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.
>> MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. We would like to start in two or three minutes for more audience to come. We will start at 35 sharp.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Good morning welcome to our session. My name is Kelly Kim. I will be the moderator for the next hour. Yeah, welcome, our session, our workshop on network disruption across borders, we'll talk about Internet shut down. What is Internet shut down or blackout or network disruptions? It can be defined as an international disruption of Internet or electronic communications rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information.
So they also include blocks of social media platforms. To date, network disruptions have been perpetrated by Governments in response to governance challenges ranging from elections and public protest to cheating on school exams.
However, recently, these disruptions have spanned entire countries and also reached across the borders in the form of attacks, cyber attacks that aim to prevent and mitigate cross border cybersecurity threats. This Roundtable will discussion important questions implicated by this new trend.
Our speakers will describe the range of disruptions currently taking place, eliminate the various impacts, on the various human, economic, and social rights, as well as economic development and seek to build and strengthen norms on Internet persons to the Sustainable Development Goals.
I will introduce the panel, first we have Melody Petri. She will talk about Access Now and the Global Keep It on Coalition. Next to myself, we have Amir Rastity, Internet Security and Legal Rights, Center For Human Rights in Iran. And he will talk about Iran's policy and national Internet and how tech companies, over comply with Iran extensions and et cetera.
And we have Colia Embobwa. She's an organizer with the African school of Internet governance and media rights activist. She will talk about Zimbabwe case.
Last but not least is Ross Skillman, with the European Telecommunication Network Operators. He will talk about impact of network shutdowns and policy response and the way forward.
So I will give each speaker seven to 10 minutes, then I will open the floor for about 20 minutes for comments and questions.
So first, we have Melody.
>> MELODY PETRI: Thank you, Katie. Thank you, everyone for waking up early to the first session. My name is Melody, I'm a Director at Access Now. Access Now does a broad range of activities and work around digital rights. But one of the fact sheet campaigns, actually is on Internet shutdowns and Internet disruption, and we're coordinating the keep it on Coalition, which is a global campaign, that gathers 200 members in 70‑something countries. We're all organizations from Civil Society.
Our missions are not all the same. You have organizations focusing on the monitoring of Internet censorship and measurement of Internet shutdowns for example.
Others are journalist Unions and student associations, who are affected by shutdowns. So the missions differ, but we're all united behind the objective to put an end to Internet disruptions. The reason why this Coalition started in the first place is because we were observing a dangerous trend of the increase in the number of Internet shutdowns around the world. The justifications that were being used varied and I'm sure that we will discuss some of them with the specific cases but Amir and Colleen in Iran and Zimbabwe. Across the world, different reasons were being given for Government triggered or intentional Internet disruptions. As Kelly mentioned during the introduction, the disruptions vary also in nature.
One of my colleagues has developed a lengthy document called anatomy of a shutdown, looking at all the different ways that authorities can interfere with Internet connectivity and access.
And so we have been trying to advocate against shut down, but also the preventive work to understand why authorities would decide to shut down the Internet in the first place. And talk about the impact that Internet shutdowns have. Because one of the topics of this session is also maybe like the connection between cyber attacks and the threats in cyber space as well as Internet disruptions. And when we see that states are very keen to try to establish norms and agreements to prevent cyber attacks, when we see that there is a real concern over the impact of cyber attacks, we see an opposite trend where states themselves order Internet shut down that have sometimes a very similar impact in the fact that people no longer have access to information, specific services or all of a sudden being confiscated and inaccessible.
The impact on various rights beyond freedom of expression, beyond sometimes the ability to organize and mobilize online. But even in terms of accessing educational services, access to healthcare, proposed online, these are all affected. And we, for us, it was important to be part of this discussion here at IGF. Because we want to make sure that we do not disregard the impact of shutdowns and states have to ‑‑ to work with us on this issue in the same way that they're concerned about cyber attacks and about the impacts beyond borders or across borders of cyber attacks, beyond their willingness to regulate or to establish norms.
