IGF 2023 WS #424 Internet in War & Protest: Eastern Europe & Central Asia


Human Rights & Freedoms
Internet Shutdowns
Rights to Access and Information

Organizer 1: Kirill Koroteev, Agora International Human Rights Group
Organizer 2: Damir Gainutdinov, Net Freedoms Project

Speaker 1: Joanna Szymanska, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Tatsiana Ziniakova, Civil Society, Eastern European Group
Speaker 3: Natalia Krapiva, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Kirill Koroteev, Civil Society, Eastern European Group

Online Moderator

Damir Gainutdinov, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Kirill Koroteev, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Debate - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

Whether governmental actions aimed at restricting access to the Internet, in whole or in part, can be justified under international law?
What are the obligations of businesses facing a choice between responding to national l repressive laws and demands and the need to comply with international human rights standards?
What are effective strategies that civil society can employ to withstand the threats of growing digital repressions and strengthen digital resistance?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Knowledge and understanding of how authoritarian governments violate human rights online through vague and overly broad legislation to suppress debate on social media, as well as through new technologies, some of which are also used by democracies, to spy on and repress civil society and dissidents. The panel can inform civil society’s advocacy efforts and debate effective strategies of staying resilient to digital threats.


This workshop will explore the recent threats to digital rights associated with the protests in Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan and Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. In the past three years, the authorities of these countries resorted to internet shutdowns, website blocking, including wholesale blocking of social media, attempts to separate national Internet zones from the global network, and different kinds of digital surveillance, including spyware and facial recognition. Repressive governmental actions also included the application of extremism and “fake news” laws to mass media, social media, and messaging applications. The legal basis for such restrictions is always unclear and poorly defined, yet their application results in multiple convictions with long prison terms. The speakers will discuss these developments in the context of growing digital authoritarianism and international human rights law. Beyond discussing state conduct, the speakers will also address the obligations of businesses when they are faced with conflicting requirements of domestic regulators and international human rights standards.

Expected Outcomes

Greater understanding by the representatives of governments, businesses, and civil society of the dangers of adopting or complying with certain laws and practices that, despite seemingly neutral or vague language, may result in severe restrictions of digital rights and freedoms, based on the lived experience of civil society in Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

Hybrid Format: The discussion will be open to online and on-site attendees who would like to intervene and share their experience with the panel. Both moderators will take turns to make participation as equitable as possible between people online and people on site. The rapporteur will take notes that will be projected/shared on screen; so that participants can follow the conversation. The moderators will organize two or more rounds of comments / questions, alternating on-site and online participation.