IGF 2018 WS #116 Does Context Matter? Regulating Content in Conflict Setting

Format: 

Panel - 60 Min

Organizer 1: Bakhtiyor Avezdjanov, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
Organizer 2: Agnes Callamard, Columbia University
Organizer 3: Johnson Hawley, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression

Speaker 1: Alex Walden, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Chinmayi Arun, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Maytham Al Salman, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Agnes Callamard, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Relevance: 

Wahida Mohamed describes herself as rabat manzal, a housewife, but she is better known as Um Hanadi, the leader of a tribal militia force that has been fighting various terrorist groups in Iraq since 2004. In an interview from last year, she boasted about beheading ISIS fighters and burning their bodies. Her deeds are well documented on social media and have brought her fame. She is a hero for many in the country. The videos, pictures and messages that Um Hanadi disseminates on social media are inflammatory and/or gruesome. Um Hanadi and others like her operate in conflict settings where their on-line content justifies, condones, and values what some may see as incredibly violent and disturbing or disturbed behaviors. Further, she is just one of thousands of others who distribute similarly violent and inflammatory content in conflict settings. But such content may not always meet the international threshold for incitement to violence and neither may they violate the Terms of Services of Intermediaries. When it does meet the required threshold, there is an equally difficult question as to how the content may be taken down, under which process?

Session Content: 

At IGF 2018, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression wishes to host a panel with freedom of expression and experts on hate speech and incitement to discuss whether on-line content regulation in pre-, conflict or post-conflict settings demands a different response from social media Intermediaries and other actors than in established democracies or peaceful countries? If so, what are these contextualized responses? Specifically, the panel will seek to answer the following: • Survey and identify instances of on-line content in conflict settings which may raise concerns because of their links to violence, whether and how such concerns differ from those raised in countries “at peace”. • Discuss steps currently taken by online companies to contextualize responses to content regulation in conflict settings: whether the responses are different, how different are these, and the challenges they are confronting because of the context? • Discuss steps taken by other actors in response to such content in conflict-settings and the challenges they too experience • Identify any drawbacks in contextualizing content regulation in conflict settings. • Recommend next steps so that actors on the ground and internationally can better respond to such on-line content in conflict settings.

Interventions: 

Each speaker will be asked to prepare brief (5-7 minutes) presentations in response to the questions that the workshop aims to address. The workshop will begin with an introduction by Dr. Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (she will also act as the moderator) that sets out the agenda for the workshop. Following this, each speaker will then present their prepared thoughts. The presentation and the discussion that follows will seek to produce the following outcomes: 1. Better understanding of the nature and impact of violent or hateful on-line content in conflict settings through specific examples of such content, and existing evidence regarding the impact and/or risks posed by such content. 2. Better understanding of the steps currently taken by Social Media and other companies to respond to such content in conflict setting, and the specific challenges they are confronting in doing so. 3. A list of recommendations for all actors to research, strengthen, support those on the online front-line of armed conflicts, monitoring and responding to violent and hateful.

Diversity: 

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression seeks to achieve diversity in all of its work. This workshop is no different. The proposed panelists consist of three women and one man. The panelists also have diverse regional perspectives as their work focuses on South East Asia, the Middle East, while two of the experts work internationally. They also represent various stakeholder groups: academia (Columbia University and National Law University Delhi), civil society (Columbia Global Freedom of Expression), and the private sector (Google). Further, one of the speakers is an exiled religious leader from Bahrain (Sheikh Maytham Al Salman), and could offer a unique and often absent voice from events such as the IGF. Another speaker is a UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Agnes Callamard).

The four speakers had confirmed their attendance.

Online Participation: 

We foresee the following strategy to manage online communication: During the Q&A session, we will ensure that for every three onsite questions, there is one online question. The hope is that the 3/1 ratio would allow adequate time to collect questions by the online moderator and to share them with the onsite moderator. Online moderation will be performed by Dr. Hawley Johnson, a member of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression with years of experience in workshop moderation.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The panel will be split into panel presentations (20-25 minutes), a panel discussion (10) minutes, and a Q&A with the audience (20-25 min). The discussion and the Q&A session will be by Dr. Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur and the director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression. She will moderate the discussion in a manner that would be most effective in producing the above mentioned three outcomes: 1. Better understanding of the nature and impact of violent or hateful on-line content in conflict settings through specific examples of such content, and existing evidence regarding the impact and/or risks posed by such content. 2. Better understanding of the steps currently taken by Social Media and other companies to respond to such content in conflict setting, and the specific challenges they are confronting in doing so 3. A list of recommendations for all actors to research, strengthen, support those on the online front-line of armed conflicts, monitoring and responding to violent and hateful.

Onsite Moderator: 

Agnes Callamard, [email protected]

Online Moderator: 

Hawley Johnson, [email protected]

Rapporteur: 

Bakhtiyor Avezdjanov, [email protected]

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