For us, it is really important that they also see the impact of Internet shutdowns and help Civil Society in reversing this trend that we're seeing with really dangerous Internet disruptions that have consequences I'm sure we will have the opportunity to discuss.
And indeed, when we talk about the rules in the cyber space, the good behavior or what kind of behavior actors should have in the cyber space, these are all very important questions.
Actually, in two weeks, the U.N. will host another discussion, not about Internet governance, but about ‑‑ about states responsibility in cyber space with discussions at the open‑ended Working Group in New York in December.
So as we're seeing this eagerness from states to build new norms and stop cyber attacks, indeed this is important. And we can see this focus on cross border conflict. It is important to identify that while perpetrating shutdowns, they are perpetrating similar kind of attacks but on their own people.
I think this is something that is not said enough. We don't realize that these kind of measures that are rendering the Internet inaccessible, whether it is through a blanket shutdown, a complete blackout or whether it is through throttling, which means that people are no longer able to upload videos, they can no longer document what is going on. And especially in times of conflict, in times of protest, where we know the importance of having access to communications channels, not just as I said for journalism purposes or even cities in journalism, but also to ensure that our loved ones are safe and secure.
To ensure that we have access to emergency services. To ensure that we know where they might be unsafe areas not to go and what alternative traffic to take, so on. I think it is really important to not normalize the impact of shut down. And the fact that shutdowns are very often being used ‑‑ not necessarily for justification that are being given, often like to contain violence during protests. To maintain public order. To prevent cheating during exam, as we said in the introduction. But also to spread ‑‑ to prevent the spread of fake news and disinformation or hoax. Especially during elections. I think it is important to address the root causes of these issues. Disinformation existed before the Internet.
So shutting down the Internet will not necessarily address the issue of disinformation. Just like if you cut my microphone while I'm yelling because I'm angry at someone, I won't stop being angry at that person, and I won't stop yelling. You may not be able to hear me, but the root cause of my anger and the fact that I'm still yelling won't stop.
It is a clumsy metaphor, but I hope we'll be able to address some of the issues. I'm really looking forward to hear from the other panelists about the specific incidents of Internet shutdowns around the world, and what can we do, what has been done already to respond. And how different party, not just Civil Society, but telecommunication companies, regulators, authorities through multilateral agreements and multilateral initiatives can also address both the issue of cyber attacks and of Internet shutdowns and not necessarily see them as two different worlds but see them as operations that can have a similar impact on population. But played by different actors.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. I want Melody to later answer the question of how cyber attacks in towns or network disruptions are similar or different in these trends, the trends you see ‑‑ Access Now see. And recently, as everyone may well know, that telegram has been attacked several times because Hong Kong protestors are using telegram ‑‑ are known to use telegram to ‑‑ to plan protests and all.
So it is another form ‑‑ I think it is another form of new cyber attacks as well as network disruptions.
And next we have Amir.
>> AMIR: Thank you. Well, thank you for the opportunity, and thank you everyone. Before actually going to talk about the recent Internet shut down in Iran, during the past couple of days, I realized, unfortunately, there is not enough information out there about Iran's infrastructure and how they invest a lot of money and resources especially after the 2009 presidential election to create their own network, local network in Iran. And at the same time, they try to pass laws in the parliament, put in place some policies to how to use this network. And also another factor that is really important about Iran that makes Iran quite unique among the other countries is Internet ‑‑ the Government in Iran has absolutely monopoly over the Internet.
So usually, when you want to get Internet connection, you go through your ISP and your ISP is able, to you know, independently get the Internet from outside world. But in Iran, actually, you have to go through the Governmental gateway, and it is like they have absolute power over the Internet. They can slow it down, they can disrupt it. If it is not necessarily like what we witnessed like last week, they can shut it down.
