also been mentoring youths in the Youth4IG coalition to become further engaged in Internet Governance issues. I have been an active member of the Internet Society Bangladesh Chapter since 2014. I am also a member of the Bangladesh School of Internet Governance Programme Committee and Fellowship Committee, the Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum, and the ICANN Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group and Non-Commercial Users Constituency. Additionally, I am a former fellow of IETF, APSIG and APAN.

This year at APrIGF 2019, my main interest was in one of the six subthemes on Emerging Technologies and Society, and here are some of the key things I learned from participating in the sessions. First of all, without good governance, technology innovation can harm individuals and societies. Secondly, a multistakeholder approach is important for good governance. Thirdly, consumers are one of the stakeholder groups: they have a say in the governance of the Internet and can make demands, such as for greater transparency and accountability, or for Internet of Things security. Security is not just a technical issue that the technical community can address alone. There are many non-technical issues that can only be resolved with the cooperation of multiple stakeholders. Moreover, emerging technologies such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are developing at a rapid pace. We need to consider the ethics of these technologies and ensure that algorithms are free from biases for the global good. I am pleased to be a member of the drafting committee for the APrIGF 2019 Synthesis Document, which is expected to be published in October.

Sein Ma Ma, Network Engineer, Myanmar

I hold a Bachelor of Engineering in ICT and am currently working with an Internet service provider in Yangon. My interests lie in the areas of Internet Governance, digital inclusion, and community development, and I am eager to broaden my involvement in the Internet Governance ecosystem. I am involved in restarting the Internet Society Chapter in Myanmar, and I have been engaging with representatives from the Internet Society, APNIC, ICANN and Internet stakeholders in Myanmar. I am an alumni of the APNIC44, APAN45, APIGA2018, APSIG2019, and APAN48 fellowship program, and in 2018, I was a part of a committee to evaluate the fellowship applications for APNIC48. I am also a member of Youth4IG: Asia Pacific’s first and only youth coalition that engages in Internet governance.

The Asia-Pacific region is the largest in the world and it is indeed very diverse. Yet, the Internet binds us together in that diversity. The APrIGF that united almost 300 stakeholders from around 40 countries, with over 100 speakers taking part in the three-day event, has enriched my knowledge about multistakeholderism in Internet Governance. Even the fellows were from different stakeholder groups – academia, civil society, government, the private sector, and the technical community – and not just from different countries. To quote Rajnesh Singh from the Internet Society, “let’s all work together to continue keeping the Internet safe and secure, in a space that can be used for the benefit of humankind.”

Sebastian Hoe Wee Kiat, Student, Singapore

I studied at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. In Paris last year, I served as a Youth@IGF fellow. I also served as a Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Scholar in the Harvard Asia Conference in Kazakhstan, and I was recently selected as the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust Scholar for the upcoming London Summit. My interests include championing mental health and persons with disabilities, social justice, law, Internet governance, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and I aspire to serve my country and community in the social-legal sector. I also hope to improve my Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).

As a social work practitioner, I was thrilled to attend the APrIGF workshop on Child-Led Research on Promoting Safer Internet. Working together with instructors from the Guangzhou Growth Sky Social Service Centre, 22 brilliant young researchers shared their findings on promoting safer Internet from children’s perspectives in eight Chinese cities. I congratulated the young delegates on their successful research presentation and gave them encouragement and feedback on improving their research. The next steps would be reaching out to more children in the Asia-Pacific region, and including children and young persons’ voice in our Internet governance work. Young people ought to be empowered, heard, and included, so that they can thrive and succeed in being positive agents of change in our communities.

I participated in a number of other sessions to discuss legislations related to Internet Governance, such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill in Singapore, and the need for youth empowerment and participation in Internet Governance. In Singapore, we have the SG Youth Action Plan to envision the future of Singapore in 2025. Youths like myself can contribute to the action plan, and Internet Governance is one area to be included in the youth action plan. Youth have an important role to play in enhancing our Internet Governance landscape, and I am delighted to serve as a member of the drafting committee for the APrIGF 2019 Synthesis Document. I hope my experience will encourage young Singaporeans and youth in the region to contribute to our united quest for a more open, safer, and inclusive Internet.

