You are here

IGF 2018 - Day 3 - Salle XI - OF29 Freedom Online Coalition Open Forum

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Paris, France, from 12 to 14 November 2018. 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. 

***

 

>> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Good morning, everyone.  I would like to welcome you to the Freedom Online Coalition Open Forum in this very intimate space designed for interaction and conversation.  We will have to do our best to get a proper dialogue going.  And I would like to welcome you from around the world.  It is good to see that you found a quiet space to do that, but it might be nice to join in the conversation as well.  Feel free to do that. 

It is a coalition of 30 countries that was established originally in 2011 to promote Internet freedom.  It is a very active coalition currently under the Chairmanship of the German Federal Government. 

On the panel this morning I am pleased to welcome as head of the cyber coordination unit, Wolfram Von Heynitz and his colleague, Lisa Vermeer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands; Wafa Ben‑Hassine, Access Now, Middle East and North Africa Policy Lead; and Matthew Shears who is one of the co‑Chairs of the Freedom Online Advisory Network, which is a network of Civil Society and independent observers who work with the coalition on policy development. 

I am going to start by asking Wolfram to mention about the Berlin conference that's coming up.  And I will move on to the other panelists to talk about the issues confronting the coalition which is the shrinking of space and Civil Society Organizations to impact on their societies in general including areas of Internet policy and the changes we have seen since 2011 and the shift of optimism.  And the Internet can open up society and dialogue and conversation to a slightly more dystopia where the Internet is seen as a fraught and troubled place and harms ill‑defined and authoritarian Governments are developing capacity to curtail speech and introduce surveillance using the very technology which originally were thought to be liberating and democratizing.  I hope we have a chance to address that. 

I am going to ask the panel to say a few introductory remarks.  There are a number of Governments and Civil Society present.  I hope we can have a proper conversation.  Wolfram, set out the initial current state of play with the FOC and the German leadership. 

   >> WOLFRAM VON HEYNITZ:  A warm welcome from me.  Thank you very much for this nice and kind introduction.  The FOC is 30 countries.  Then there are statements on certain issues which are agreed upon by the 30 countries and then adopted and published.  But the value of both the conferences to have a discussion on that subject matter and of the statements is not the statement in itself just having a conference for the sake of the conference.  The purpose is that it is implemented in to real areas where it has affect.  And for that reason one important element is the local networks.  Because the work that is relevant is done also not only but to very large extent inside the UN in New York and in Geneva and also, of course, here in Paris at UNESCO. 

The local networks are representative of the Member States of the coalition in these three cities, New York, Geneva and Paris.  And the idea is that the coalition implemented thinking and results of deliberations in work in UNESCO and in the UN system. 
    But also, of course, in bilateral talks and also in engagement with Civil Society.  And in particular for the last reason that's one of the great achievements, this state centered organization of Freedom Online Coalition now has an advisory network of representatives of Civil Society.  And I think that Matt will talk more in detail about that.  That's it. 

So we think that it is important because we have ‑‑ we have a double threat I would say.  We have a threat to multilateralism.  So we need to see how do we achieve a multilateral system that's more effective and gathering Like‑Minded Countries around certain topics and trying to formulate opinions on and getting expert input in to action with Civil Society in to their work and then bring this in to the wider, multilateral UN system which is I think a good answer to these threats to multilateralism.  And we have threats to freedoms, of course.  In hate speech we have censorship.  And we have to watch that their good intentions don't lead to bad results.  And that's why some of the statements of the Freedom Online Coalition are centered around that. 

We had a censorship statement that was adopted and published at the Wright conference I think it was May in Toronto.  And we have a statement upcoming in the conference in Germany on digital divide and we are working on a statement in digital spaces and also one of the focuses of the conference in London.  Because we have this challenge at the moment to multilateralism but also to freedoms online, we took it as a topic for the conference in Berlin which will be at the end of November.  Internet freedom at a Crossroad, strengthen Human Rights online.  As I said before, it would be very much focused on kind of having a discussion on these topics in more detail to find out a common path.  Multilateral topics where I want to explain what that means. 

One topic is freedom of choice.  We will have one session at least on this topic.  And the idea is to see how does ‑‑ how is the freedom of choice limited or endangered in the Internet and freedom of choice is a broader concept.  Freedom of choice, what platforms do you use.  Freedom of choice, how do you access Internet.  How is your data used.  You are the owner of your data.  Do you have freedom of choice.  What happens with your data.  Freedom of choice, of course, to express your opinion as you like.  Freedom of choice how you socially engage and what kind of social environment you want to live in and in particular also work.  So that's one of the overarching themes of the conference.  And we have ‑‑ and you see these are controversial issues.  We don't have one opinion and then everyone agrees to it.  It is getting in to the details and trying to find out a path forward. 