So these are three main factor investing on infrastructure and creating services. The second one, policy, putting in place a policy and regulation to how to use this infrastructure. And the third one, the only gateway that the Government has absolute control over the gateway are three main actors that Iran actually invests a lot in order to have full control over the Internet. Unfortunately, we have to deal with another one, which is like the problem of ‑‑ the political problem between Iran and U.S. Government and the sanctions U.S. put in place, actually helped Iranian Government to encourage people to come and use their own national infrastructure. If you look at in the past, like three, almost three years ago, in January, 2018, when protest was going on in Iran, they shut down the Internet only for half an hour. They couldn't continue to shut it down for more than half an hour. Because if they continued, it was obvious that country would be in a lot of problem.
Health system, banking system, all of the system would be like collapsed. And they had to pay a huge price to keep the Internet shut down.
So they restore the Internet after half an hour. And they try to just, you know, do the traditional, classic like disruption, blocking, censorship, things like that. From then to now, they try to encourage all the businesses and individual to bring their service, their data centers, their infrastructure in Iran and use Iran's national infrastructure. Which by the way, the infrastructure itself is not a bad thing. Because of that infrastructure actually we have faster Internet in Iran. It is important who control the infrastructure. What policy control the infrastructure?
So people didn't want to ‑‑ businesses and individuals, you know, didn't want to move in Iran and use Iran's national infrastructure because all of them, you know ‑‑ all of us, we could see these days coming. They can use this infrastructure against us. They can shut it down, slow it down, censor it. Everyone prefer to keep their service and everything outside of the country. Unfortunately because of the maximum pressure of Trump policy, all the tech companies start to ban Iranian to use their infrastructure, including digital ocean banned Iranian to use its services. Amazon Cloud, AWL, Google Cloud, even some services of Google, you know, developer use to develop their own applications.
They left all of us with one unfortunate option, which was moving back in Iran and using Iran's national infrastructure. It is like being entrapped. So now if you look at what's the big difference between like today's shut down and almost like two years ago shut down. During this five, six days that you have like almost 100% shutdown. All the national services, they were working, operating quite good. In January 2018, I was receiving report that like, for example, Iranian uber snap was not able to answer its customers because simply they were using Google map and Google map needs to use the international services.
But today, all of the services were operating very well. Snap was working very well. This is what Iranian Government actually wants. They want to keep everything inside the country so they can have full control over the infrastructure and not infrastructure, communication. They are investing a lot on national search engine, national emailing, email service. And even though, it can get a little bit more scary. Even national SSL certificate.
So imagine, you know, again, because of the tech sanctions, all of the people in Iran, they forced to use Iran's national infrastructure and services basically we left with any kind of shelter.
The other problem, which is a little bit related to the tech sanction is tech companies that actually they are overcomplying with the tech sanctions. And Alabama administration, Obama actually issue the executive order to Iran, which based on that personal communication tools are not part of the sanctions.
And some other exception as well. But unfortunately, again, when Trump came to the power and put in place its maximum pressure program, because of the fear, most of the tech companies, they prefer to basically forget about everything. Just simply put aside the problem and block all of their services on Iran.
Basically, they're overcomplying with the tech sanctions. So with this regard. The four main items, what Iran did and outside of Iran, U.S. state, Iran's situation is quite unique among all of the countries that they shut down the Internet.
I believe we have to look at this case as a case study. Because all the other countries can look at Iran as like kind of role model. They can understand how Iran actually is able to control everything inside the country working perfectly fine and people ‑‑ people would be like happy because, you know, they have access to their services. But they don't have access to the outside world.
I believe that one of the things I actually learn is unfortunately, there is not much in terms of international pressure, in terms of telecommunication body regulation. That can do to stop country like Iran, shutting down the Internet. So I believe we need international telecommunication buddies, international ‑‑ like U.N. mechanism to come together, all of us to come together and find a solution.