Thank you to all of the APrIGF 2019 Fellows for taking time to share your thoughts! Because of space constraints, we weren’t able to publish all of your submissions, but we look forward to seeing how your work continues to help shape the Internet’s future.

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Looking the GIFCT in the Mouth

The recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was notable because of the attention it paid to the climate of the planet Earth. A different set of meetings around the UNGA was about another climate: the one of fear, anger, and violence swirling about the Internet.

It was only last March that a man (there is only one accused) shot dozens of people in a pair of attacks on Muslims at prayer. The shooter streamed the first 17 minutes of his attacks using Facebook Live. The use of an Internet service in this event, combined with general concern about how Internet services are being used for terrorism and violent extremism, resulted in the Christchurch Call.

There is some reason to be optimistic about the Christchurch Call. Rarely have governments worked so decisively or quickly, together, to take on a global social issue. At a side meeting in New York at UNGA, some 30-odd additional countries signed the Call; more than 50 countries have signed on. New Zealand has led this while insisting that governments cannot tackle the issue alone, and has tried to involve everyone – through an Advisory Network – in decisions that are bound to affect us all.

There may nevertheless be reasons to be more cautious than optimistic. The same side meeting announced the “overhaul” of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). GIFCT (usually pronounced “gif-cee-tee”, with a hard g) was established by some large social media companies in 2017 in order to cooperate in efforts to address “terrorist content” found on the companies’ services. The definition of “terrorist content” has shifted over time, and is now referred to as “terrorist and violent extremist content” in order to make clear that not all of the targets are members of identifiable terrorist organizations. Regardless of these details, GIFCT sounds like a marvelous idea, and it has the potential to be a worthwhile effort. There is, however, a great deal of work that needs to be done to ensure that GITCT does not simply become a mechanism for some large companies to lock in their existing advantages.

The first issue with GIFCT is that, while it claims to be an Internet forum, it actually isn’t. It’s a forum for large social media platform companies to share their content filtering techniques in order to find certain kinds of content and remove it from the participating platforms. Social media platforms are not the Internet, and the architectural features that they generally share are not shared by every other service on the Internet. Of course, nobody except terrorists want terrorist content on social media, so it is probably a good thing for social media companies to collaborate in doing something about that content. Yet most social media services are designed with a central authority that controls the flow of content, and many other services on the Internet are designed to resist such centralization. The techniques that work for one kind of service will not work for all.

In addition, it is not merely that the mechanisms that fit most social media services are a poor fit for other kinds of Internet activity. It’s also the case that the operators of large social media companies have a real interest in blurring the distinction between their services and the Internet. No matter how well-meaning, the companies in question have an interest in supporting regulation that makes their platforms’ architecture a permanent feature of the whole Internet. If governments start adopting regulation of the Internet that favors the GIFCT approach, then the design of social media platforms will become a permanent feature of what we can do with the Internet. That shuts down future innovation, including innovations that might be more resistant to viral violent content in the first place. This is part of what makes the GIFCT restructuring announcement in New York so worrisome: it was announced approvingly by the governments who sponsored the Christchurch Call, as part of their ongoing program.

It is frankly weird that governments appear to be so comfortable with GIFCT, since the restructured organization has settled on a governance model that puts participating companies completely in charge. The four founding members of the GIFCT get permanent board seats, and other participating tech companies may also be on the board that makes all the decisions. Neither civil society, nor the technical community, nor governments, nor platform users, nor anyone else ever gets a say in how the GIFCT will work, what content will be covered, and so on. Such participation is relegated to an advisory committee with membership from government and the wider society but without any obvious teeth. That committee is also supposed to be small enough such that the real diversity of opinion is questionable, especially since it is entirely unclear how the committee is supposed to be populated. What is clear is that, in the end, only tech companies will have any ability to influence any decisions of GIFCT. It is correct for President Macron to keep calling this a “new multilateralism.” Multilateralism always depends on only certain stakeholders being involved. This new multilateralism basically outsources the solution to the problem of undesirable content to a consortium of industry players, which will be inevitably dominated by the largest companies in the industry due to the resources they have to put into this.