And the other subject, of course, is you could call it shrinking spaces, but you could also narrow it to how to tackle hate speech in the Internet and just to ‑‑ I am looking forward for this discussion.  Also because there we have at least two different concepts which already played a huge role in preparing the conference.  And you could say the European or German access which is not the same but Germany has been very much advanced with the Network Enforcement Act.  Basically the state sets the boundaries of what could be ‑‑ what is legal and what is illegal in the Internet.  And the platforms to remove illegal contact within a certain time frame.  And you have the new American approach to deal with context to the platforms themselves through terms of business basically. 

So these are two different approaches.  And we are going to have a discussion on what are the advantages and how can we jointly have common paths to these new challenges because we ‑‑ I wouldn't say ‑‑ we are still trying to find what is the best way not to overreach, not to overact and not to destroy that, but what is a actually good thing that is the largest freedom.  So I hope to see as many people as possible in Berlin, 28, 29 and 30 of November.  If you haven't registered yet you can still do that.  Freedomonline.de.  That's the Web page.  And thank you very much for having me. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Thank you.  Matt, to you next.  Perhaps you could explain to people the role of the advisory group because that's I think how Civil Society can input in to the work of the coalition.  And maybe say a bit about how the advisory group works and whether there are opportunities for people in this room to become engaged or contribute to the coalition through work of the advisory group. 

   >> MATTHEW SHEARS:  Hello, everyone.  It is a pleasure to be here.  I am one of two co‑Chairs of the advisory network.  Katharine Kendrick is the other Chair and she is not able to be here.  It was set up in February of 2018.  We are almost coming on our one year anniversary.  Sorry just need to be very clear.  This is a Nongovernmental advisory network.  So it has not only Civil Society but technical community and academia.  And it has (inaudible) in it.  It is a group of approximately 30 persons and they all bring ‑‑ they are there in their individual capacity.  They all bring a range of expertise across the board, not just Human Rights expertise but also policy, business expertise.  And this is a new approach for the Freedom Online Coalition.  And the approach we are engaging with Nongovernmental actors was through the conferences or through Working Groups that were set up at the time.  It was felt that there was on an ad hoc basis but felt a need for a group of individuals to co‑advise the governments on different issues or a more permanent basis.  30 persons have a two‑year mandate.  We are almost halfway through that and that mandate will be up in 2020.  So we have the opportunity, many of those individuals will probably be renewing, but there will probably be opportunities to be considered for the slots that come open at that point in time.  To answer your question on how does one engage, Andrew, the other way of engaging we recommend to the members of the network that they reach out to the organizations they know and work with or are associated with and seek input on the various products and things that we do and I will come to those. 
    The important thing for the advisory network is to be able to contribute to the work of the Governments.  And we do that in a number of ways.  Two most prominent are in response to requests for permission from the Government on particular issues.  So there are a number of statements that the Government has issued, the Governments have issued or will be issuing.  We as an advisory network have contributed to those.  There is a formal process to submitting those to Governments and to be incorporated in to the Government's statements.  And we have contributed to a statement which will be I am assuming released soon on the shrinking civic spaces which Andrew is referring to. 

We are also contributing at the moment to a potential statement on the digital divide.  And that's ‑‑ that's in response to Government requests.  And we can also as the advisory network initiate actions from the Government in particular in regards to statements or comments from Government.  And we have done that in the context of engaging at the ITU most recently.  This is a new construct.  And so we are still finding our way.  But I think so far we have proven to be valuable to the Government in providing a range of expertise and views on a number of challenging issues.  And that's working out quite nicely in terms of balance between what the advisory network brings and what the Governments bring.  And I think what you will find from that is statements that show and reflect more of a multistakeholder input than you might find otherwise. 
    I think I'll stop there.  If there are any questions on the advisory network I am happy to take them. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Thanks, Matthew.  So can I come to you next?  You are the Policy Council for the Arab region for Access Now, Human Rights organization.  Facing a fairly challenging environment I think it is fair to say in the route that you work.  How that environment is changing at the moment in relation to Internet policy and whether you think there is a role for something like the Freedom Online Coalition to try and support the work that the organization is doing in that region. 