Because what happened today in Iran can happen to everyone. All the countries that they don't like people to communicate with each other free. Yeah, I mean, the reason I'm here is to find a solution how the international community can come together, have some sort of regulation, some sort of accountability to keep a country like Iran accountable, and stop them. Or something like the price of Internet shutdown is higher, not like what we are seeing these days in Iran. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Amir. It is very ‑‑ I cannot say it is interesting. But at this IGF, I notice that there is this ‑‑ there are many sessions on tech nationalism or the sovereignty. It is interesting to see how Iran's like tech nationalism or network sovereignty is actually forced by U.S. economic sanctions, which I mean, it is a side impact, isn't it?
If there is any Government, any people from Government or parliament, I would love to have your comments on our panels.
Next, we have Colia.
>> COLIA EMBOBWA: I know I will speak a lot, and I will talk about Zimbabwe. In terms of Internet shutdowns. By January, we had two countries, Sudan, democratic Republic of Congo that launched shutdowns that spilled into 2019. Capon had an Internet shutdown, as well. I think it was two weeks, 48‑hour blackout, and Zimbabwe a week later had a 7‑day shutdown, which started out as a total blackout, but gradually became targeted at specific social media platforms. This was not the first time Zimbabwe had an Internet shutdown.
2016, we had sort of a ‑‑ must have been about 12 hours shutdown. But there was a lot of pressure from, you know, just Zimbabwe in general and on social media. Because at the time, Facebook was more prominent, but a huge following and huge number of Zimbabweans on Twitter.
At the time, which I find significant, the ministers of ICT at the time was open to a lot of conversation on social media. So he sort of buckled down to that pressure and got restoration of, you know, the services. But when we start looking at the trend of Internet shutdowns and how they occur, what is more concerning is the processes or the events that happen before the Internet shutdown and after the Internet shutdown. It is not really about the days when you have a blackout.
Because when you start to focus on the actual blackout itself, you start to wonder whether the people were caught off guard. I think a lot of work is done by Civil Society. I think Access Now's presence is really felt in terms of, you know, raising awareness on the impact of an Internet shut down. What to do when you have an Internet shutdown. The questions and conversation we should be having now is should we really be reacting to an Internet shutdown or should we be more proactive. I think the Nigeria case was interesting to watch.
The noise around the shutdown before it occurred actually forced from the Office of The President's office, the national security office to actually issue out a statement to say that they would definitely not shutdown the Internet.
But also the contradictions within the African context to look at which office actually handles the Internet shutdowns. In Zimbabwe, the Institute of Southern Africa, and the Zimbabwe lawyers for human rights during the shutdown, took up a constitutional challenge against the Internet shutdown.
What we got from that ruling was that the office that had actually issued or ordered the Internet shutdown, was not the right office. And this was the Office of The Minister of National security. But what it also gets you to reflect on is the fact that ruling implies, if it was the President that had issued the Internet shutdown, there would have been absolutely nothing wrong with it.
And also, just to look at the fact that Internet shutdowns are generally very political, within the African sense.
If there is ever a time that the private sector or the private players who are often coerces or coopted into shutting down the Internet within any African context, they should actually have a firm understanding around the laws that are used.
For instance, in Zimbabwe, that Internet shutdown, if ordered by the President would have been okay, and the interception of communications act.
What is interesting or disturbing to note is that firstly, that written directive alone was not issued to every service provider. It was targeted specifically at the most prominent or bigger telecoms operators. Within that context, the mobile network operators. What do they do when they get the shutdown? They encourage everybody else. Because Econet Wireless is the largest mobile operator in Zimbabwe. They issued out a statement that said they had no choice and they would encourage everybody else to shutdown, which is, you know they did.
We need to have a conversation around how do we get Governments to commit to not shutting down? And I think the recurrences of Internet shutdowns, in countries like Ethiopia and Capon show how shameless the Governments are. In fact, in the time ‑‑ after the services were restored in Zimbabwe, the presidential spokesperson went on national radio to say they would definitely effect another Internet shutdown, if they had to do it.