Setting aside the miserable governance story, the very approach of GIFCT rests on the principle that stamping out this undesirable content is both possible and efficacious. In fact, there is some reason to suppose that trying to stamp out unwanted messages backfires – that it further radicalizes people already radicalized. So, paradoxically, by weakening protected communications and filtering content, global leaders risk bolstering terrorists, rather than deterring them. And of course, even the best filters are imperfect: they miss content that should be filtered and they filter out content that should not have been filtered. They also have side effects: those working to protect journalists or prosecute war crimes are gradually finding that the evidence they used to rely on is all disappearing due to content filters. So, the fundamental activity of GIFCT is at best a half measure on the way to a healthy online environment; and, the activity might actually make things worse. Predictably enough, these problems are all supposed to be solved by the magic dust of Artificial Intelligence, but nobody can say how that will work.

As if that were not enough, the GIFCT has always been controversial in part because it looks like a solution to a problem without actually addressing the roots of that problem. Mere tech fixes to social problems almost never work, and the linked issues of terrorism and violent extremism are unquestionably social problems. The tech fix offered is to try to suppress undesirable content. The social problem appears to be rooted in the ways that current social media platforms both entice and reward users. It is at least possible that terrorist and violent extremist content “goes viral” because of a design feature of platforms. Perhaps their advertising-based operation, which requires user attention, makes them especially good at amplifying horrific content. Yet tackling that issue might have negative effects for the business models of the companies involved in GIFCT – the ones who will appoint all the voting board members of GIFCT. Without a countervailing voice in its governance, there will be no way for GIFCT to take on this issue credibly. There isn’t even a promise that the companies involved will abide by the GIFCT decisions – just that they’ll contribute to it.

Defenders of the new GIFCT organization design would point to the number of (new) working groups, which might be able to make recommendations to do something other than just filter content. But ironically, even here the GIFCT refresh might turn out to hinder as much as it helps. Since GIFCT is being turned into an institution separate from the social media platform companies, access to data that might have been possible while working within a given social media company will now have to be handled like all other data requests from researchers. Due to increased (and desirable!) efforts around privacy by social media companies, such data requests are today harder to satisfy than they used to be. So, even though the new institution will be dominated, if not controlled, by the platform companies, it appears likely to have the data-access disadvantages of being a separate entity.

There is still time to prevent these pitfalls. To do so requires reverting to the habits that brought us so many of the benefits of the Internet. Instead of the “new multilateralism,” which has brought us this institution of dubious legitimacy and questionable effectiveness, it is necessary to ensure wide and meaningful consultation with the rest of the Internet. A problem where everyone has a stake is properly addressed through collaboration. This means, in practice, the now-maligned, but still-serviceable approach of a multistakeholder institution. To achieve this, the GIFCT advisory panel can be made more useful through meaningful and binding commitments to organizational transparency: make the board of the GIFCT work in public and let us all understand what it is doing, and use the advisory panel to supervise that. This will also probably mean that “transparency reports” that are entirely defined, created, published, and audited by the same organization will need to end in favor of something at least as robust as modern accounting methods. At the same time, governments need to acknowledge, publicly, that GIFCT, even if it turns out to work in addressing an issue on social media platforms, will never be a perfect solution and almost certainly will be a poor fit for other kinds of technology. And everyone involved needs to state clearly what works means.

We need to be alert not only to what we dislike on the Internet. For example, we can certainly prevent the sharing of terrorist and violent extremist content by preventing the sharing of everything. That would be a pyrrhic victory indeed.

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Islamabad Chapter Brings First Internet Governance Event to Quetta, Pakistan

The 5th Pakistan School on Internet Governance (pkSIG 2019) was successfully held last month in Quetta, Pakistan. This represents a significant achievement for the Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter as it played an instrumental role in bringing the first-ever Internet Governance event to the provincial capital of Balochistan.

