IGF 2017 WS #33 From 'Fake News' to Internet Shutdowns: A Look at World Trends in Freedom of Expression Online

Short Title: 
A Look at World Trends in Freedom of Expression Online

Proposer's Name: Ms. Rachel Pollack Ichou
Proposer's Organization: UNESCO
Co-Proposer's Name: Ms. Xianhong Hu
Co-Proposer's Organization: UNESCO
Ms Rachel POLLACK ICHOU, Intergovernmental Organization, UNESCO Ms Xianhong HU, Intergovernmental Organization, UNESCO, Ms Julie OWONO, Civil Society, Internet sans frontières, Mr Claudio LUCENA, Academia, Paraíba State University

Additional Speakers: 




Opening remarks: Ms Anna Karefelt, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) (5’)

Presentation of World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development ReportMr Guilherme Canela Godoi, Advisor for Communication and Information in Latin America, UNESCO (10')

Moderated discussion with subject matter experts (45’)

Moderator: Ms Rachel Pollack Ichou, Associate Programme Specialist, Executive Office, Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO

Subject matter experts:

Ms Florence Poznanski, Head of Brazil Desk, Internet sans frontières

Mr Cláudio Lucena, Professor, Paraíba State University, Brazil

Mr Peter Micek, General Counsel, Access Now, USA

Ms Bishakha Datta, Executive Director, Point of View, India

Mr Thomas Schneider, Director of International Relations, OFCOM, Switzerland

Questions and comments from in-person and online participants (30’)

Closing remarks by moderator (5’)


Session Title:  From ‘Fake News’ to Internet Shutdowns; A Look at World Trends in Freedom of Expression Online               

Date:  Thursday, 21 December 2017             

Time:  10:20 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.  

Session Organizer:  Rachel Pollack Ichou, UNESCO              

Chair/Moderator:  Rachel Pollack Ichou, UNESCO              

Rapporteur/Notetaker:  Chris Buckridge, RIPE NCC            

List of Speakers and their institutional affiliations:                

Anna Karefelt, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Guilherme Canela Godoi, UNESCO

Florence Poznanski, Internet sans frontières

Cláudio Lucena, Paraíba State University

Peter Micek, Access Now

Bishakha Datta, Point of View

Thomas Schneider, Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM)

Key Issues raised (1 sentence per issue):                 

If there were presentations during the session, please provide a 1-paragraph summary for each presentation:                 

Discussions that took place during the workshop session (3 paragraphs):       

Participant suggestions regarding the way forward/ potential next steps/key takeaways (3 paragraphs):     


Gender Reporting

Estimate the overall number of the participants present at the session: 116 (based on Sched)

Estimate the overall number of women present at the session:

To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women’s empowerment? 

Very much / gender responsive

If the session addressed issues related to gender equality and/or women’s empowerment, please provide a brief summary of the discussion:

The session featured a rich discussion of challenges to achieving gender equality online, particularly related to gender-based online harassment and abuse that has actively diminished women’s freedom of expression. Speakers cited studies and examples from several countries indicating that women have often restricted their own Internet activity due to threats and harassment online.

Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Country: France
Stakeholder Group: Intergovernmental Organizations

Country: France
Stakeholder Group: Intergovernmental Organizations

Speaker: Guy Berger
Speaker: Frank La rue
Speaker: Owono Julie
Speaker: Cláudio Lucena
Speaker: Courtney Radsch
Speaker: Thomas Schneider

Content of the Session:
Across the world, freedom of expression and journalism are under fire. Violent extremism, forced migration, and persistent inequality have contributed to a wave of political polarization, nationalism, and identity politics. As Internet intermediaries increasingly become primary platforms for accessing content, traditional media have seen their business models challenged, and some journalists see social media platforms and their algorithms as replacing them as the editors. How have these political, social and technological forces impacted freedom of expression online?

This session will provide a platform for discussion of these issues, building on the findings of the 2017 report of UNESCO's flagship series on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development. Set to be released in November 2017, the World Trends Report will explore recent developments at the global and regional levels in media freedom, pluralism, independence, and safety, each examined through a gender-sensitive lens and with special attention given to transnational and digital media. The focus of the session will be on emerging digital trends, such as the rise in internet shutdowns, the impact of algorithms on diversity of content, and the production, circulation and responses to ‘fake news’.

