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IGF 2016 - Day 0 - Room 3 - Mapping Digital Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A New Visual Tool for Comparative Analysis

 

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Jalisco, Mexico, from 5 to 9 December 2016. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> MODERATOR: It's a program led and implemented at the level of the Middle East in general, but we have focus countries.  Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.  The program is actually one of ‑‑ it's a unique program.  It's basically the only one concerned with raising awareness and building capacity of civil society on the subject of internet governance.  So, the point is to bring people from the Middle East into the discussion, and to, you know, elaborate a little bit more on the different challenges that we encounter at the level of policymaking in the Middle East.  And the point is to be able to bring people from the Middle East to be more represented in global forums such as the IGF.  The program has been running for the last four years.  I think we managed to reach out to over 500 people.  We managed to get the discussion going about internet governance in the Middle East.  I know it's challenging, and it might sound like a complicated topic.  But we have worked with many, many partners to decipher this concept and make it more digestible to people from the Middle East.  Today's suggestion is about one of the projects that we led at the regional level, and it's called internet legislation atlas.  The idea is to map and trace all of the legislation that is concerned with internet in general in specific countries. 

Currently the project is in a pilot phase, which means it's deployed in a limited number of countries, which represents different narratives in the Middle East.  For example, we have for example, we have the only country that is featured in a map that is the most Democratic country in the region.  And we do have other examples of countries like Syria and Lebanon where, I think human rights practices there are like far less progressive.  I don't want to say ‑‑ I don't want to like paint a negative picture on what's going on there, but we try to bring two extremes on this tool.  Where do we stand and how far better we can do the job when it comes to implementing legislation when it comes to implementing procedures in the tools in the Middle East. 

The tool maps the legislation.  We had a further step in analyzing the legislation, looking into the gaps and the ambiguities, defining where it's actually compatible with international human rights standards.  So, the point is to give an idea to people how to assess local legislation and decide whether it's good or could be improved.  Today I'm very happy to be with my colleagues in the field for many years, and we have worked, you know, for a long time, and the objective was always the same, to scale the work and, you know, scale the knowledge about these issues.  So, I'm pleased to introduce my colleague, Niels.  He is the head and doing a lot of cool stuff from the technical and human rights perspective, and he's trying to combine the two together.  It's a difficult job.  He will do a little better. 

To my left, I have Walid, and he is on the board of trustees and he's a professor at a university in Sweden.  He's from Yemen, and he's doing a lot of work in the field.  Walid, welcome to the session.  Please introduce Noha, and she will be speaking about the more details when it comes to how the project is being led and what kind of work we're doing with different partners that are involved.  So, before I give the floor to the speakers, I would like to introduce the project.  We have a short video that we have prepared so you can have an idea of what the atlas is before we go into further details. 

[ Video ]

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Thank you so that's a short video that we prepared to just explain like a summary of what we're doing in this project.  I'll give the floor to Noha first. 

I think it's YouTube.  It's a YouTube video.  I will give the floor to Noha to introduce the project in more detail.  Then I will give the floor to Walid, and then to Niels, and after that we will have questions.  We want to get feedback from people.  I know you don't have a chance to go in‑depth into this project now, but later on if you do have questions, please let us know.  Noha, please? 

>> NOHA FATHY: This is meant to help people working at the grass roots level assist the local legislation.  And for this purpose, we have actually developed a tool.  Part of this project that allows people to do the assessment themselves rather than us producing the assessment and sharing it with their community.  This tool, we call it internet legislation atlas indicators.  The tool is actually ‑‑ okay...

The tool is a set of qualitative benchmarks that are meant to help a wide range of stakeholders and help them look at the legal protection afforded to digital rights, particularly freedom of expression and privacy as well as restrictions and see if they are unproportioned or not.  The tool is also meant to allow users to compare their assessment with the ‑‑ between different country s.  The tool is built, actually on international human rights standards that are applicable everywhere, it's meant to help users and different stakeholders in other regions. 

Despite the fact that the project is focused on MENA region, the tool could be used by other regions and people working in different parts of the world.  The indicators, we actually present them in a visualized way.  We need to do this to make them more appealing to the community to apply them, since we do not only have a Lee call and technical background.  So, we decided to use a special technique that allows users to compare their assessment with the community assessment, which is aggregated results, which is an average of all the users who have applied this tool. 