What does this do at the regional level, when you look at the commitments made by African states and Governments themselves? So for us in 2018, we had the African Union coming up with a declaration on Internet governance where they were speaking specifically to issues around also cybersecurity, human rights, and freedom of expression and actually relate ‑‑ speaking to issues relating to Internet shutdown. And the Unions meet at the African Internet Governance Forum, but there was no sense of will to get people to account or even begin to have the conversation around, you know, an Internet shutdown and get accountability or proper strategy that shames Governments that are continuously effecting Internet shutdowns.
Of course, there is a lack of interim coordinated approach that would actually make the principles. So we have been working around what is called the African declaration on Internet rights and freedoms. And it has also been accepted at African Union level, but there is nothing actually legally binding or there is a lack of commitment by African states to actually think about how you get more firmer commitment from Governments themselves.
And lastly, for me, would be that as much as there is a lot of solidarity and support and, you know, just like the pressure when we have an Internet shutdown. I think that there needs to be more than just an Ad Hoc sort of measure or response to Internet shutdowns by Civil Society themselves, but mostly, I think, also, how do we actually get the private sector to actually realize at some point, they would actually need to start thinking about which laws they need to start talking about getting repealed or amended that leaves them as vulnerable as they are. Because obviously, the Governments don't go and switch off. They need them to do it for them. Thanks.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, Colia. Last but not least, Ross from Act Now.
>> ROSS SKILLMAN: Good morning, everyone. Many thanks to everyone who just preceded me on the panel.
I think listening already to the interventions that have just gone, it is extremely encouraging to know that while I do represent a different angle, I really think we are very much on the same page. No one benefits from Internet shutdowns.
I want to speak briefly about some of the impacts perceived from the Telco side and look at some of the things that we are doing. Some calls have been made for change at the international level. And I would echo those calls. I would echo those needs. So I will ‑‑ that is the sort of structure of my intervention.
Just to begin where, ETNA, the European Telecommunication Network Association represents the biggest Telcos in Europe. We have 30 or so members and observers and represent 70% of the investor sector in Europe. We have been operating from Brussels, working on mostly EU policy since 1992, but our companies do have a global footprint. They are global companies.
A Government mandated shutdown of the Internet has countless impacts, not least human rights as has been alluded to.
I will repeat actually what the other speakers have said already, it puts citizens' safety in the moment at risk, it disrupted economic development, it disrupts the economic system of a country.
Critical infrastructure, be that physical, digital, financial, is disrupted, as it relies on the Internet. So in fact, the threat against which any Government is ostensibly seeking to cause protection, while that may be stopped disproportionately, you cause a whole raft of the new problems which can't be denied.
Indeed Government function itself may cease to go on. The economic impact is impacted from the very beginning, from the moment the Internet is shut down. That is a disruption of financial services, damaging local businesses loss of GDP, which happens immediately. High connectivity countries were shut down.
Shutdowns impact foreign investment, create trade barriers, produce a reputational risk for countries which, in the end, as we know, always hurts the citizens.
Taking a step back to our position, the companies who have to effect the shutdown mandated by the Government, technology companies and Telcos are not exempt from the impact. As Colia mentioned, there is sometimes a lack of clarity on the laws which have to be respected. A lack of certainty on the chain of command from which orders are coming.
Telcos are in a position where they have to comply with the legal demands of the jurisdiction in which they operate. Our members have the protection in newspaper of legal systems where this is much, much more difficult to get around, but it doesn't undermine ‑‑ it doesn't mitigate the fact that we do have to comply with some very difficult orders.
Moving briefly to the question of content. Our position in Europe is that when it comes to content moderation and when it comes to the content put online, we don't want to be the judges of that content. We will tell ‑‑ follow the orders given to us, provided they find their basis in the rule of law, e‑law and human rights law. I think this comes down to the importance of trust.
Trust needs to be at the center of every political decision going forward. With regard to Internet governance, this has been recognized at every level. Earlier this year, the Osaka track approved by the G20 called for free flow of data. Trust is vital for the provision of our services as Telcos.
From a telecom's perspective, scoring highly in Europe on personal data protection, privacy, trust, and quality of our services, we need to ensure that citizens feel safe in their digital experiences, citizens must be at the center of our decisions and this applies to citizens and users of our services wherever in the world they may be.