The session agenda will be as follows:

Opening remarks: Mr Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General, Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO (10’)

Moderated discussion with subject matter experts (see section on interventions for the list of subject matter experts and the topics they will cover (45’)

Questions and comments from in-person and online participants (30’)

Closing remarks by moderator (5’)

Among the specific topics to be discussed include:

- Media freedom: internet shutdowns; mass surveillance and its impact on privacy and freedom of expression; efforts to prevent violent extremism and counter online hate speech

- Media pluralism: algorithms, filter bubbles and polarization; initiatives to increase internet access and close digital divides; media and information literacy

- Media independence: platform self-regulation; responses to the spread of ‘fake news’; partnerships with journalists and fact-checkers

- Media safety: digital security threats to journalists, particularly gender-based harassment

- Gender: gender equality in digital media access, production, ownership, regulation and safety

- Global developments in Internet governance – impact on freedom of expression of events such as the IANA stewardship transition and the WSIS+10 review

Relevance of the Session:
The session will provide an opportunity for open dialogue on major trends in freedom of expression online around the world. A universal human right, freedom of expression and access to information have increasingly been recognized as essential for building peaceful, just and inclusive societies (Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). In the context of technological innovation and political polarization, it is essential to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss shared challenges encountered and possible ways forward in protecting freedom of expression online. This discussion will help all participants and the wider community of global internet users shape their digital futures to enhance their ability to seek, receive and impart information online.

Tag 1: Freedom of Expression
Tag 2: Algorithms
Tag 3: Fakenews

The session will be open with brief opening remarks by UNESCO Assistant Director-General Frank La Rue on the background and context of the report, highlighting the need to research trends in freedom of expression and media development.

The moderator, UNESCO Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development Guy Berger, will lead an interactive discussion with subject matter experts and in-person and online participants.

For each of the main thematic areas in the report (media freedom, media pluralism, media independence, safety of journalists, gender equality, and global developments in internet governance), the moderator will ask the subject matter expert a related question to which they will briefly respond (3' max) addressing the key areas identified in the report and adding additional information from their perspectives, expertise and experience in the following areas:

Media freedom: Ms Julie Owono, Head of Africa Desk, Internet sans frontières (Cameroon, Civil Society)

Media pluralism: Mr Cláudio Lucena, Professor, Paraíba State University (Brazil, Academia)

Ms Áine Kerr, Manager, Journalism Partnerships, Facebook (tbc) (Ireland, Private Sector)

Ms Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director, Committee to Project Journalists (USA, Civil Society)

Gender: Ms Bishakha Datta, Executive Director, Point of View (India, Civil Society)

Global developments in Internet governance: Mr Thomas Schneider, Director of International Relations, OFCOM (Switzerland, Government)

Following the initial responses of the panellists, the moderator will open up the discussion for comments and questions from in-person and online participants. In particular, participants will be invited to react on how these global trends have impacted their regions and their organizations, and to propose solutions and ways forward.

The list of provisionally confirmed speakers achieves gender, geographic, and stakeholder balance: three out of the six confirmed speakers are women; four are citizens of developing countries (in addition to the moderator and remote moderator); speakers come from four of the five UN regions (Africa, Asia-Pacific, GRULAC, and WEOG); and they represent four stakeholder groups (IGO, Government, Civil Society, and Academia). An additional speaker has been invited from Facebook, which would add a female speaker from the private sector. speakers are from developing countries. The two co-organizers are women, one with previous experience as an IGF session organizer and one who is organizing an IGF session for the first time.

Onsite Moderator: Guy Berger, Director, Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO
Online Moderator: Xianhong Hu, Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO
Rapporteur: Rachel Pollack Ichou, Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO

Online Participation:
The session will take steps to integrate remote participants as equal members in the discussion. Notably, the remote moderator will have a microphone and will be in close contact with the in-person moderator, to signal when questions or comments are received and to adapt as situations arise. In order to ensure a large number of remote participants, the session will be promoted by UNESCO on its website and through its Field Offices, which include setting up a remote hub to participate in this session and others at the IGF. The workshop's proposed remote moderator is prepared to manage this responsibility; she has training and experience in remote moderation, works at UNESCO on freedom of expression; and will be involved in the workshop's development as a co-organizer.

Discussion facilitation:
We propose an interactive round table discussion that will involve active engagement with subject matter experts, audience members and online participants throughout the discussion. The session will begin with opening remarks from Frank La Rue (UNESCO Assistant Director-General and former UN Special Rapporteur), followed by an interactive discussion moderated by Guy Berger (UNESCO Director and former professor and journalist). The moderator will structure the discussion along the five main themes covered in the report: media freedom, media pluralism, media independence, the safety of journalists, gender-related aspects, and global developments in Internet governance. For each area, the moderator and then invite speakers to address briefly for no more than three minutes (total 45'). Following the discussion with the subject matter experts, the moderator will open the floor for questions and comments from the in-person and remote participants (30'). Depending on the room, either microphones will be available for participants to queue, or one or two persons will circulate with roving mics.

Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: Yes
Link to Report: http://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/index.php?q=filedepot_download/4115/314

Additional Reference Document Link: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/world-media-trends

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678