For those who may not know, Balochistan has the largest land area among the four provinces of Pakistan, yet it is the least populated and least developed. Only 27% of its population lives in urban areas and Internet penetration is low. Finding adequate sponsors, and more importantly, diversity among the students to participate was a critical concern. But, pkSIG 2019 in Quetta proved to be one of the best editions of this school.

Over 60 people (one-third of them female) registered for the event, including students, professionals, startup founders, speakers, and some guests who showed keen interest in the program. Following a four-week long process of registration and shortlisting, 35 students were selected for pkSIG 2019 and five were awarded fellowships. Since all the sessions were livestreamed, a sizeable audience participated online as well. (The sessions and presentations are available online.)

“It’s our fifth consecutive year conducting pkSIG – each year in a different city. But the experience this year in Quetta has been remarkable, due to extraordinary participation by university-level students and young professionals – in particular women. Such vibrant participation has not been seen in any other city of Pakistan.” — Parvez Iftikhar, ICT Consultant

pkSIG is an annual professional course that aims to strengthen the capacity of leaders from various sectors in Pakistan to engage in Internet Governance issues at national, regional, and global levels. It has become the premier capacity building event on Internet Governance in Pakistan. In previous years, pkSIG was conducted in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar.

One of the highlights of the school this year was the fact that nearly all the faculty members were from Pakistan – signifying the strength of Pakistan’s Internet Governance community.

pkSIG 2019 was supported by the Internet Society and other partners, including Facebook, National Incubation Center in Quetta, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Stormfiber, Multinet, APASA, and Ecommerce Gateway Pakistan Pvt. Ltd.

Next year, the challenge will be even greater as we aim to conduct the school at one of the highest terrains on the planet in Gilgit, which is home to more than 20 peaks of over 20,000 feet, including K2 – the second highest mountain on Earth. You are cordially invited.

Photo Credit: The Dayspring

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Empowering More Gretas: Introducing the 2019 IGF Youth Ambassadors

When 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg burst onto the global scene a few months ago, people underestimated the power this young girl would have to raise awareness and rally the world around climate change. Today, she has become a fearless advocate, boldly speaking out and holding politicians to account for their lack of action on the climate crisis. We need more Gretas.

And they’re out there.

We’re proud to introduce 30 young changemakers who make up the 2019 cohort of the Internet Society’s IGF Youth Ambassadors Program. The group is made up of 15 women and 15 men from 21 countries. This cadre of young leaders are working on many of the pressing issues affecting the Internet globally.

In November, they’ll bring their drive for change to Berlin, Germany, to take part in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). This is an annual multistakeholder forum for inclusive policy dialogue on shared principles, procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. Although not an official decision-making body, the IGF remains an important forum. Many of the world’s experts in and advocates for the Internet gather there for discussion, networking, research sharing, and best practices from around the world.

Since 2007, the Internet Society has supported nearly 400 young professionals under its two programs, the IGF Ambassadors and the Youth@IGF Fellows. This year, under the IGF Youth Ambassadors program, we are training and empowering 30 young adults, aged 18 through 30. An initial group of 150 selected applicants took a 4-week online course and were paired with dedicated expert moderators. The top 50 students proceed to the next phase, where they write a paper on an existing or emerging area in Internet Governance, drawing on what they’ve learned in the course. The authors of the best papers become our 30 IGF Youth Ambassadors.

We have no doubt these young leaders will inspire others across a range of disciplines to reinforce the sustainability, security, stability, and development of the Internet.

Many of our Ambassadors have already led some impressive initiatives, including:

  • Mohammad Atif Aleem, an Indian ICT analyst at a multinational firm, founded a start-up to empower women farmers through agritech, and co-founded an online platform for medical diagnostic tests through a mobile app.
  • Fernanda González, a software developer from Guatemala, won the first blockchain hackathon in Central America with a protocol to integrate rural students to the global economy. She is currently working on a social enterprise to help rural areas connect to the Internet and help researchers and communities gather data on water quality.
  • John Madayese, a management consultant from Nigeria, has worked on policy development and founded a pan-African non-profit platform that offers personal and career development for African youth through various symposia.

