IGF 2021 Lightning Talk #40 The unexplored Dichotomy of Internet Access and Online Hate

Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (12:45 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (13:15 UTC)
Conference Room 1+2

Open Internet Democracy Initiative
Catherine Muya- Open Internet Democracy Initiative/ ARTICLE19 Eastern Africa  - African Group Esther Mwema -Open Internet Democracy Initiative/ Digital Grassroots- African Group


Catherine Muya- Open Internet Democracy Initiative/ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa  - African Group Esther Mwema -Open Internet Democracy Initiative/ Digital Grassroots- African Group

Onsite Moderator
Catherine Muya
Online Moderator

Esther Mwema


Esther Mwema



Duration (minutes)



This session is focused on intersecting thematic areas of Trust, security, and stability as well as economic and social inclusion and human rights. 2020 has proven the internet is not only an important means of communication but a critical way of life. This has led to a renewed global focus on bridging the digital divide to bring the benefits of connectivity to those still without access. However, many digital platforms used by the newly connected can become sites of hate speech, harassment, and violent extremism - much of which is directed at women and young girls. The consequences of these negative encounters can lead many new digital users to avoid participating fully in online life - or to go back offline. In this talk, we will draw lessons from our work in southern and eastern Africa bringing women and youth from underrepresented communities online, and share the strategies we have found to be effective for protecting and empowering new users, especially those vulnerable to hate speech and online violence.

In particular, we shall answer the following policy questions: How to ensure we have safe digital spaces and how we can promote equitable development and prevent harm by ensuring we have inclusive societies and digital tools are not used for harmful purposes.

To engage the audience, we will use: a) Twitter polls can be used for offline participants to generate traction for our session and IGF 2021. b) The session will include an interactive Q &A session where, those on-site can get to ask their questions via Twitter, while those online ask their questions through the Q&A feature. We are planning to use our social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter accounts to promote our session and increase participation during IGF.

Session Time
Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (12:45 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (13:15 UTC)
Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

In the future we need to: a) Design effective campaigns on digital rights to marginalized communities e.g refugee communities b) Implement safety by design approach to developer communities c) promote access to platforms to ensure trending algorithms don't promote hateful or violent speech

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

ALL- intensify campaigns on how to build an online active bystander community

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


This session was held on 7th December 2021 by Catherine Muya and Esther Mwema. 

In this session the speakers spoke about: 

  1. What inspired the speaker's open internet project - Catherine's project was a paper that analyzed the role of the law in tackling online violence in Kenya.  Esther's project was training a cohort of leaders on digital rights using the open net advocacy playbook. This was the need to address online violence that was worsened by the pandemic giving country-specific examples to help the audience humanize and empathize with the reality. Speakers also spoke about the need to drive inclusivity through training. 
  2. The session held a collaborative discussion between the speakers on issues raised which include: 

-privacy-centric and human rights centric Design of technologies ensuring safety is also a concern in the design

-Building inclusive teams 

-Building an active online bystander community and what this means 

-Algorithms on platforms promote hateful content

  1. Participants both online and offline got an open opportunity to contribute to the discussion and we received 4 questions,  we had more but had to limit them to keep time.Key were: 

-How to build active bystander communities and what the bystanders ought to do 

-How to create inclusive digital rights campaigns especially for a semi-literate African audience, the participants drew examples from the challenges they experienced in their work in Uganda. 


Key Takeaways: 

After an engaging session the main takeaways were: 

  • Failure to address online violence will push more people offline 
  • There is a need to ensure online safety is a consideration when designing technologies to make these features more accessible and visible
  •   We should encourage more internet users to be active bystanders by making or liking  a supportive comment or reporting offensive posts
  • We should invest more in targeted campaigns that increase knowledge of digital rights among marginalized communities. These include using more innovative approaches such as art or music and local languages. 
  • There is a need to invest more in human content moderation particularly for the global south. 


Social Media 

Prior to the session, we advertised the session on Twitter and Linked in using the # LT40 #IGF2021 #Inclusion

The tweet got more than 2768 impressions on Twitter and encouraged our online audience to follow us.  See example here: https://twitter.com/CatMuya/status/1467807037769895936?s=20  

During the session, we encouraged participants especially those attending to use the # to raise questions or comments. Participants were also able to connect with speakers on Twitter.