IGF 2017 WS #154 The Distributed Denial of Democracy: Threats to Democratic Processes Online

Short Title: 
Censors, Fake News, and Trolls: Democracy Denied Online

Proposer's Name: Ms. Morgan Frost
Proposer's Organization: Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
Co-Proposer's Name: Ms. Sarah Moulton
Co-Proposer's Organization: National Democratic Institute (NDI)
Mr.,Daniel,O’MALEY,Civil Society,Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
Ms.,Sarah,MOULTON,Civil Society,National Democratic Institute (NDI)
Ms.,Maiko,NAKAGAKI,Civil Society,Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)

Additional Speakers: 

Mishi Choudhury is working with Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) following the completion of her fellowship during which she earned her LLM from Columbia Law School and was a Stone Scholar. Prior to joining forces with SFLC in 2006, she practiced as a High Court and Supreme Court litigator in New Delhi. At SFLC, Mishi is the primary legal representative of many of the world's most significant free software developers and non-profit distributors, including Debian, the Apache Software Foundation, and OpenSSL.In 2010, she founded SFLC.in, since which time she has divided her time between New York and New Delhi. Under her direction, SFLC.in has become the premier non-profit organization representing the rights of Internet users and free software developers in India. As of 2015, Mishi is the only lawyer in the world simultaneously to appear on briefs in the US and Indian Supreme Courts in the same Term. She consults with and advises established businesses and startups using free software in their products and service offerings in the US, Europe, India, China and Korea. In 2015 she was named one of the Asia Society's 21 young leaders building Asia's future. In 2016 she was selected as an Aspen Fellow as part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. In addition to an LLM, she has an LLB degree and a bachelors degree in political science from the University of Delhi. Mishi is a member of the Bar Council of Delhi, licensed to appear before the Supreme Court of India, all the State High Courts in India, in the State of New York, and before the Southern District of New York.


1. Brief Introduction to the Discussion - 5 minutes

2. Introduction of Panelists - 5 minutes

3. Discussion among Panelists on Threats to Democratic Processes Online - 30 minutes

4. Questions (In person and through online participation) - 15 minutes

5. Wrap Up - 5 minutes

Session Format: Panel - 60 Min

Country: United States
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Country: United States
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Speaker: Hanane Boujemi
Speaker: Roldós Martha
Speaker: Chris Doten
Speaker: Jehan Ara
Speaker: Sukarn Singh Maini
Speaker: Matt Chessen

Content of the Session:
This panel will open with brief introductions from each participant highlighting the view from their sector of the threats to democracy caused by the weaponization of information and manipulations of access on the internet. This will include discussions of technical censorship and throttling by ISPs, the legal implications of surveillance and cyber laws, and the challenges posed by digital disinformation, fake news, and online trolling. Panelists will then discuss the solutions: how can stakeholders shape a better internet to invigorate 21st century democracies with inclusive participation, including how to apply the IRPC’s 10 Internet Rights and Principles for global and local advocacy. Panel comments will be held to a maximum of 30 minutes to permit participation from the in-person and online audiences as well as dialogue among panel members.

Relevance of the Session:
During the heady days of the Arab Spring the globalization of the internet seemed to be ushering in a new age of democracy and openness, but instead radical shifts caused by these new communications channels have created the most hostile environment to political institutions and long-standing democracies in decades. The shift of political discourse to online platforms has empowered anti-democratic actors who have created innovative new techniques that turn the attributes of the internet against open institutions, harnessing hyper-partisanship, filter bubbles, and age-old human biases, accelerated with content stolen by hackers or outright fake news, to erode trust and increase hatred and xenophobia. At the same time, authoritarian regimes in control of the structures of the internet are increasingly censoring, throttling, surveilling or otherwise manipulating the internet to silence dissent, promote violence, and perpetuate inequalities. Given these challenges, it is up to the defenders of an open internet to consider how to shape the modern agora into a place for vibrant, open, constructive and democratic dialogue. Ensuring that the future of the internet empowers universal human rights and democratic values will require cooperation from government policymakers, civil society leaders, the technology sector, and multilateral fora like the IGF.

Tag 1: Multistakeholder Cooperation
Tag 2: Human Rights Online
Tag 3: Freedom of Expression Online

We are pleased to have a cross-section of remarkable individuals whose varied experiences will bring important perspectives on the disruptions the internet has brought to democracies around the world. A Department of State technologist will bring an American governmental point of view, while civil society and private sector leaders from the Global South experienced in advocacy, cyber law and political organizing will describe the ways that internet manipulation and digital disinformation are impacting their democracies and ways in which they’ve addressed these challenges. A representative of HIVOS will discuss the response of the donor community, and a leader of the technology community in India will be able to discuss the impacts of policy choices and the response of the corporate sector. Each speaker will share their views on threats or opportunities that the internet has brought to democracy and their personal perspectives in how the future of the internet ought to be shaped.

Modeling the diversity of IGF, this will be a truly global panel with different stakeholder groups, a range of ages, varied viewpoints, and an even split of gender. Many of the participants are from developing countries, and only one has spoken at or organized a panel for IGF in the past. We intend to use the online discussion capabilities to focus on voices from a range of perspectives as well.

Onsite Moderator: Mr.,Daniel,O’MALEY,Civil Society,Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
Online Moderator: Ms.,Maiko,NAKAGAKI,Civil Society,Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
Rapporteur: Ms.,Morgan,FROST,Civil Society,Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)

Online Participation:
The livestream for this event will be promoted in advance through the social networks of the participating organizations, and NDI will host an in-person event replaying the content for the DC open internet community. For those connected at the time, our online moderator, Maiko Nakagaki, will share questions from these participants up to the panel in real time to build a global discussion. In addition, the panel will also be advertised and promoted throughout the newly formed Community of Open Internet Advocates facilitated by CIPE, CIMA, and NDI. This community includes representatives from Pakistan, Nigeria, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, Tunisia, Jordan, Kenya, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cote D’Ivoire, Venezuela, and Hungary.

Discussion facilitation:
Moderated by Daniel O’Maley, each distinguished speaker will have the opportunity to share their perspectives on the challenges posed by internet-delivered “distributed denial of democracy” attacks and how to shape the future of the internet to protect vibrant democracies. In order to have a compelling discussion among stakeholders, Mr. O’Maley will permit brief statements and inter-panel dialogue held to 30 minutes, after which the floor will belong to questions from the audience within IGF and through online participation.

Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: No
Link to Report:

Background Paper

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678