Find out more about this year’s IGF Youth Ambassadors!

We hope that some of our IGF Youth Ambassadors will raise their voices on the global stage and become change-makers – whether by championing policies in their home countries or influencing global debates to spread the benefits of the Internet.

Internet Governance

6th Middle East School on Internet Governance: Making the Internet Community Stronger in the Middle East

The 6th Middle East School on Internet Governance (MEAC-SIG) took place this year in Rabat, Morocco, from 8-12 July. First held in 2014 in Kuwait, the school is an annual five days of intensive workshops that aims to inform and strengthen the regional Internet community and ensure active participation in national, local, and global Internet Governance fora. This year, it was hosted by The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) of Morocco, and jointly organized by the Arab World Internet Institute, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Governance Project at Georgia Tech, the Internet Society, and RIPE NCC.

The MEAC-SIG faculty includes experts from academia, civil society, business, the technical community, and government stakeholder groups.

This year’s speakers included Milton Mueller of IGP, Internet Governance expert Hanane Boujemi, Miriam Khuene of RIPE NCC, Fahd Batayneh of ICANN, and many other notables. They covered topics such as the IETF’s standardization, GNSO processes, Regional Registries, IGFs in all their capacities, and the inception and a historical view of Internet Governance.

The discussions were carried out in an open environment where everyone contributed their ideas together with multiple stakeholder groups. These groups mentioned how they started their journey in Internet Governance, their current involvement, and how they work with different institutions. Opportunities for engagement and participation were presented to the participants.

The most important discussions took place around the workshops “Trademarks, Copyright, and Internet Governance” and “Cybersecurity as an Internet Governance Issue.” The two sessions presented by Riyadh Al Balushi and Hadi Asghari attracted much attention and dialogue from the participants.

These subjects, the most ambiguous from a legal perspective for the region, and most taboo as well were the highlights of Days 4 and 5. They provided much knowledge to the attendees, who did not always know their fundamental rights online.

On the last day, there were working groups for participants to cooperate with and develop solutions for their communities. Their peers and a group of faculty experts helped by advising them on best practices.

In the Middle East, which is lacking in necessary infrastructure and where there is a need for more information on cybersecurity, digital rights, and Internet Governance, the MEAC-SIG serves as a beacon, giving people knowledge, opportunity, and hope that they can help shape the Internet.

After all, the Internet is all of us, working together.

Image credit: Internet Society/Urban Pixel Lebanon

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Day Zero 2019: Bringing Together Young People to Talk about Internet Governance

As we work to foster the multistakeholder model in Internet governance, we must include the voices of youth. They’ve grown up in the age of the Internet, where using connected devices is second nature and we’re beginning to have conversations around issues like encryption and privacy. Young people deserve not just a seat at the table, but to have a say.

Which is why the Internet Society supported the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) USA Youth Day Zero. It’s an event for young people to come together, discuss the Internet policy issues they care most about, and brainstorm potential solutions ahead of the IGF USA. Held at the Center for Democracy & Technology, Day Zero brought together youth from across civil society and academia to ask questions of professionals and talk with one another. It also provided an opportunity for young people to create and foster connections with one another.

The first panel featured professionals who shared how youth could get involved in Internet governance – and the importance of their participation. The panelists were Dustin Phillips (co-chair of the Internet Governance Forum USA and executive director of the Internet Society’s DC chapter), Katie Jordan (Senior Policy Advisor at the Internet Society’s North America Regional Bureau), Marilyn Cade (CEO of mCade LLC), Emma Llansó (Director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology), Rob Winterton (Director of Communications at NetChoice), and Melinda Clem (co-chair of the Internet Governance Forum USA and Vice President of Strategy at Afilias).