   >> WAFA BEN‑HASSINE:  Hi everyone.  Thank you for being here.  Absolutely.  So we are noticing in the Middle East and South African regions as a few other countries in the world a trend of closing the civic space online.  That means that passing types of legislation that either facilitate or crack down on protected speech so as to journalists, any type of speech that should be protected.  And particularly in, for example, Egypt which is the most populated Arab country, but also setting the standard for the rest of the region.  Most recently there was a cybercrime law that was passed as well as a media regulation law.  And the cybercrime law authorizes mass surveillance and forces Internet service providers to keep and store user's data for 180 days including access to phone calls and text messages and websites visited and applications used on devices, et cetera.  And obviously various law enforcement authorities would have access to this type of data at will at any time. 

And so there is also the media regulation law which I mean the point that everyone laughs about but anyone with the following over 5,000 people on any type of social media network as a journalist.  And that is subject to regulations that only apply to qualified journalists, not saying they are good either but places under strict regulation and supervision and subject to censorship.  And so it is these kinds that are seeing are broad, disproportionate and attempt to fully control all sorts of speech online.  We know in this room that they do offline and they do online.  And what we are noticing I think not just in the Arab world but also in the world generally is that we see the vision countries that want to protect Human Rights or at least showing an interest in engaging with Civil Society with a technical community, with companies to protect Human Rights online and countries that have no interest.  With the call, the Paris call for trust and peace in the cyberspace we saw that the most notorious countries were cracking down on Human Rights and Russia and China did not sign the call.  It does show a serious commitment and engagement to (inaudible) and explicitly an eye towards Human Rights. 

Ways that the Freedom Online Coalition can facilitate this process and stop the trend of violating Human Rights online I think we have an advisory network already is helping a lot in the ‑‑ but I also think that we need to keep an open mind towards engaging with states that are not members of the Freedom Online Coalition.  And I think that we need to be making a more active effort especially in spaces or in events that require lobbying, negotiating, voting, convincing, et cetera. 

And that leads me to my second point.  I believe that greater engagement and coordination within the coalition and advisory network would be helpful in these events as well.  So one of the first things that the FOC did was a statement for the ITU to say that involving Civil Society in the ITU space is crucial to having open conversations.  As a member of the advisory network I endorse that message and I think that that more could be done in engaging together on the ground working together to see what other states we can kind of convince to be on the side of Human Rights in the cyberspace.  I will leave it there. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  We have copies of the ITU statement and background on the coalition down in the front if anybody wants to collect at the end.  Lisa, the Dutch were the founders of the Freedom Online Coalition.  You have seen a few changes.  The effort is growing, but perhaps the world is becoming more challenging.  The world is held but life is beautiful which expressed whether you are seeing trends that worry you now but compared to 2011 and how you think the coalition could engage in channelling those trends. 

   >> LISA VERMEER:  Thank you, Andrew.  And good to be here.  Hi everyone.  I'm Lisa from the Netherlands.  We are a very proud member ‑‑ (cutting out). 
    We are indeed founders of the Freedom Online Coalition and a very proud member at the moment of this thriving coalition, especially if you look at the challenges that are in the multilateral setting at the moment.  To point the trends, one of the trends is that the challenges towards civic space online and freedom online are so wide ranging which was illustrated by Wolfram.  Governments, there is an immense amount of developments that have a very particular character.  So it makes it more challenging to respond to the trends and identify what you want to focus on.  And this is also the challenge for the FOC I think and an eye towards the conference in Germany to sit together with other stakeholders to define where we could really as the FOC with, of course, limited capacity that we have, we are a bunch of Governments, still people that work on freedom online with limited capacity and make a difference and have an impact.  We can't ‑‑ both this information, cybercrime, cybersecurity, but also country terrorism, challenges, Human Rights defenders online.  The threats of cyber savvy authoritarian Government that they use to intimidate and limit free speech of Human Rights defenders.  It is overwhelming and the challenges or the thing we have to do as the FOC is focus and focus our resources on what we can really change. 

I think we made already some good steps this year.  And it is really we moved this year from a more inward looking time during the strategic review up to the conference in San Jose in 2016 towards really a coalition with outgoing initiatives again, the advisory network, really proud of the systema that we designed together and the Chairs that we have. 

The advisory network proved to be good in reflecting the statements that we came up with and the proactive advice for the ITU.  So this gives a positive feeling that we need to be able to counter all the threats that we see.  Can we just add a little bit more? 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Yeah. 

