IGF 2019 – Day 1 – Saal Europa – NRIs Collaborative Session On Human Rights

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. 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. 



>> SPEAKER:  Are there any speakers here?  Hello.  Really sorry for being late.  The session was supposed to start at 10:00, but unfortunately, none of the speakers are here.  Two of them couldn't land, and the two that were supposed to be online are not online.  We don't know why.  So we have 30 minutes, so I suggest since you are here, those of you who are interested to share as well cases from their own countries or ideas of how we can stress more on the human rights perspective or dimensions of Internet Governance, I'll be speaking on this.  So the session is on the national and regional initiatives, case studies from different countries that were supposed to be here to share cases from their own countries on how they are working on the human rights side.

So I would share the experience of Lebanon IGF.  I represent an organization that works on media development and freedom of expression including the freedom of Internet.  We work in Lebanon and in the region as well.

The Lebanon IGF has been conducted over the last year.  The first time in 2018, and it was supposed also to be conducted this year, 2019, but unfortunately, because we have protests today in Lebanon, since 40 days, we postponed the IGF 2019 until we will be able to engage more with the public sector.  I will tell you about the challenges that we faced as a Civil Society to engage with people in the Internet Governance.

People in Lebanon think about the Internet as something very technical, and they don't relate it to human rights or to their own interests.  What we try to do is like to bring more youth within the dialogue in order to have a wider community that is engaged in Internet Governance discussions.

We partnered with the DiploFoundation, and we organize some capacity-building workshops.  We try to stress on youth and as well on academics, because they have also the ‑‑ they can engage with their students.  We felt that this is a strategic partnership to have more people on the table, especially that in some regions we feel that governments are not that much engaging with Civil Society and academia, and this was an opportunity to have a wider community from different stakeholders engaged in Internet Governance discussions.  What we did is building the capacity of youth on Internet Governance issues and mainly the human rights dimensions.  So we focused on four areas where we thought it might be interesting for the community.

So it was access.  We focused the access to Internet is a human right today, and like we tried to focus on the benefits of having access to the Internet as an opportunity for people.

The second one is freedom of expression online.  The third one is privacy online, and the fourth area is multi-stakeholderism.  What we did is a campaign.  The campaign was called Have a Seat in order to engage people to have a seat on this multi‑stakeholderism table if you want.  So we explained the multi‑stakeholderism approach and the importance of having all stakeholders on equal footing.  Then we tried to engage with people.

So we like went to the streets, and we started producing short videos asking people, what do they think about, like, the right to access Internet or freedom of expression online and like having their privacy protected, et cetera.

In order to make them like feel that this is something that relates to them, it's not just something that is related to technology and telecommunication.  We even tried to engage in journalists to follow the policies more like closer and also to be aware of the human rights dimension that should be included in every policy governing the Internet.

And this year, like we did a public consultation meetings, so we did a meeting with Civil Society organizations working on human rights areas like promoting accountability and transparency, gender equality, elections, fair elections.  So we invited the most prominent in Lebanon to a meeting, and we discussed with them the whole process and focused and stressed as well on the importance of being engaged in these discussions to have human rights respected in this area.

Also, we did public consultation meetings with the universities, so we invited academics from different universities in order to engage with them to transfer this knowledge to their students so that they would be engaged and to encourage them to apply for workshops.  All these activities that we've done throughout the year helped us stress the human rights dimension, and it influenced, actually, the first year's agenda.

When we look at the sessions and workshops that were presented in the last Lebanon IGF that was organized, we see that a lot of sessions were on access to information, freedom of expression online, on balancing transparency, privacy and security.  So there was a lot of sessions having this dimension, which was like a success for the Civil Society in Lebanon, having a voice on a multi‑stakeholder platform and engaging with the public actors in order to have these principles on the agenda of discussion.

So I don't want to speak a lot, so this is the experience of the Lebanon IGF and how we are trying to stress on the human rights dimension of Internet Governance.  I would like to hear from you, if you have any ideas from your own countries, on how to promote more of this dimension of Internet Governance or if you want to ask me about our experience as well in engaging with different communities in Lebanon in order to have a wide community that is supporting IG issues and engaged in the policies discussion.  So if you have any questions or interventions, I would be happy to take them.  Please.

>> AUDIENCE:  I'm Marina, and I'm from an organization called Womenkind Worldwide, which is a global women rights organization based in the UK.  We had a chat before this session started.

I wondered if you could say a bit about how through your work you tried to engage marginalized groups including marginalized women to play a more active role until Internet Governance specifically and also whether you have any findings in relation to sorts of violence and abuse they might experience online, which I think is a really big problem for a lot of women and actually does prevent some women from engaging in the Internet and Internet Governance and particularly women that face multiple and intersecting discriminations because those that they face offline often play out online as well.

In our experience, particularly with women in public life, even if they are active on the Internet, it is censoring what they say.  Just the high levels of the abuse and experience.  Whether there's any insights in our work on this.

>> SPEAKER:  Yes, sure.  So I will start with what's happening currently in Lebanon.  As I told you, we have protests more than 40 days in Lebanon, and we've been following ‑‑ since they work a lot on monitoring the needs and doing social listening to understand the discourse on social media platforms, so we have a platform that we launched since the beginning of the protests called Lebanonprotests.com.  On this platform we have been gathering ‑‑ it's an open data platform where we gather the tweets around like specific hashtags going on around the revolution.  So we did not do a lot of analysis, so it's an open data platform where everyone can download whatever data they want and work on the analysis.  Also, it includes a dashboard, an interactive dashboard where we studied ‑‑ we went deeper into the aggregating, if you want, the activity online.