After all, we develop services ensuring speed and reliability of networks for the benefit of the citizens and the economy. And shutdowns erode trust in our services and everything that relies on them.
So what are we doing? Because I think that's the outcome we need to think of today. Where next? First and foremost in Europe, there is mutual cooperation between the private sector and public authorities. We comply with national regulations, and demands, based on the rule of law on EU law and on human rights laws. And concretely outside of Europe in context we are involved in a number of initiatives which range from the broad to the specific. From the international to the regional.
I wanted to touch on a few of those. Our member companies are committed to the U.N. global contract, demonstrating our commitment to comply and ensure compliance with human rights. In fact, each year, our communications and progress from our companies highlight our mechanisms to monitor the effectiveness of the policy. Highlight the existence of grievance mechanisms. And demonstrate our commitment.
Commitment to the global contract means observing the U.N. declaration on human rights on the U.N. guiding principles. Going beyond this, a more sector‑specific approach is the Global Network Initiative, the GNI. This is a multistakeholder voice in the face of Government restrictions and demands, of which several are Telco members apart. Again, we're happy to sit around the same table with other actors, Access Now, for example.
The Global Network Initiatives urges Governments to be transparent, urges operators to communicate decisions that need to be undertaken. Encourages cooperation among all stakeholders.
To take a slightly different angle, looking at our commitment to human rights, ETNO as an organization itself, has signed a cooperation framework with the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe shapes and directs the international norms with respect to human rights.
In fact, quite a pertinent example of the most recent interactions with the consul of Europe is our engagement on ethics and artificial intelligence.
Last but not least, this week in this very place, sir Tim Berner Lee outlined the governance for the web, for companies and citizens and governance. It is a dialogue, a trilogue, if you will. It calls for working towards an ever‑increasing quality of service and development of online trust. The contract calls on Government to keep the Internet available all of the time. This is as my fellow panelists alluded to. Requires legal and regulatory frameworks to minimize Government‑triggered disruptions.
How can Telcos contribute? We have been called to make the Internet affordable and accessible by working towards an ever‑increasing quality of service ensuring speed, performance and crucially, reliability. Going forward, our work ‑‑ I speak of all of us ‑‑ is based on trust. Our work as Melody and Amir have alluded to, requires a multistakeholder dialogue and requires an international solution. We must inform the public debate and encourage the appropriate laws and norms.
Governments are called to keep all of the Internet available all of the time. Establishing the right legal and regulatory frameworks to minimize Government‑triggered disruptions. I think it goes without saying that we all need to be around that table. We all need to be part of the process, the drafters of the laws, regulations, Internet, governance, international organizations, private sector, and Civil Society.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, Ross. We don't have much time, so I will just open the floor. So if anyone has comments or questions? Could you just come up to the table and use the mic.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much for those super‑interesting statements. My question would be: How do you think the learning process works also between states considering Internet shutdown or the sort of control and censorship on the Internet? Have you picked out any mechanisms there? Or is it more a mechanism that is very centered around national need?
>> MELODY PETRI: If you look at the statistics and the fact that in 2018 we counted shutdowns in 25 countries. 2019, the year is not even over, and December is often a popular month for shutdowns. But the year is not even over and we're already at 35 countries. So that is 10 more countries. It can appear as insignificant, it is actually crucial. It is a really significant increase from the past two years. It shows, I mean, of course, the more that you normalize the practice, it has regional effect.
Colia mentioned in the Africa continent, even a specific region in Africa, how when one country issues a shutdown, it can inspire its neighbors, especially when there are no repercussions, when there is total impunity, and economic impact, the consequences are often devastating for communities. In terms of sanctions, in terms of litigation, it is actually, so far, quite difficult to hold Government accountable for issuing shutdowns.