Allow me to give you an overview of this tool, because now we are working on visualizing the tool.  We are working on the visualization.  I'm going to present to you this, which shows how the tool would look like as soon as it would be published.  It's meant to help people apply it on any country.  People will be able to first of all select the country.  And then after that, for example, if we select Egypt we will go to this page.  We have 100 plus indicators.  They are classified in five themes.  Or if you wish, indicator categories.  So, we have protection, freedom of expression and privacy.  We have content restrictions which include restrictions related to hostility, criminal defamation, and a long list of restrictions related to the content.  Journalists, and hosts and service providers.  Protection of personal data and finally we have access to the internet and net neutrality, which is related to the universal access and net neutrality principles. 

If we decided to go with the first indicator, we will start having a list of questions.  For every question, there is like a score card.  For every indicator, we also provide justification, explanation, as well as the source that would assist users to know where to look exactly for the international human right standard that is relevant to this particular indicator.  Particularly, users would be able to address all of the questions, for example, the right of the freedom of expression is protected with article 19 with the ICCPR.  This is explained and then people will be able to look at their local legislation and compare their restrictions, for example, with what's enshrined in article 19. 

Users will be able to answer all of the questions, for example, for the first category, which is constitutional or equivalent protection, they will be able to see how the results compare to the community's assessment as well, and they will be able to share it and if we ‑‑ if they would like to see, for example, this is when they look at how their assessment looks to the community assessment.  They can either look to assessments to Egypt's, community's assessment to other MENA countries.  So, I can look at Egypt and then compared to Iraq or Jordan, and then users can move forward and choose a different category or different country.  This is briefly the tools.  The indicators and the tool that we have. 

When we apply these tools because we have applied this tool as part of our project, we outlined a number of challenges and indicators that demarcate the freedoms in the MENA region.  And on top of these challenges is applying the same legislation online and offline, which touched implicitly and explicitly with the regulation of online content and media workers as well as internet intermediaries.  We can see that this is manifested particularly in the case of publications.  With the absence of provisions that regulate online speech, The Courts mostly resort to the traditional media law.  And this actually shows contradictions and inconsistency.  It means the rules that apply to print media are applied online and social media with no exception.  It also means that internet users, journalists and bloggers are all subject to the same laws and provisions without exception. 

There's one more challenge, which is the fact that journalist is brought through the licensing scheme.  Not only journalists but online news agencies have to obtain a license.  The license is given by a government entity, which impose conditions that they have to comply with in order to get the license and actually practice journalism. 

Another challenge is liability for third party content.  Most of the time internet intermediaries are reliable for third‑party content.  In some cases, actually, web editors stopped allowing comments on the websites as an expression of protest or to refrain from holding liability from third‑party content.  This also resulted in the fact that self‑censorship is rife.  This is particularly because journalists stopped reporting on topics that are deemed taboo by authorities.  

One more challenge is encryption is found in some countries in the region which leaves no option for journalists except for self‑censorship in some cases. 

Another challenge is arbitrary internet laws, and this is manifested in the case of court and laws which actually has a long list of speech offenses that are done either by a news ‑‑ means of newspapers or other means including online.  The mostly prescribed acts like informing false news, slandering, as well as insulting regular citizens and also insulting public authorities.  So, penal code has actually had a criminal definition for public authorities particularly in the MENA region.  They coin all of these offenses using general terms, which means that anyone could possibly be criminally liable for committing any of these crimes.  They use vague words like dignity and honor without providing any clear definition for them.  This means that this actually intimidates political opposition and clamps down on dissenting voices. 

One more challenge is over‑regulation.  We can see this is manifested in two sets of laws.  The first is cyber-crime laws and anti‑terrorist laws, which are on top of the list of draconian laws that restrict online freedom and rights.  This is because they adopt vaguely worded crimes with actually fuzzy language provisions.  They don't provide a clear explanation for what actually constitutes cyber-crime or terrorist acts.  For example, some laws outlaw visiting immoral websites without providing any clear definition for what actually constitutes immoral.  Others criminalize abusive messages, yet without providing any clear definition of what could be an abusive message.  Most that are used under these laws and the flagrant provisions that they provide related to national security are damaging to national unity.  These are mostly the pretexts that are used.  The other set of laws is telecommunication laws, which outline rules and responsibilities of the national telecommunication authorities.  For example, most of the time, the regulatory authority is not independent and it is strongly affiliated with the government.  Also, the laws brought powers to competent authorities to regulate telecommunication services, which means that they can actually have access to customers' data and actually propose limitations related to filtering and blocking without having to have judicial order.  In some cases, an administrative order will do, and they can just exercise their power.  This is actually very unsettling, given the fact there is no overarching data protection framework in most of the MENA region. 

