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No. 231 Addressing Impacts & Remedies of Network Disruptions

Deborah Brown
Access (accessnow.org)



Human Rights / Freedom of Expression on the Internet

Background Papers:

Access, Forgotten Pillar: The Telco Remedy Plan

CDT, Unpacking "Cybersecurity": Threats, Responses, and Human Rights Considerations

Governments throttle and shut down mass communications networks, on their own or through telcos and ISPs, for a variety of reasons, including to stifle free expression and inhibit freedom of association.  Such shutdowns and throttling are a direct threat to the development and governance of the Internet and can have significant economic and societal impacts.

This workshop will look at the range of actors and issues involved in these forms of network disruption. It will seek to understand the security-related motivations for such disruptions and assess them in the broader cybersecurity context. It will seek to assess the consequences of such shutdowns, in terms of the economic, societal and governance costs, and the impact on the rights of users and other parties involved. The workshop will discuss the roles of stakeholders in addressing the threat of or implementation of network shutdown and throttling.  It will also look at mechanisms for identifying harms and assessing remedies for the adverse impacts of shutdowns and throttling. The remedy discussion will draw from the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights and related civil society guidance.

The panel will seek to answer questions such as:

Unpacking cybersecurity - what are the threats, responses and roles and responsibilities?  

What types of network disruption are there and how have such disruptions been used recently?

What are the objectives of network disruption?  Can network shutdowns mitigate against cyber attacks?

What are the human rights and governance arguments against network shutdowns?

What are the economic and societal consequences of network shutdowns and throttling?

Which grievance mechanisms, whether judicial or otherwise, are best suited for identifying harms, hearing claims, and implementing appropriate remedies?

What practical options for substantive remedy could the ICT sector implement, especially in response to network disruptions?

The discussion will address issues critical to the future of internet governance.  For example, the ITU Constitution allows governments to impose some restrictions on the free flow of communications, but increasingly, the rights of users to access information and use the internet are seen as fundamental. This workshop will inquire into the respective obligations of different stakeholders, including companies and governments, to remedy infringement of internet user rights and advance coherent cybersecurity policies.

Has the proponent organised a workshop with a similar subject during past IGF meetings?


Indication of how the workshop will build on but go beyond the outcomes previously reached

For the 2012 meeting in Baku, Access organized (No.98) A Plan for Rights-Respecting Telecoms, on ways for telcos to resist pressure to restrict rights. It focused on the telco efforts, especially in the CIS region, to uphold the second pillar of the UN Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework, or respect for human rights. This 2013 proposal, however, addresses the fundamental cyber security related issues that would bring about network shutdowns and throttling, discusses the consequences of such shutdowns and the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in mitigating against and responding to such actions. The workshop also focus on the third pillar of the Ruggie Framework mentioned above, on access to remedy. It will discuss the particular remedies for different forms of network disruption, and how telcos can provide them, in tandem with judicial mechanisms.

Background Paper

Download Background Paper

Session Type




Mr. Peter Micek, Access, Civil Society, UNITED STATES, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG

Mr. Matthew Shears, Center for Democracy and Technology, Civil Society, UNITED KINGDOM, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG

Mr. Alex Comninos, APC, Civil Society, SOUTH AFRICA, African Group

Have the Proponent or any of the co-organisers organised an IGF workshop before?


The link(s) to the workshop report(s)


Panellists and Moderator

Invited panellists, individuals and organisations

= panellist or organisation has been confirmed

Please clock on Biography to view the biography of panelllist

Yves Nissim, Orange, Male, Private Sector, FRANCE, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG

Brett Solomon, Access, Male, Civil Society, UNITED STATES, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG

Alex Comninos, Male, Civil Society, SOUTH AFRICA, African GroupBiography

Emma Llanso, Female, Civil Society, UNITED STATES, Western Europe and Others Group - WEOG

Moez Chakchouk, Male, Government, TUNISIA, African GroupBiography

Anja Kovacs, Female, Civil Society, INDIA, Asia-Pacific Group

Dalia Haj-Omar, Female, Civil Society, SUDAN, African Group


No moderator information has been provided

Remote Moderator

Peter Micek


The moderator will give opening remarks, introductions, and a statement of the problem as it has arisen around the world.

Panellists will offer 5 minute responses to a first question, which may include a hypothetical situation involving a communications shutdowns. Panelists will share experiences on point, adverse impacts suffered, and an explanation of how they contributed to remedies.

Open dialogue follows, with a facilitated discussion focusing on how accurate definitions of cybersecurity, remedy, and the roles of various actors can best prevent and mitigate network disruptions.

Anticipated outcomes: 1) Broadening understanding of the ecosystem of actors preventing, implementing, and responding to communications disruptions, as well as their motivations, 2) identifying of best practices and 3) agreement on key take-aways on discouraging network disruptions, lessening harms, increasing remedies and maximizing free expression.

Inclusiveness of the Session

Strong audience participation at the Access telecoms panel in Baku was certainly a highlight of our discussion, and we aim to continue that tradition this year. We will set aside ample time for participation. Outreach to members from Access, APC and CDT's networks to solicit questions/comments before the event will field questions to pose at the panel. In addition, our moderator will pose hypothetical and actual questions to force panelists to think critically about their contributions and experiences. 

Suitability for Remote Participation

The workshop organizers from Access, CDT and APC will maximize the opportunity to participate remotely at the IGF. Access will notify our membership about the panel and encourage them to participate remotely and ask questions.

Questions or Comments

At the MAG's suggestion, Access and CDT created this combined panel. It combines Access proposal #231, "Human Rights Remedy in the ICT sector" (which is edited here), and CDT's workshop #187 "Redefining Cybersecurity to Better Protect Human Rights." We feel this is a satisfactory way to allow each organization to explore our respective topics -- cybersecurity and remedy in the ICT sector -- using the real-world problem of network shutdowns and throttling, both of which threaten Internet development, deployment and governance.

We note that we are still in the process of confirming speakers. We have every confidence that we will have a fully representative and confirmed group of panelists imminently. We have had to go beyond the panelists in the two original workshops due to the evolving focus. Thanks for your understanding.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with further suggestions or inquiries.


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