They shared advice, especially that youth should try to have a little bit of expertise in many different areas rather than focusing all of their attention onto one specific topic so early on in their careers. Similarly, they encouraged youth to focus on building up skills rather than pigeon-holing themselves into a single area.

The panel also stressed the importance of simply being young in the technology sector. Winterton said young people were inherently valuable by virtue of growing up with technology. The panelists empowered and encouraged the participants to use their ingrained skills to their advantage and not to shy away from sharing their perspectives.

The bulk of the event was a policy “hackathon” in which participants chose an issue they cared about, divided into breakout groups, and devised potential policy solutions for the issues at hand. Many participants discussed content moderation on online platforms and how online radicalization could move into the physical world. Certain ideologies can find spaces to convene online but they can also bring the violence they discuss to the outside world.

Another breakout group discussed encryption and arguments for why youth want stronger encryption. Young people – particularly women – may be worried for their safety and how hackers could use their data to compromise their security. At the same time, young women would want to be able to control their data, including who has access to it data.

In a hypothetical scenario, a young woman in a city could go missing during a run. If she has her running data uploaded to Strava (an app where friends can follow each other’s runs), the followers – whom she approves – would know her normal routes and could provide information as to where she might have been when she went missing. In this case, it would be useful and potentially life-saving to share sensitive, location-based data.

The encryption group’s potential solutions proposed avoiding the “backdoor” approach and instead relying on stronger encryption and privacy standards that allows user choice in data-sharing habits. Many young people have been online for most of their lives, and encryption would better protect their current and past data.

The group also floated the idea of an “emergency contact” system in which a user could allow a trusted family member or friend to access their digital life in case of emergency. However, that system could exacerbate potential harm if a user is pressured to make their proxy an abusive partner, parent, or friend. This system also does not allow a user to choose who gets to access which aspects of their digital life; a user may feel comfortable letting a family member know their location, but not their banking and health information.

Because they grew up with technology, young people inherently have a different perspective on platforms, devices, and security than seasoned professionals do. This different perspective is reason enough to include them in Internet governance conversations. They are used to the pace of technological change and are accustomed to having so much of their lives online.

While youth can be difficult to reach, they could engage through channels such as listservs, academia and professors, and social media. Moving forward, we should value the insights that youth can bring to Internet governance conversations. We can do that by providing more spaces for young people to come together, learn from each other, and prepare for discussions with others.

Youth can get involved at the Internet Society by becoming a member and joining our Youth Special Interest Group or by applying for our Youth IGF Ambassadors Program.

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Working Together for an Internet for Women

How can we get more girls and young women involved in the Internet?

Since 2017, the Internet Society’s Women SIG has developed global actions to promote gender equality and to develop digital skills and leadership among girls and young women.

With the support of several Chapters of the Internet Society, we’ve organized global face-to-face and virtual events on security and privacy issues focused on girls and women. But this work can’t be done alone, which is why we’ve promoted collaboration within organizations, government, civil society, companies, academia, and the technical community to organize events that have a positive impact on the Internet community. (We also collaborate with EQUALS Global Partnership.)

This year, to commemorate the International Day of Girls in ICT, promoted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which aims to reduce the digital gender gap and to encourage and motivate girls to participate in tech careers, we organized a series of workshops focused on digital skills for girls. The main node was organized in conjunction with the Internet Society Chapter in Guatemala and the Spain Cultural Center in Guatemala.

We also had a global celebration in El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Hong Kong, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Armenia, Nigeria, and Ghana. We brought together 11 countries, with 13 activities to inspire girls and young women to study, participate in the Internet, and meet women who work in these areas – to see them as inspiration and examples to follow.

But our work hasn’t stopped there.

 IGFem: Initiatives By and For Women

The IGFem emerged by and for women. It’s a space to learn, share, and reflect on how women strategize to be safe on the Internet. It’s been organized in Mexico in Guadalajara (2016 and 2017), Mexico City (2018), Aguascalientes (2019) and, for the first time, in Central America in Guatemala (April, 2019). We’re now extending this initiative to the Global South.

