IGF 2018 WS #107 Zeroing in on Media Freedom in Zero-rating Initiatives

Format: 

Round Table - 60 Min

Organizer 1: Amba Kak, Mozilla foundation
Organizer 2: Daniel OMaley, Center for International Media Assistance
Organizer 3: Morgan Frost, Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
Organizer 4: Michael Oghia,
Organizer 5: Dhanaraj Thakur, Alliance for Affordable Internet / Web Foundation

Speaker 1: Amba Kak, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Courtney Radsch, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Daniel OMaley, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Flávia Lefèvre Guimarães, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Relevance: 

This session will build off of previous discussions around zero-rating that have taken place at IGF, but will expand the discussion to include an analysis of how these arrangement impact the broader news media ecosystem. While there has been a great deal of attention on issues related to zero-rating as it relates to the overarching principle of net neutrality, little if any has focused on the specific impact news media and journalists, and how these arrangements may be impacting the broader information ecosystem. This is of particular interest at a period in time when there is great concern about the spread of disinformation and the shifting nature of informational trust online. And while zero-rating arrangements were initially touted primarily as a mechanism to bridge the digital divide by extending access to the internet in the developing world, they are increasingly prominent in developed countries where telecommunications providers implement them in order to gain a competitive advantage in the market. This indicates that zero-rating is not a fleeting fad, but a long-term trend whose impacts need to be assessed. Indeed, regulators around the world are currently developing frameworks to analyze zero-rating arrangements. Almost universally the impact on the news media ecosystem has not been a metric that has been taken into account.

By its very nature zero-rating is a multistakeholder issue. Telecommunications companies implement data prioritization, private content platforms make decisions about what content is actually accessible on their platforms via these arrangements, and ultimately governments have the power to regulate the national media ecosystem. Moreover, at a period in time when news media outlets are searching for ways to remain financially viable and platforms work to improve the quality of content on their sites, zero-rating raises important questions regarding whether these offers amplify or affect the role of platforms as gatekeepers to news dissemination, if large, mainstream or international outlets more likely to benefit than local or community outlets, and whether political or economic pressures surrounding these arrangements might lead to direct or indirect forms of censorship of news content.

Session Content: 

The session will start with a brief introduction on the topic by the moderator Mr. Dhanaraj Thankur from the Alliance for an Affordable Internet at the World Wide Web Foundation. Then each of the speakers will be given five minutes to introduce their work and discuss their perspective on what needs to be changed in the digital ecosystem to support journalism and news outlets. Mr. Thankur will then initiate a discussion among the panelists based on their interventions and have them directly engage with one another on the topics they raised. This moderated discussion will last approximately ten minutes. The final half of the session will be dedicated to incorporating audience questions and comments – from both the on-site participants and those participating remotely. Mr. Thankur will coordinate with the online moderator, Mr. Michael Oghia from the Global Forum for Media Development, to ensure that remote participation is effectively included in the discussion. At the end, each speaker will be given two minutes to provide their concluding thoughts.

Draft Agenda:
1. Welcome by the Moderator
2. Brief Speaker Introductions and Position Statements
- Ms. Courtney Radsch (Committee to Protect Journalists), “Zero-rating and implications for media freedom”
- Ms. Amba Kak (Mozilla Corporation), “Regulating zero-rating amid net-neutrality guarantees and private sector perspectives on zero-rating”
- Mr. Daniel O’Maley (Center for International Media Assistance), “Zero-rating and long-term impacts on global media pluralism”
- Ms Flavia Lefevre (CGI.br - Brazilian Internet Steering Committee), “Guaranteeing citizen access to information amid new internet access business models”
- Representative from Content Platform or Telecommunications Company (To be confirmed)
3. Discussion among Speakers Facilitated by Moderator
4. Open Discussion Based on Audience (On-site and online) Participation
5. Brief Concluding Remarks by Speakers
6. Session Summary and Remarks on Potential Next Steps by Moderator

Interventions: 

The speakers on the panel have been selected such that they can speak to the issue of zero-rating from different regional and stakeholder backgrounds. The speakers will have ample time to speak in the roundtable format while also providing an opportunity for participants to join the conversation. Ultimately the object of the session is to share the latest research on the subject and develop broader awareness about how zero-rating impacts the broader news media ecosystem.

Diversity: 

Speakers have been chosen on the basis of geographical, gender, sector, and stakeholder representation. The session will have speakers/facilitators from different regions (Asia and the Americas) and from different sectors (technical community, civil society, and the private sector). Additionally, more than 50% of participants in the session are women.

Online Participation: 

We will ensure that any remote interventions are incorporated into the discussion, and we will encourage interested parties stakeholders to participate remotely should they not be able to attend in person to increase the access of this underrepresented group of actors within the Internet governance ecosystem. We will promote remote participation on social media using the hashtags #zerorating and #IGF2018. The online moderator, Michael Oghia from the Global Forum for Media Development, will monitor the remote participation platform and social media for questions and comments. He will then communicate these interventions to the on-site moderator and the audience present at the IGF. In this way, the thoughts and perspectives of those participating remotely will be included in the session.

Discussion Facilitation: 

Dhanaraj Thankur from the Alliance for an Affordable Internet at the World Wide Web Foundation will facilitate the roundtable discussion among the panelists before opening the session up to questions from the audience. Mr. Thankur has extensive experience moderating public events and also is an expert in the field of digital rights in terms of telecom policy, net neutrality, and expanding access. This will enable him to guide the discussion in ways that benefit the audience on-site and participating via remote participation.

Onsite Moderator: 

Dhanaraj Thankur

Online Moderator: 

Michael Oghia

Rapporteur: 

Morgan Frost

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

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

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