   >> LISA VERMEER:  In a sense of outside the topics we have to address, there are two aspects that I would like to address particularly.  First is that in our opinion the FOC is perfectly suited to really help her ‑‑ help making a voice of Civil Society and other actors heard because Civil Society struggles to be a real part of the multilateral negotiations but also in multistakeholder settings.  It is challenging at Civil Society groups, finding enough donors to come to meetings and have a valuable contribution to the meetings.  And this is something that the FOC Governments are very well positioned to play a role and to fight for this important voice to make heard.  And also ask ourselves, adding Civil Society groups to the ITU.  The UK did a very good job in taking Civil Society Organizations.  This is one factor that we should focus on, I can only echo your words, the organizations in Geneva, New York and Paris and these networks are very important and to be able to work together and coordinate a position is increasingly important just because the coordination of authoritarian states is also increasingly better and increasingly effective.  So this is ‑‑ one of the aspects that the FOC could have an impact on the ground in a multilateral setting.  Thank you. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Just to recap, I think what we have seen is the coalition is ‑‑ has had (inaudible) policy that addresses the number of problems is the Internet freedom and online.  And how we do ‑‑ and how we do with harms online is a complex issue that can often challenge and threaten Internet freedom and Human Rights.  So I think from the coalition's point of view it is very important.  It is one of the few Intergovernmental networks that I can think of that positively wants to embrace a broader policy community and involve them in the discussions about how Government policies should be set and promoted.  And not just involving the policy development but in the promotion of policies in a wider diplomatic community.  As Lisa said one of the things that the coalition has tried to do is to ensure strong Civil Society participation in Forums like the ITU which is relatively close to Civil Society participation.  It is very increasingly difficult in my experience to get Governments around the world to seriously engage with Civil Society in a meaningful, open, participatory dialogue.  So it is important to use stability to strengthen that policy dialogue with communities online. 

So there is some initial thoughts.  A lot more could be done.  Could we work more actively with the Internet community?  Be very interesting either in your questions to the panel or in your contributions and thoughts of how the coalition could develop.  So just give me a minute.  I will start with Nicole.  Maybe introduce yourself.

   >> AUDIENCE:  Hi.  Nicole Gregory from the UK Government.  I wanted to echo what Lisa said, I am proud to be a part of the coalition and as Andrew was saying from a numbers perspective, from a domestic agenda.  We are looking at the UK outlook online harms in terms of how the UK needs to respond to domestically and how we want to engage internationally to some of the harms that we are seeing online.  We want to do it in a way that respects our commitments to rights to keep the space open and to include lots of parts and how we respond to this.  So the coalition also plays how we can use this, use the views to the network to reflect likewise and how we can ‑‑ the international community and that's really important for us.  I think also just to kind of flag that we did take a strong delegation, really useful, the advising network suggested that we do the statement and it uses examples that we didn't think about.  We don't put enough out there to say others that we should be doing the same.  Likewise any opportunities that we can do more of that and we are open to and welcome to.

Finally just to say as well that I think from the UK perspective about how we not just make sure that the multistakeholder environment about bringing people in to the same room but about doing joint things together.  And I think the more examples we can do and show how it works in a truly practical way.  Thank you. 

   >> AUDIENCE:  Thank you.  Just a brief comment.  I ‑‑

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Just state your name.

   >> AUDIENCE:  I am a diplomat at the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica.  And I wanted to echo what Lisa and my colleague from the UK said.  I do believe that the coalition is a very good and effective platform for a wider community to express their points of view, but actually arrive to commonalities that were portrayed in the joint statement that we demonstrated in the PP‑18 in Dubai.  I found this as an opportunity in which we both express our national positions and in a much more flexible and valuable manner.  I look forward to the conference in Berlin because after the review that was made in San Jose in 2016 we have come a long way in two years because rapid development of technology and geopolitical level, it is behaving lately.  And I also want to express the support of our own country and Human Rights so that we can also better influence the potential outcomes for the future.  Thank you. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Thank you.  And I also want to thank Costa Rica.  They were an effective Chair for the coalition a couple of years.  We had a great time.  Are there any other questions or points?  This is the opportunity for people who are not in Governments to put points, ideas, thoughts directly to Government representatives themselves.  So this is an opportunity that you don't get very often.  Do take advantage of it. 
    Otherwise I'll ask the questions.  Yep. 

   >> AUDIENCE:  Thanks very much.  My name is Luca from the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Luxembourg.  Another diplomat.  Thank you to the space of Civil Society to speak.  We are not members of the Freedom Online Coalition, at least not yet.  I hope that we may join.  But we share the ideas of the members of the coalition on the Internet. 
    There is a number of things that I think are really important to work on together both between states but also Civil Societies and the technology sector.  And I think one of them is ‑‑ everyone on the panel mentioned this dangerous dichotomy.  We bureaucratic states because we have a lot of security overreach.  Another one is not the only question of the Civil Society and Civil Society based but also the capture of Civil Society space by authoritarian actors.  And I go to a number of multilateral fora.  And the one OSE implementation meeting and that is being progressively taken over by so‑called quasi or Governmental NGOs.  And they are speaking as Civil Society but financed by authoritarian states.  Do you see this?  Is this a danger in the online space?  How do we break it?  Places everyone who is Nongovernmental on the same level.  Thank you. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  I remember the very first Tunis conference that established the IGF and it was packed full of (inaudible) Government funded patients.  That was my first experience.  Flooding people with Civil Society.  Are you seeing that kind of trend in the Arab world of increasing numbers of fake NGOs? 