The last challenge is regulatory environment.  The digital space in the MENA region is regulated through a security center approach.  In most of the cases, it protects national security and state sovereignty and social coherence of the pretexts used to impose many of the provisions.  Most of the restrictions are neither necessary nor proportioned and do not require any judicial oversight, which means that this actually does not only stifle digital rights but also hinders the capacity of internet users to reap the benefits of the internet.  There is also absence of rule of laws and absence of checks and balances with human safeguards of human rights within the league environment. 

I invite you to visit the website because there, we provide a set of recommendations on how actually to improve this legislation and how to make them in line with the international human rights standards and invite you to apply the indicators as soon as they are online within the MENA region or other countries and share with us your input on them, how you see the indicators helping other countries and regions as well. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Thank you.  You just presented a bleak view on how the challenges and applying legislation in the Middle East can really hinder the use of the internet in general, without discussing the full impact on digital rights, because at the moment we are still trying to establish the link between human rights and the internet, and how this course can make sense to the governments in the Middle East.  It's only viable if we make or if you put a price tag on it.  So, if people are not free on the internet, it has a price.  We're trying to highlight that using this tool, but in a very indirect manner, to just give people the ability to think more deeply about how important it is to codify human rights and legislation.  It protects your right as a user, but on the other hand, it can guarantee a lot more than just human rights. 

I am going to give the floor now to Walid, who is going to highlight very briefly how the internet legislation atlas as a tool that can be useful for the grass roots.  The point is we are able to reach out to civil societies and activists and people who don't necessarily have a legal background to understand legislation.  So Walid, you can use this mic. 

>> WALID AL‑SAQAF: Thank you, Hanane.  I actually have a timer here so in case I go over time.  First of all, let me say how delighted I am being here, not only because it serves a very important purpose, but because it's introducing something new, something innovative.  I don't recall seeing something of this nature before.  Although my capacity as a trustee of the internet society, I would like to also note that I've also been one of the board members ‑‑ advisory board members of the ILA project, so in my capacity as an academic, I see the project as something that provides crucial information to people that do not have it.  But the question that Hanane poses is now that we have it, what can we do with it.  If you know the song, "now that we have love, what can we do with it?"

Now that we have this, what can we do with this?  The idea is to brainstorm.  I would like to keep this short because I hope you, the audience can help us see how to use it.  Helping insure that the internet is used for the benefit of citizens across the world, let us take the information aspect of this.  Pure information, people do not understand their rights.  They don't understand what legislations are there in their societies, what the government or the parliament or whoever is involved in law enforcement is using to enforce or maybe not enforce laws regarding the internet, and the Middle East, in particular, as mentioned earlier, is a troubled region where there are real violations online and offline.  So, the power that information gives can be leveraged.  It can be used for civil society organizations and to guide new and better legislation.  We need not see this as purely advocacy against certain practices, but means for reforming what we have.  Occasionally, I may imagine that some legislations don't understand what the internet is and how it can benefit society and what exactly can even the government itself use it for.  And so, the idea that there is a place now online accessible to all, very well organized and appealing in view and has even a game.  So, all of this helps those entities understand, okay, there is now no justification for saying now I can't do anything about it. 

You have the ability to get there and see the information for yourself and understand what it can help with and what it cannot help with.  See what the potential gaps that you find.  See if you have ideas that can introduce new, better ways of looking into how the internet can be used through legislation, but also look into how to compare yours to other countries.  This is why the comparative approach is very helpful.  We in the Middle East share a lot.  We share a common culture, obviously, a common language.  We understand the dynamics of how things work in various regions in parts of the region.  We understand that this can be leveraged for us to harmonize and introduce the best practices that work best for this part of the world.  Unfortunately, many times we try to import laws and things from abroad thinking this will be a perfect match, but it's not the way it works.  You need to develop a bottom‑up approach and understand the context and building on that to improve the societies that live in these countries. 