That is why so much of our efforts instead of reactive are proactive. By bringing the debate, when we look at the similarities, if not in method, but in impact of Internet shutdowns and cyber attacks, we see a discrepancy between the efforts to counter cyber attacks and the effort to counter shutdowns. We're grateful for the proclamation probing that Ross mentioned, but the enforcement mechanisms are not clear.
So if it we were, for example, to look at some norms that already exist within the realm of cyber attacks, we could try to see how behavior could be encouraging states. I don't know them by heart.
If we look at the Global Commission on the Stability of CybesSpace, they suggested some norms for responsible behavior in cyber space. Some of those norms are quite clear, if I can just quote. One second. And you can see ‑‑ I will tell me if you can see how they could apply to Internet shutdowns.
One norm says state and nonstate actors should neither conduct or knowingly allow activity that intentionally and substantially damages the general availability or integrity of the public core of the Internet. And therefore, the stability of cyber space. There is another norm that says.
State and nonstate actors must not pursue, support, or allow cyber operations intended to disrupt the technical infrastructure essential to elections, referenda, and publicities. When we see in 2019, the increase of shutdowns in elections we can see how a norm that is normally intended to prevent cyber attacks could apply perfectly to curtailing and preventing Internet shutdowns.
So far, the statistics are not in our favor, we're hoping by having the discussions, especially in such fora, and would have loved to have had a representative from a state at this panel. And we really encourage states to contribute and to take part, because we believe that they are an essential actor in the solutions.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you for your very interesting contributions. I wanted to get back to the example of Iran. Which I find quite fascinating. Because we see what is done by a Government to minimize economic effects, to minimize the services run smoothly. But the freedoms are still reduced. And we have this in so many countries now, if you don't get the law, which was passed in November in Russia, for example, we see this more and more. So how do we deal with this? We're now discussing of course, disruption because this is at the center. But we see what follows to keep the economic shocks low. So what could we do on this?
>> AMIR: Thank you for the question, Russia as far as I know, best of my knowledge, they're still far from where Iran is standing now. They passed some law. As far as I know, they didn't implement the network itself inside the country. Still ISPs are like allowed to get Internet independently from the Government. Of course, they need to get a license, but it is not like Iran that there is one unique gateway they have to go through that gateway to get their own Internet.
I mean, I think there is a lack of international law and policy. Again, it is not about Iran. What Iran did can be like a role model and all of the countries, like Russia, India, you know, what we are seeing in Africa countries, all of them, they can see these as a good solution for them to control the Internet. What makes me worry is we will see in the Internet all of them want their own national Internet and control it.
I just understood after this Internet shutdown in Iran that there is nothing in terms of international policy, international law, there is nothing at the ITU level, no kind of regulation to keep the country like Iran, Russia, this kind of country accountable and don't let them shutdown the Internet. Again, the network itself is not a problem. Actually because of the network that we have in Iran, access to more, faster Internet and reliable Internet. But the problem is who control that Internet? Who have the actually power to control the Internet?
Just today, I saw that the deputy to the administration of telecommunication, he said that he's working on a bill to propose to the parliament that if there is another shutdown, they need to have approval by the parliament.
But that just doesn't make sense. Because there should be no shutdown. It doesn't matter who is in charge of approving shutdown or not. There shouldn't be any shutdown. So again, we should look at Iran as a case study to find the solution internationally. All the telecommunication buddies, all of the international regulation at the ITU, people at U.N. say this is a new trend, not sure what is happening. That is one solution.
In case of Iran specifically, another situation would be removing sanctions, providing more access to the international infrastructure and international services. So people can actually use that to make sure that first of all, their data is safe and second of all, if there is a shutdown, their services would be like shutdown. They can provide service for their customers.
>> AUDIENCE: Hello. Thank you for interesting discussion. I'm from the Internet Finland, not the foundation. I would like to raise a possibility of a technological development that might change this equation. There are several projects putting low orbit satellites that can be reached directly by phones. If this technology becomes cheap enough that direct satellite access from a phone becomes a standard feature on every phone. How will this break things down? How will the Governments that want to control the Internet fight back? What will happen?