FemHackParty: Hacking the Latin American Community

We’ve also organized the 2nd FemHackPartyLAC. In August we’ll be in La Paz, Bolivia, promoting the initiatives of women and the Internet in the region. This year we want to highlight the work, the struggle – and how it relates at local level.

We’ve identified the challenges we must overcome, even in 2019, so that more girls, young adults, and women can become more involved in Internet use, creation, and leadership – and so that they can reach their full professional and personal potential.

For example, the challenges women face in accessing and browsing the Internet safely vary according to their local context. However, we have realized that women need tools and information to help them protect themselves online. It is not a legal issue, it is how they can access digital tools to ensure their Internet security.

In addition, there is a need not only to create, but to maintain these spaces in the medium and long term. One of the main challenges is to attract more stakeholders from the Internet ecosystem to support the continuity of such events in their countries.

The Internet came to be thanks to a spirit of openness and collaboration. Now we need more people in the Internet community to help women take a greater role in shaping its future. We invite you to join women to build spaces where women feel safe – able to speak and express their ideas, opinions, and fears without restrictions – so that we can make the Internet a open for all. We must consider the reality of women and encourage bottom-up approaches instead of top-down initiatives. We can’t do this work alone!

Let’s go from “connecting via cables” to having a feminist gaze – and helping women take their rightful place in the digital space.

Ready to make a difference? Join a Special Interest Group!

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Asia-Pacific ICT Ministers Focus on Co-Creating the Future of the Internet

In June, ICT ministers across Asia-Pacific got together in Singapore to decide on the direction of ICT development in the region. At the end of the three-day gathering, leaders adopted the Singapore Statement of the Asia-Pacific ICT Ministers on Co-creating a Connected Digital Future in the Asia-Pacific, a set of high-level policy guidelines that will set the tone for activities of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) in the next five years. 
The Singapore Statement is significant in that it fortifies the principles that underpin a conducive environment for the digital economy to thrive:

  • It reinforces support for the multistakeholder approach, with states highlighting their own efforts to make ICT policy processes more inclusive during the meeting.
  • It renews its commitment to foster digital communities through collaborative projects to connect unserved and underserved areas.
  • It makes explicit references to interoperability and the free and secure flow of information online, putting equal weight on protecting users’ privacy.

It is particularly encouraging to see that amidst the race to capitalize on the vast amounts of data collected from us and our online activities, ICT Ministers opted to focus on trust –  built on accountability, transparency, and ethics – as a fundamental pillar in the region’s digital future, one that will enable users to fully explore the potential of the Internet to improve their lives.

The APT, borne out of a treaty-based initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the International Telecommunication Union, has come a long way since it was conceived four decades ago. It has made tremendous progress in harmonizing member states’ policies, facilitating cross-border cooperation, and amplifying the region’s voice in global policy fora.

Since the last Ministerial Meeting five years ago, APT has supported numerous pilot projects to connect remote island communities in the Pacific, strengthened policymakers’ capacity through training courses on Internet Governance, and ensured the participation of small island developing states and landlocked developing countries in international policy discussions.

The APT’s role has never been more relevant: It oversees a region that is home to 60% of the world’s population and accounts for two-thirds of global economic growth. It also has a growing number of tech giants – some of which are among the most valuable companies globally. Yet, there is no denying that vast disparities in ICT and Internet development persist.

With APT’s guidance, the region has begun, in a coordinated manner, to move from coverage to providing meaningful Internet access, and empowering marginalized and vulnerable sectors through accessibility tools and relevant content. It is also heartening to see more and more nation states invest in equipping citizens with the skills and means to protect themselves in cyberspace, recognizing that digital literacy entails much more than knowing how to type and transact online.

International agreements of late have increasingly focused on risks and threats, with a growing number of countries asserting greater control over content, businesses, and activities online. The Singapore Statement makes a confident bid for a positive future, charting a path that will make Asia-Pacific an even bigger force to be reckoned with.

Image ©Engin Akyurt