So, what I feel is important in this project is to provide awareness and raise awareness about the existence of the tool, ensure that the potential of use is not hampered by lack of detail or lack of clarity because occasionally you can come to a position of okay, I have the information but I'm not sure what it means.  So, there could be efforts to help ensure that the information provided is clear.  It has a very specific tag to it.  You can search through it maybe, that's one way of looking into it.  You can compare revisions and seeing how it has evolved over time.  And also, compare it with other countries in the region.  I feel like this informational aspect is quite crucial. 

The second thing I would like to propose is ensure they take a more objective approach to it.  No presumption as to why the legislation came to be what it is.  And use this information to introduce potentially positive changes and that would be done through grass roots as well as coordination with different stake holders.  We work in silos in MENA, each one trying to proceed with its own objectives, not thinking of what others might consider as important.  So, these laws and tests help us as different stakeholders sit around the common cause.  Let us improve access and make it more productive for society, for development.  And let us look from different lenses, not purely from advocacy or political or economic lenses.  Grandsons roots can help promote this approach within the bottom‑up approach that has been used at the IGF and other international platforms.  It's a good experiment.  I would say we're early at this stage to know how well it will do.  But now that we have taken the first step, the next step will need to be followed, which is to introduce this to the society at large, introduce the potential uses of it and insure that everything can be considered for improvements.  I would like to reflect on the importance of internet society chapters as grass roots organizations that work on the ground. 

For the internet as a domain, the most active entities, I would say ‑‑ maybe I'm biased ‑‑ are chapters.  The way that chapters can use this is to allow them to sub in themselves.  What is happening is this law for the society.  Is it something that can or should be improved?  And from that point, begin to link with various stake holders in your community and try to bring them around and discuss these and use this reference as a way for you to go forward.  In the past, one justification might have been we didn't have references that help us understand what laws are in place.  We do not know how other countries have used these.  Now we have the information and these grass roots organizations, chapters and others, can help foster dialogue to promote the use of this information for better laws in this region. 

I have two more minutes, but I will spare that for the discussions. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Thank you, Walid.  Very thoughtful reflection on the work that we're doing, and I think you provide a comprehensive outlook on how people can actually use this tool.  Civil society, sometimes, is not empowered enough in the context of the Middle East to lead advocacy.  Our role here is not to judge these countries.  We were very, very careful when we conceived this tool.  Because one, it happened because there is a lot of demand from the people that we're talking to in the Middle East.  Two, we made sure it's community‑driven.  All that you see on the platform is recommended and suggested by the partners that we're working with.  We made sure that we have partners from each country that we're focusing on because we don't want to take the lead on the local, let's say, the local initiatives.  We want it to be led by the partners that are based there.  We just make sure that this work is happening.  We coordinate everything so we have a point of reference.  And I might say that ILA has been a point of reference of a lot of research institutions, universities, professors, and certain others find it very useful.  This brings me to how simply we're trying to do this by introducing a technique that's going to cover the indicators now.  I will go to Niels here because he is with article 19 and the legal team of article 19 and how to produce the indicators that we're trying to visualize.  And article 19 is doing a lot of work when it comes to covering the region.  We're going to take you back to the context in the Middle East, and maybe you can explain a little bit of the rationale behind the indicators and how you think it will be useful to link to the work that you're already doing in terms of analysis and the bulk legal work that your legal team is doing. 

>> NIELS TEN OEVER: Thank you very much, Hanane.  I'm very happy you are all here.  Walid is happy he is here.  I'm happy you're here because it's Monday morning, 9:00, and we got here from all over the world.  It's great that you're all here.  I would like to start with the board member, Marcus, when he spoke to the U.N. General Assembly, he said that article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights reads exactly like a description of the internet.  The rights of freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.  That's like exactly what we have been working on the internet, right?  Or maybe less so because the internet increasingly mediates public debates and even elections directly or indirectly.  Infrastructure, power and water structures.  With that increase of importance, it also gets an increase of power and therefore also the need for accountability.  You can say when you have a right You don't need permission ‑‑ you can't say that.  When you need permission, it's a privilege, not a right.  So, the internet has grown on the premise of open standards and voluntary bodies.  But there also needs to be levels of accountability.  And how is this done on the internet?  We set it up in a radically distributed way, which makes it hard to govern. 