   >> WAFA BEN‑HASSINE:  That was one of the first things that I noticed when I went to my first Human Rights meeting in HRC in Geneva.  I didn't know that about Tunis.  We have many more NGOs in other countries who are not fronts for authoritarian Governments.  It is a problem.  I didn't realize that I was one of the few who ‑‑ a number of Civil Society speaking out against Human Rights.  And when I went there I found that almost all of the non‑profits from the HRC present were fronts and this is a problem.  You can't ‑‑ I mean it is ‑‑ it is a very sensitive topic because you can't discount Civil Society or non‑profits.  But I remember seeing at a table at HRC posters propaganda from different places in the region.  It was just pure propaganda.  And obviously this doesn't mean that we should restrict those that come to the HRC or anything like that.  Absolutely the opposite of what I am calling for.  It is just that we are adapting and Governments are, too.  And it will be a game of cat and mouse for awhile, but I think that it is on us as well Civil Society to do more capacity training, digital security training, et cetera, to help get that legitimate Civil Society's voice in those spaces.  And it is difficult because it is not just the activists or Human Rights defenders but also worried about their physical security. 

So what ends up happening is a lot of times we see advocates go to various gatherings.  And then when we come back to their home states they are arrested or imprisoned or bothered or harassed and that's not what we want to see happen. 

And so that back to my original point of engaging with non‑Member States, because it is crucial I think to achieve the goals that FOC would like to see happen and protecting the online space and protecting civic space generally offline as well.  So the advisory network is a good example of having Civil Society and Governments work together to achieve that.  And I think we need to see more of these kinds of initiatives as well. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Thank you.  Lady in the back. 

   >> AUDIENCE:  Thank you.  UNESCO.  Thank you for the very rich and substantial inputs.  Exactly on the last element, I wonder, it is very impressive to see how you have evolved towards the Civil Society inclusive model.  But indeed our main work is on cultural policies and we see and also the Human Rights Council in Geneva has done monitoring work on and the shrinking space for civic action has also some important legal changes, very recently.  It is like two or three years where we see and document that and I would appreciate if a board like FOC sees itself also as an actor in that.  Because we do run in to increasing troubles because people tend to ‑‑ sorry, this microphone does not work.  People tend to take the notion of Civil Society as a given.  And what you mentioned about Tunisia is a result of the 2011 very progressive law.  But it didn't exist before.  And each and when the other exactly way around.  In that sense I would appreciate anybody who is serious about this multistakeholder approach also to educate both ourselves and to document this underlying fabric because otherwise we will indeed run in to the trouble which was indicated. 

   >> WOLFRAM VON HEYNITZ:  I think that's what we want to do.  We don't want to undermine any existing frameworks.  We want to strengthen it.  One of the issues that we actively worked on was supporting Ireland in their resolution in the Human Rights Council on society space.  So that's ‑‑ so there is kind of a pathway to go through it.  But because the regulations in a body like the Human Rights Council and deliberations have to follow more formal rules.  This kind of informal group of states, what Freedom Online Coalition is and that goes to the Luxembourg colleague, everyone is welcome.  Former membership is one thing but in a conference you can participate.  And the same is true for Civil Society.  So it is very open on one side.  But it is also very close on the other side because what we demand from both, from Governments or also civil organizations is, of course, commitment to Human Rights, in particular to freedom rights.  So if you have that commitment you are more than welcome and you can discuss with ‑‑ I try to avoid the word like‑minded because it is inflated.  And B, it doesn't mean that you have to be like‑minded on every single issue. 

You have to share this basic concern and this basic coincidence that these Human Rights as established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are essential and worth protecting.  If you share that commitment then we can discuss about details and to a certain degree this is also very helpful because when we set up the conference in Berlin as an example we don't have the answers to all the questions.  We have questions ourselves.  And we need the advice.  And we need the advice from what worked and what didn't work in other countries. 