>> ROSS SKILLMAN: Thank you for your question. Can you hear me? Thank you for your question. I mean, certainly, that cuts the problem off. At the source. That would keep networks open. I can't speak on the technology behind it or the feasibility of when that will become affordable, because our members don't in their entirety provide such solutions.
But perhaps we can get in touch and I can discuss with you later, if that is possible.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. I see no more hands. So ‑‑ oh, okay. One last comment or question.
>> AUDIENCE: Hello, everyone. My name is Momau. I'm here to represent the project in Gambia. We have been working on training girls on Internet courses and digital rights. And codings and everything. We're really doing well in the course of that side.
The problem we had we had a shutdown as well in Gambia in 2016. We have a program that we are collaborating, where we have a radio program and we sensitize ‑‑ enlighten people on digital ‑‑ the media laws, okay, and the digital rights and everything.
Recently, we have been having call to the parliamentarians and policymakers. Because the problem is in Gambia, the user so into technology and so into the Internet, but the policymakers, especially leaders are not into it that much.
We had to go into their offices and try to enlighten them about the benefits of the Internet, about technology and everything.
So it went to a level that whereby recently we're revising our constitution and they will ‑‑ they will ‑‑ we were sent a survey on what the youth want on the policy to be added ‑‑ what to be added on the constitution.
As a youth group, with other youth groups, what we do, we collaborate together and make sure the Internet policy included as well as gender policies. So these are the things that we are working on.
It is really helping us. And things are going well. So what we do is like you as a people, you as to help us in order to collaborate with our Government policymakers, for example, in terms of international laws. In order to stop the shutdown. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you for sharing Gambia's case.
So okay. We are almost at the end of the session, and I will give like 30 seconds for each speakers to wrap up. Who wants to go first?
>> COLIA EMBOBWA: Thank you for that. I wanted to make a contribution around the satellite issues. From an African perspective, I think we would probably also really need to look at the licensing regimes. Because I think even just having satellite presence is ‑‑ needs to go through some sort of licensing with the, you know, relevant authority. I think for my country, there is the conflict between we still have a broadcasting authority and then we have the postal and regulatory authority, and they're trying to merge that. There is politics around frequency, spectrum. It is something to look at, but also the regulatory and licensing implications.
>> MELODY PETRI: I feel like I spoke quite a lot. Thank you very much for allowing us to have this discussion, contributing to the discussion. I really like the question about the satellite as an alternative to find a way to circumvent. And actually, the community has really tried to find ways to circumvent Internet shutdowns. There are lots of things that we're talking about. Access Now, we're also trying to provide tips and advice to communities when they face a shutdown. One of our partners and keep it on member witness developed a tool to give advice to people to how to document human rights violations and human rights abuse when there is a shutdown, including by offline mechanisms and tools.
So there are definitely a lot of possibilities, although we should still focus on preventing shutdowns, from happening in the first place. And that, I think, would require real effort and commitment from this community.
>> ROSS SKILLMAN: Touching on something Melody said. Circumvention is in this situation perhaps a helpful alternative. I think we all agree that the ideal is ensuring it never happens in the first place.
Something that was mentioned also in the question and answer time was what can we do? Instead of having only high‑level, nonbinding documents coming every so often during largely the same thing, certainly from my perspective, from the private sector, an important way to ensure accountability and ensure effectiveness is to have concrete reporting mechanisms and those must be quantifiable.
For example, just looking at the U.N. global contract, our members do respond every year their commitments and quantify what they're doing.
>> AMIR: I just want to thank, you know, during the really hard time that you had during the Internet shutdown in Iran, I really want to thank the Internet freedom community, all the friends, colleagues, that stand with us, help us. And just quickly talking about the satellite, I'm honestly ‑‑ regardless of how technically it is possible or not, I'm worried that maybe if even that's possible, there is a sanction on that as well.
So we need to think more broadly. We need to think how we damage, not only prevent the Internet shutdown, also prevent damage. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, everybody, for listening.