The internet is this thing that arises between law, architecture, markets, and public opinion.  And there is not one place where the internet can be regulated.  You cannot do it all through law; it will escape through architecture.  You cannot do everything on the architectural level.  The market nor public opinion cannot fix everything.  The market needs buyers, but it needs to be done within architecture and legal frameworks. 

So how does this work?  We're focusing on law here and in other parts we try to focus on architecture like ICANN and the internet engineering task force, but that's not what we're doing here.  So, let's try to focus on law.  So, imagine that you're a judge and you need to judge on these new things and the internet is tossed on your plate.  You already have law books that you need to know by heart and you need to reference and you need to weigh, and then you already ‑‑ then you also get tossed computers and internet on your plate.  Well, I don't know ‑‑ do you have any idea how many lines of code there are in an operating system?  Let's say Linux?  Roughly?  Any ideas?  Takers?  490 million in the last version of 7.  So, anyone who tells you that he or she completely understands Linux, he or she is lying.  There is a degree of complexity that makes it really hard to understand.  But having a law and having the internet is not necessarily an angle. 

Then it comes to application.  And the same concepts can be implemented and applied by people in many different ways.  And then, unfortunately, when we talk about the internet, we have been talking about offline and online.  Because almost everything we do now has an online equivalent.  We should not forget that everything has an offline equivalent.  We are right here now in Mexico, and we've been talking about big numbers, but here is also quite a stunning number.  Since 2006, over 26,000 people have disappeared in Mexico.  And with the current ramping up of the usage of surveillance software, Mexico was the biggest purchaser ‑‑ the biggest customer of Hacking Team.  You see that the online also strengthens the offline rights but also violations.  Just because laws are there does not mean that laws are enacted.  But we cannot keep the law if we do not know the law.  So, that is why we are trying to bridge the understanding to see what are the bridges between all of these different parts of law and the internet.  What is the relation between the two?  And how do we do that.  Laws and legal traditions are different.  There are different international traditions, but they are different.  When we started thinking about how to compare the things, we went back to thinking about the global network.  If we think of global standards, only real global standards we have are human rights standards.  So, that's what we did.  We try to compare legislation and laws for international human rights standards and see how they were reflected in different parts of the law.  These touched upon protected communications between journalists and lawyers.  But then you get into the questions, who is a journalist?  Is a blogger a journalist and how is that defined and applied?  Also, intellectual property.  Is there a concept of fair use?  Is there proper oversights in surveillance?  Necessity and proportionality?  Democratic oversights?  Is there an obligation?  Policies for shared infrastructure?  Open spectrum?  Media laws.  Do blogs need to get a permit?  How are the media laws used?  E transactions, penal codes, it doesn't end. 

This was an extremely interesting exploration that we have been doing and also something that will not stop.  This should be a living body of text.  I am very happy that we have been able to do this with a network of civil society organizations and all the work is available under creative comments license.  So, people can take it, use it, re‑use it, and contribute to it. 

So, that was the vision, and I think this is an extremely good first version that I'm looking forward to it rating and play with this and see what I can use to make the internet a really truly rights respecting environment. 

[ Applause ]

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Thank you, Niels for outlining the relevance of this tool. 

>> MODERATOR: Let me take over.  We will give you an overview of the tool as an outlier of the project or the indicators on.  We would like to hear from you if you have any feedback on this tool.  How do you think it could actually serve you, whether you are in the MENA region or outside of the MENA region or how do you think the regions are global and could reflect and be related to different regions generally speaking?  Do you have any questions? 

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm from Europe.  Are there any concrete things that we can do to partner with the MENA region?  I'm thinking especially because some of us have close connections with NGOs, with politicians, how we can make sure that the tool doesn't remain an abstract tool, but that we start applying it to help people.  Thank you. 