One new element we added to this conference this time for the first time is a peer exchange of experiences, what worked and what didn't work.  That's a new and very valuable element that we added.  Also Civil Society.  So this helps us to form our own opinion.  When we have our opinion that's not enough.  Have a statement and a statement is it good.  We have to channel that back in to the established formats and that's like we ‑‑ Resolution and I think it is Swedish sponsored traditional influence where the members of Freedom Online Coalition could channel in the experience of the good advice they got through the Freedom Online Coalition in to the end system. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Yes.  Thanks.  I think it is really important that we consider the notion of civic space as being the and identifying the cyber harms, of being the responsibility of all stakeholders.  It is too easy to point the finger to Civil Society.  We have a significant problem in terms of shrinkage.  The tools that are at the disposal now of various parties to deliberately shrink that base are multiplying.  And I think we need to take a different perspective on.  And it may mean that one of the ways to address a couple of points out there, one of the ways of identifying who the real players are as opposed to those who aren't is to work in cross stakeholders to build those relationships with other stakeholders so that the identity of the parties that you are engaging with becomes much clearer.  It is very easy for a party to self‑identify Civil Society in some obscure part of the Internet and bombard the Internet underlining the legitimacy of actual Civil Society Organizations.  And therefore I would encourage us to consider it is our joint responsibility and joint responsibility to work together.  And it would help in part to address some identification of these players.  I think we have a nonresponsibility to support the civic space and we can't forget that.  Thanks. 

   >> LISA VERMEER:  Thank you, Andrew.  I wanted to respond on one thing that was brought to the discussion and that made me ‑‑ reminded that the Freedom online also took the initiative to start the Digital Defenders Partnership.  In 2012 this program started and we have eight FOC countries are in the donor community.  And the interesting aspect in this program it started as a program that focused on digital threats for Human Rights defenders and are mainly Human Rights defenders working on digital rights.  The tech savvy Human Rights defenders that understood the Internet and understood the possible harm.  And this role has changed tremendously up to today because every Human Rights defender, every Civil Society Organization works online and has to do with digital threats and also the DP developed, they beautifully responded to the changing environments.  And what I really like the most about the DDP approaches is that they first focus a lot on wholistic securities, the starting points, but they do not scare away from taking all other threats in to account in psychosociological and all the threats are in the program.  And they focus more and more on having fellows and digital security fellows to work together and to enable themselves to be better to respond quickly to the needs that are there in the Human Rights defender community. 

I take the chance of being on this panel to invite the other Member States to join the donor community for DDP.  And I'm very happy to share our experience on being part of them.  And why it is so important to have GDP as a flagship project for Human Rights defenders all over the world. 

   >> AUDIENCE:  I am from Zimbabwe, a Delegate of Freedom House.  I work for the international media support.  I wanted to find out from panelists your appreciation of ‑‑ level of appreciation of online policy issues by our Governments that would enable them to engage more effectively with Civil Society.  And to those that are working on the ground, any success in finding common ground on online rights issue.  And if so what were those issues that our Governments would appreciate that they need to sit down with Civil Society and agree on the promotion of rights?  And how did you come to that understanding?  Thank you. 

   >> (Off microphone).  That are not members of the coalition.

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  We've got 15 minutes.  I am going to take a couple of questions and then come back to the panel.  Robert, you are next.  Then I am going to come here. 

   >> AUDIENCE:  Matthew said a couple of things that I was going to in terms of the past.  So Robert Guerra from Privaterra and here working with Cepra at this meeting.  In the aspect of spaces were reactive whether it is the Freedom Online Coalition or other spaces in the past it was showing up at WSIS.  And before that it was a threatening space.  It is more on the work that we do going forward is collaborating in a multistakeholder fashion where possible.  It is challenging at times but also recognizing that Civil Society is not just NGOs.  It is also, you know, private sector and others as well.  And sometimes associations will try to represent other stakeholders mistakenly as well.  So it doesn't affect us.  And I think we should be aware of that as well particularly for industry groups as well.  And pointing out that that's a ‑‑ some of the approaches that Civil Society have taken to try to spot the fake groups from the others could be particularly helpful and that's a way to bring allies as well.  So I wanted to make a comment on that. 
    In terms of the work of the Freedom Online Coalition going forward it is great that the meeting takes place in Germany.  It is a lot of hard work.  But there is time.  But I think another aspect, too, is that for a lot of the Internet issues it is not just here.  It is also taking place at ICANN and other spaces.  And the question is, it may have been discussed earlier to what extent is the coalition connecting with other groups that are also working on other international issues where there is an Internet component.  For example, access to medicines or access to knowledge, that's also their communities.  There are some issues of overlap that we are seeing for, for example, the use of human rights impact assessments at ICANN and how that's a tool and other aspects.  I am just wondering to what extent kind of that collaboration with the duties is taking place or being planned.  Thank you. 