One of the findings was that despite that now, the revolution in Lebanon, we see on the streets, on the front lines women more than men even.  So we try to look at whether this is reflected as well online.  When we look at this dashboard, we see that the percentage of women interacting online is only about 25% while men dominate like more than 75% of the online discourse, even though it's not the reality because we are seeing like them more than men on the streets.

On another hand, also when we studied ‑‑ when we studied the of performance or the coverage of women during the last parliamentary elections in Lebanon, it was the first time we had many women candidates, more than 100 women candidates for the first time in the history of Lebanon.

When we studied as well their communication online, because it was like studying how the media covered ‑‑ and how much spaces were allocated to women in the media.  At the same time what was their discourse and presence as well on social media?  So we saw there was presence where it was less than men in proportion to their numbers, of course.

Also, the kind of activity that they did is different, so they were only posting things related to their campaigning, their activities, but nothing like positions and standards about what's really happening in politics in the country, as men candidates were doing.  So based on this study, we tried to work more and understand why women act differently online than offline.  We did some focus groups and some ‑‑ and some focus groups to understand why women are not that active online or what impedes them from being active.  One of the things that was found is that they do not feel safe online, and they are subject to a lot of harassment, especially women journalists.

So, again, if I come back to what's happening today in Lebanon, we see that women reporters are also reporting what's happening during the protests on the streets, and there's a huge campaign today online bullying for these reporters, sharing their mobile numbers all over the Internet.  People are using applications to mask their numbers and calling them like every second and harassing them and sending them even online ‑‑ sending them pornographic videos, et cetera.  So specifically to women reporters.

All these incidents like definitely show us how much women face more violence online than men, and this is reflecting their activity online as well.  So what we are trying to do working with women through training on communications ‑‑ on effective communication and public participation.  So we try to work with the ‑‑ with some groups, female leaders on providing trainings on the effective use of communication including like social media platforms.

Understanding the challenges online, and being able to formulate clear messages and being active while understanding all these threats.  Of course, it's not the solution.  There is a lot to do and a lot of discussions in this regard to know how we can like promote the protection of women and marginalized groups online.  Not only women but the LGBT community, they face the same threats online more than other people.

So if you have any ideas, I know this is a large debate all over the world, how to face online harassment specifically for women.  I don't know if you have any best practices in this regard on the effective use of ICT while understanding the threats and knowing how to mitigate these threats online.

Any other intervention or question or anything you want to share about your local communities, the work that you're doing?

Yes.  Can you come near to the mic?

>> AUDIENCE:  Hello.  My name is Andre, and I'm here partly for the Internet GF.  I wanted to bring up an example from Italy from the IGF experience.

There was a panel on basically how the Internet became a vehicle for harm and for particularly heinous crimes.  One of the best cases that was brought by the Italian IGF was the grassroots movement that was able to achieve a law on revenge porn in Italy.  Italy is one of the few countries that has it in the penal code different revenge porn as a crime, and we have the description and the sanctions attached to that and already there's been court sanctioning cases of revenge porn.

So this all started from a grassroots movement of Internet users, mainly the young teenagers and girls.  They created a campaign on social media and brought this to the attention of the parliament.  They were quite successful because the parliament in 2015 in Italy was working on so‑called Internet Bill of Rights.  The Internet Bill of Rights said the framework said that the Internet has to respect and guarantee the protection of basic human rights online.  So they used that as the building block.  They said, look, the parliament already did a great job in establishing these basic principles, but they need to be operationalized.  Something is missing.

There were cases in Italy of revenge porn, very high‑profile that got the attention of the media of youngsters being bullied, and their private videos were being shared online.  That brought extreme consequences.  In one of these cases the victim ended up committing suicide despite having went to the ‑‑ she went to the police to report it, but the police told them, look, there is little we can do.  She felt that, you know, it was her fault.

So that really helped in creating the environment in the public opinion that something needs to be done.  So the environment was there.  The framework in the parliament or the legal framework was there, but still a lot was missing.  So a good example was then reported in the last Italian IGF, it was at the end of October was this initiative of a network that was really a self‑organized network led by 20‑something‑year‑olds mainly girls, who were able through creating Facebook groups online to reach the members of the parliament that already signed this declaration years back.

They were able to bring these themes across the scope, so from right and left MPs and center MPs, they were able to bring that to their attention.  They succeeded in this law being enacted in the last year.  So that was, I think, a very interesting example of how the debate on Internet Governance is very relevant and related to the lives of the Internet users and to the protection of their rights and recognizing that the Internet brings amazing innovation and connectivity and builds community but at the same time can be a very dangerous way of bullying, of marginalizing, the criminalizing particularly when there are some habits in the society that tend to ‑‑ do not focus on these things.  They said, well, it's the girl's fault, or it's someone else's fault that they're sharing these images.  Now this is something that brought almost a cultural change, and we had a panel on that.

One girl was able to participate and four other girls connected online.  Some of them were teens, 17 years old, so they all shared how they were able to bring this to the attention of the schoolmates and classmates, and from there they went up the chain to the local political representative and then reached the parliament and have this law now.  So that's the experience that I wanted to share.

If you want to have more information, I think the reports from the Italian IGF has been published, and there's a whole session about the revenge porn, and that's all available.  I think we'll be doing that.  Thank you.

>> SPEAKER:  Thank you for sharing.  Any other intervention or success like the Italian law that has been brought?  Okay.  So we thank you for taking part of in session with one speaker.  So thank you for your interest, and we wish you a great IGF for the other sessions.  Thank you.

( Applause )