>> NOHA FATHY: This is very interesting because I don't know if you are familiar with mapping project, the project that's done and actually maps legislation in Europe.  It's more or less what we are doing, but in Europe they do model legislation but also map the relevant stakeholders and the practice that they have in the region.  So, we have been trying to engage with them.  We went to the assembly meeting with them last month to learn about the best practices that is in the region for us to take back to the MENA region and actually reflect on them.  We look at the indicators, one of the indicators that is one of the human rights standards that is the cyber-crime convention.  So, we tried to look at the regional perspective either from Europe to see the best practices or from other regions.  NGOs actually from south America to make sort of a comparative analysis between what do you do there and what we have and see how we could also cooperate.  It's definitely good for us to look at the best practices in Europe and also see how we could learn from the mapping that they are doing in Europe. 

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Fantastic. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Sorry for the disruption.  I would like to give the floor to the audience now for the questions.  We have ten minutes for the questions.  So, if you have any, please let the lady in red know.  So, you just have to introduce yourselves and go ahead with your questions. 

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.  It's clear that this tool is to be used for our region.  But I have some questions.  The first one is we have more clear information in this tool.  How do you collect the information and implement it in your tool?  The first one, thanks. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Thank you.  We will take a bulk of questions and address all of them at once.  If anybody else has another question?  All right.  Maybe you want to address the question? 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: The tool is meant to help different stake holders.  You can use this tool to pinpoint opportunities on advocacy and improvement.  It could help reform and help civil society understand the legal landscape.  It's hard for some given that there are always some conflicts, legal and technical terms.  So, we help to break down this terms and provide interpretation for them.  It could be used for policymakers who would like to form policies who are in line with the international human rights standards.  It could also be used for researchers who could use this tool to produce in‑depth analysis to the eco‑system of internet related rights.  Still it could help private sector because there's a portion related to our region.  How to tie the business model.  This could help the private sector understand their obligations in protecting and promoting human rights on how to incorporate this in their business model.  That's why ‑‑ and it could help as well internet users who don't have necessarily technical legal background.  We work with advisory board members and our stakeholders to make sure we provide enough interpretation for all the complex terms.  We didn't want to provide something that would be hard to be applicable.  This would present another challenge.  We are always open for any comments and feedback from the community on how to actually bring more and more terms. 

When we launched the first phase of the ILA project, we opened the door for comments, and when we got comments from the community, we incorporated them in the second phase and now we're developing the second phase based on the input that we got from the community to make the tool easier for the community to use and apply.  I hope I addressed your question. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Niels, maybe you want to feed into this.  You were involved in the process from the beginning.  Maybe you want to highlight the source.  You asked the question about the source of information.  Niels?  Maybe you can address that? 

>> NIELS TEN OEVER: I would love to.  I'm always happen to be a footnote to Noha.  What the internet legislation atlas is trying to do is being an encyclopedia.  But one you can use when you need it and know where to look, but also an encyclopedia that invites people to be archaeologists or explorers to develop in parts that they might not be schooled in.  And also for technologists who know there is an impact of their work on legal issues, to try to disclose that.  Because there is this inherent trade of infrastructure that it somehow syncs into the background.  We take it for granted.  The same is true with technical infrastructure, with the cables that are underneath the surface, with electrical cables going through the air, we don't even see them anymore but they are a condition of our modern society.  So, what this tries to do is make those things visible and tangible and explorer again.  But also, that when you really need it, that you can find it.  That you don't need to go through the whole law book or through a whole law course, actually. 

And it is ‑‑ I'm always surprised to see that in the ‑‑ in prison, the most read book is a law book.  It is not weird when you think about it, but it's a bit too late to start reading the law book by then. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: I like that analogy that Niels is using.  It's very relevant.  I'm contributing to the project and I want to add to what Niels and Noha already provided.  We know the region and we know how hard it is to have access to information in general.  And the law specifically, the text law is very hard to access.  And we have a hard time mapping the legislation in the Middle East.  So, use ILA as maybe a platform, like Niels says.  A Wikipedia of laws related to the Middle East and it gives ease of access.  So, people who are concerned with how human rights are codified can access this immediately.  And not only that, also understand it.  I'm not sure if Noha can display the original website of ILA so we can go through it and understand why we visualized the law.  You have the text law and you also get a time line if you click on the left‑hand side of the platform, maybe Noha can go through it with the clicker.  You can get an idea of what's going on with each country by looking at the circles.  Iraq has, for example, more laws than Syria, for example.  You get some idea of what's going on in that country by just looking at that.  You also get a timeline where you get the ‑‑ like the years and you see the law and when it was ratified or implemented and that gives you an idea of how the country progressed or maybe it went a little bit backwards.  You can make a lot of interpretations out of this platform.  And every country is supported also by what we call a country analysis.  So, you have the text, but you also have enough information to form your ideas on what's going on.  The source of information is, of course, the legal, you know, or the official announcement of the law in the gazette.  When we have access to the original text, we do actually add it to the platform.  And some of the text we have to do the translation because, at the moment, as you can see T atlas is in English.  But we are in the process of translating everything, so we can provide it in Arabic as well, and it makes sense. 