   >> AUDIENCE:  Hello.  My name is Gabra.  Part of the youth IGF.  The situation that's happening right now in Tanzania, we see a lot of crackdown on free speech.  They have passed the Media Act where journalists are supposed to be listed and get their content regulated sort of before publishing.  And also Open Forums are required to submit their users.  So there is a direct conflict in terms of privacy or anonymity of the people.  Also the situation is that you are not allowed to criticize online.  So we young people most of the time we use social media.  Right now we are in fear how far can we say what is right and what is not.  Just sending a message on What's Up might get you jailed.  Most of the journalists that have been publishing online have been kidnapped and killed.  When the NGOs try to petition the Government, there is a barrier of entry to the judicial system.  And there is no resolution that has been put there.  And we see a lot of censorship that happened through licensing of bloggers.  Censorship happens.  So I would like to listen to your comments on the situation that happens and maybe what you can do to help. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Thanks.  And one in the back.

   >> AUDIENCE:  Is the mic working?  Yes.  Very good.  My name is Marie.  So I would like to first thank Lisa for your great introduction.  Of course, I mentioned during the entire panel there is the advisory committee but the digital censorship partnership was created by the FOC.  Anybody who is interested in the program to come meet with myself and my colleague.  We have two fellows.  That could be interesting for a lot of the actors in Civil Society.  I didn't have so much of a question, but I wanted to indicate that we are here.  We are very happy to meet with interested individuals and share information on our work and just affirm that most of what has been discussed on the panel we see very clearly.  The fact that it is shrinking civic space, an increase in the amount of demands for support.  Not only from very tech savvy actors in Civil Society but from general CSOs perhaps not aware of these threats in the years past and the threats are not from authoritarian regimes.  They come from the private sector companies that are using the Internet in ways to threaten these organizations.  We will be present at the FOC conference in Berlin.  We look forward to meeting with you and providing for in this capacity of Civil Society Organizations.  So thank you. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Any final questions?  Because there are a number that I am going to try to wrap up and go around the panel.  Yeah. 

   >> AUDIENCE:  My name is Robert.  I'm from the Netherlands.  I am wondering if FOC members are pressuring their own Governments to not work together with authoritarian states.  There was a lot of talk on working with Civil Society in other countries.  I wonder to what extent they are working with their own Government and pressure their Government to limit or cancel this cooperation all together. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  I think you will answer from different perspectives depending on whether you are the Government or Civil Society.  One question is around engagement with non‑Member States around issues that threaten online freedoms.  We have had a question both from Zimbabwe and Tanzania.  Other than promoting good policies, is there more active engagement that you see as Governments undertaking.  The extent is the wider political engagement going on the traditional Internet Forums.  Is that something that the Governments feel you could engage in.  Thirdly, what about the role of the private sector.  Does the FOC look at the role of the private sector and the way that the private sector can impinge on fundamental rights and freedoms?  I should start with Wolfram and Matthew. 

   >> WAFA BEN‑HASSINE:  Really don't have that much to say at this point, but I did want to mention that at least from our perspective as a member of Civil Society at Access Now as well as some of the other organizations that are represented in the advisory network, APC, Article 19, all of these organizations do work with partners.  Advocate for better policies.  So that's one of our guiding strategies right now, but I think obviously a lot more could be done.  And as Matthew mentioned it is not just on Civil Society to protect the civic space.  We are not ‑‑ I mean we are well‑funded sometimes but lots of Civil Society are not well‑ funded at all.  And so there is not endless capacity to address all the digital policies, especially given the diversity and variance of these issues.  Cyber issues take up more and more of our everyday lives.  Through our cooperation with and again not like‑minded Governments but Governments that do prioritize Human Rights and these kinds of issues, this is the way forward I think.  But would be happy to speak afterwards as well to hear more from you and if you have any other ideas as to how we can be better. 

   >> MATTHEW SHEARS:  Great questions.  There are ‑‑ I think it is fair to say that to address the first point, I think it is fair to say that there are examples, good examples of different stakeholders engaging with Governments on a range of issues including in more difficult policy areas such as cybersecurity.  And I am happy to chat with you afterwards about what they are and I think that's ‑‑ and there are things that can be built on there and learnings from those types of engagement as well.  It exists. 

The question about working with other groups is incredibly important.  Most of the individuals on the advisory network has had links in to other organizations and structures and processes.  And I think it is incumbent upon them and it is important for us as the advisory network as we move forward to reach out more.  I think it is a good reminder.  Thank you for us to do that. 

And the ‑‑ on the international pressures to bring about change, hopefully when you will see the shrinking spaces statement a number of issues that you referred to or hinted at are addressed in there including the use of Governments by particular types of technology and other things.  So hopefully that will address and I think the ‑‑ and that's where based on that international pressures could be brought and possibly other mechanisms. 

On the FOC pressuring its own Governments I have to leave that to the Governments.  But, you know, that's ‑‑ let's be frank for a moment.  We are an advisory network working with Governments who have a range of issues.  And this has been the case with the advisory network with Nongovernmental participation in the work of the FOC but that's a healthy thing.  So we enjoy that to and fro between the Governments.  And we think that's an important part of what we do.  But specifically on that I'll leave to Lisa. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Lisa, over to you. 

   >> LISA VERMEER:  Yes.  I would like to first address the questions on violations in specific countries.  The FOC focuses on addressing trends in the first place.  So what we think is important, if you have 30 countries that create this joint statement that it has ‑‑ it can impact multilateral negotiations about norms and third Committee, et cetera.  And with specific violations such as in Tanzania and what we do is FOC countries that are all in the capital, they all reach out to their Embassy, especially the friend of the Chair and we reach out to our missions and ask them to at least identify possibilities to engage and to work together with the other FOC missions that are there.  I can give you an example about one ‑‑ about an aspect that challenges this procedure.  For example, with the Internet shutdown in Cameroon, I had lots of discussions with colleagues working in Cameroon, but we don't have a mission.  It limits your ability to act.  We monitor what's happening all over the world and talk with our colleagues on the ground.  From the Civil Society perspective in a broad sense is address the FOC membership to the missions that are there and ask them to act in the spirit of FOC and connect with their colleagues.  This is something that we can work together as well to act in the region from both capital and the multistakeholder community that is there. 

With regard to the questions on exporting control, exporting technologies and holding ourselves to account, I would like to also connect to the question about private sector and Human Rights impact assessments.  Because it is ‑‑ in the first place we committed ourselves to taking in to account the domestic challenge to the foreign policy agenda.  It is clearly directed to changing the rest of the world.  But, of course, we can't be naive because our own domestic developments have an impact on foreign policy.  This is part of my daily base to talk about colleagues in Government.  So it is on the agenda definitely.  It is definitely on the agenda of the FOC.  And you already mentioned the per learning session that we are organizing on Day Zero of the FOC conferences.  It is really focused on having this internal discussion with each other to adjust challenges and learn from each other.  That's what the FOC can really add value. 

And a link to the private sector, it is especially with the experts of technologies.  If you look at the whole regime of expert control that we have, one of the practices that we introduce for ourselves is to have Human Rights impact assessment for the companies that are exporting technologies.  And I really believe these Human Rights impact assessments are quite time consuming but they can be very effective and instrumental to address Human Rights challenges, for example, in ICANN but also as the Dutch registry embarked on this process of going through a new Human Rights assessment. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  I should also mention that after some discussion the Coalition has agreed to an internal review mechanism.  That process which I think that the Civil Society group has been talking about for some time has been put in place.  Governments can change.  You can have a Democratic Government succeeded by an unDemocratic Government.  And there might be a case for the coalition to re‑examine the record of its own members and we can now do that.  That's our process in place.  But finally Wolfram. 

   >> WOLFRAM VON HEYNITZ:  I am to be very short because my colleagues mentioned the main points and I don't want to reiterate most of it.  The character of Freedom Online Coalition is one of a discussion for result, for result where exchange ideas, where you can come to common solutions that means for waiting countries, intervening.  We have other formats.  We do it bilaterally.  We do it multilaterally.  We do it in organizations like the EU.  But, of course, the discussions within the Freedom Online network will influence the behavior of Member States.  It has an impact but not directly.  But that means that brings us back to the point that we discussed a little bit earlier these faked NGOs as an example of emerging problem.  I think it is a common responsibility basically to sort out those elements and that ‑‑ if we are a Forum and we discuss it.  More transparency, the more transparent and who is the real NGO and who is the hidden Government organizations. 

So it is a hygienic issue and this is best done in a transparent and open way.  And you have a Forum for that Freedom Online Coalition.  On the engagement of the private sector, I think that we can do better there.  I mean we started with the advisory network and it is focused on NGOs I would say, connections to private sector but I think that's worth looking more in to it because it becomes more and more clear very dynamic environment that the private companies have a decisive role in freedom online.  And I think I will leave it there. 

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Thank you.  Thanks for the panel for the discussion.  Thanks to the audience for the contributions you made.  If you would like to find out more and figure out how can you get involved you can contact the support unit.  And my colleague works on the issues.  Any one of us.  We are all available.  And you can speak to us about the coalition.  Thank you for attending.  And can you show your appreciation to the panelists in the traditional manner? 
(Applause.)

   >> ANDREW PUDDEPHATT:  Thanks so much.  Enjoy the rest of the conference, guys.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

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

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