We received a lot of requests, the expertise that is available to do this work is only, you know, in English at the moment.  Unfortunately, most people who are working in this field excel in English more than Arabic, but we are working to provide different languages.  So maybe we will add Arabic.  We have no French now.  Iran is one of the countries.  We work with all of these partners and we try to make sure that each country is represented in a local partner.  We have received a lot of requests from other countries to be added.  So, from the technical point of view, the platform is deployed, so we can be able to plug other countries or even other regions.  We have big plans and there is a need for this.  Not only in the Middle East, but we have received requests from Africa, from Latin American and different regions.  And we can see, you know, how people are using it because we receive feedbacks, thank you to the ones who sent feedback immediately now while in the session.  So, we have a lot of people who would like to feed into what we're doing and the project is open.  It has an open structure.  Anybody who has added value and would like to contribute as an organization or as an individual, you are more than welcome. 

That's my addition to what Niels and Noha mentioned.  I'm not sure if Walid has a final word.  If we don't have any more questions, we will go through the closing notes and thank you. 

>> WALID AL‑SAQAF: One fundamental important thing is that this project is more about information and empowering people with information.  What they do with that information is often up to them.  And, referring for example to the question that was presented from ICANN earlier is that basically this is an experiment.  We would like this to be out there so people can use it and explore what creative ways are invented and thought of.  Additionally, this tool is neutral in a sense that it doesn't say that this is good or bad.  It just presents factual information.  Everyone is able to access this.  They can always refer to the original source from where they got this information.  And additionally, it is up to the participants to add further notes and maybe clarifications and references.  I was among the advocates of using, you know, the interactive form submission so that if you have a comment, if you have a suggestion, I'm not sure if that will be introduced.  You can immediately post it on the website ‑‑ not necessarily directly but perhaps deliver your feedback referring to the exact point on which you have a comment.  This will enrich the platforms considerably considering that we are at the stage of crowd sources or crowd wisdom, if you may.  That means that everyone has an opportunity to say something about these laws.  This cannot work unless we work in inclusive terms.  This is meant for all stakeholders.  Governments are encouraged.  I can see my colleague here, I was on the airplane yesterday, and he actually might consider using this as a reference for his own government and say look, these are the laws in these countries.  Perhaps we can introduce information about the laws in our country and that would help make it more inclusive. 

The multi‑stakeholder approach can start with one or it can be triggered in combination through conference, forum, workshop.  So, it all depends on what we do at the next stage.  That's the second biggest challenge after finalizing this is sustainable.  It is used by many more people and expands into ways that make it more successful. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Thank you.  Niels, maybe you have concluding remarks? 

>> NIELS TEN OEVER: And there is maybe a call to all of you all.  Preparing for the IGF, I was looking back at the civil society statement in 2005, and looking at the agenda of this IGF, we have to, unfortunately, conclude that the world on the internet has gotten a bit more grim.  In 2005 we saw the internet as this engine for gender equality, culture and knowledge in the public domain, to get education to everyone, to get health information to even progress social justice and end wars and create more common understanding.  And right now, we're talking about surveillance, violence online, and rights to be protected.  I would hope that we can take the internet back as a positive imaginary for the future.  The hope that was inspired in the electronic highway.  The hope that we had for the better world that the internet could facilitate us for getting there, I really hope we can find that hope, that vision back here together in Mexico, and I hope we can do that and not freeze in a defensive position. 

>> HANANE BOUJEMI: Thank you, Niels.  Very inspiring indeed.  And thank you for your interest in this project.  I encourage you to use the feedback form if you have questions that you didn't manage to do here.  Or any additions that we can include.  I would like to thank Doha.  Thank you all and thank you to the panelists and have a great IGF. 

 

[ Applause ]

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