IGF 2018 OF #11 Fostering multi-stakeholder debate on Internet & Elections

Subtheme: 

Other
Sub-theme description: Democracy, Elections and Fake News

Description: 

The role of the Internet for democratic processes has been a permanent feature of the Internet governance agenda for almost twenty years. Initial utopia of unhindered, cosmopolitan and direct political participation for citizens throughout the world has progressively given room to skepticism and delusion, most prominently in the context of (a) overwhelmingly dependence of third-party platforms and applications that are structured according to algorithms opaque to the users; and (b) in the dissemination of business models that are based in unprecedented levels of personal data collection coupled with behavioral techniques aimed at classifying and targeting audiences for economic, commercial, sociocultural and political purposes. The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed a systematic effort by state and non state actors to influence democratic practices elsewhere through campaigns to spread disinformation (understood as false, inaccurate, or misleading information according to European Commission’s High Level Expert Group on Fake News and Online Disinformation). In the aftermath of Cambridge Analytica, different countries have announced measures to combat the spread of disinformation and to secure political processes from rogue interference. This Open Forum presents to the 2018 IGF community the activities undertaken in Brazil by CGI.br to foster multistakeholder debate about Internet, Elections and Democracy as well as to produce capacity development materials to raise awareness about the importance of the topic. As the country prepares for general elections in October 2018, CGI.br organized one multistakeholder seminar and a two-day workshop with representatives from governments, businesses, civil society and technical/academic community to discuss among other things: - basic concepts inherent to the fake news phenomenon; - the influence of bots in democratic discourse and debate; - algorithms governance; - means and tools to identify and tackle political frauds carried out on line; and - the activities performed by public agencies as well as Internet providers to respect and uphold people’s fundamental civil and political rights in the context of political processes. The results of those events were turned into a series of documents and materials that aim at informing the general public about the challenges and opportunities for qualifying the political and democratic landscape in Brazil and elsewhere. The Open Forum will be structured in two main parts. The first will host a 30-minute presentation comprising different speakers to talk about the processes carried out by CGI.br. The second will host an open-ended Q&A session with members of the board of CGI.br and CGI.br’s staff to enable the audience to present questions about the administrative and logistics aspects of the activities described above, as well as the substance of debates and their perceived impacts in the subsequent political processes.

Organizers: 

Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br)

Speakers: 

Different members of CGI.br will join the session to engage discussions bearing the position of different stakeholder groups in Brazil. Moderator: Hartmut Glaser (Technical Community)

Online Moderator: 

Nathalia Sautchuk (Technical Community, Brazil)

Report: 

- Session Type (Workshop, Open Forum, etc.): Open Forum

- Title: Fostering multi-stakeholder debate on Internet & Elections

- Date & Time: 13 November 2018, 12:30 to 13:30

- Organizer(s): Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br)

- Chair/Moderator: Mr Hartmut Richard Glaser (CGI.br)

- Rapporteur/Notetaker: Mr Jean Carlos F. Santos (NIC.br / CGI.br)

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

- Ms Flávia Lefèvre, CGI.br, representative of the civil society, female

- Mr Henrique Faulhaber, CGI.br, representative of the business sector, male

- Mr Luiz Fernando Martins Castro, CGI.br, representative of Brazilian Federal Government, male

 

- Theme (as listed here): Media & Content

- Subtheme (as listed here): Fake News

- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [300-500 words]

  1. The role of the Internet for democratic processes has been a permanent issue of the Internet governance agenda for almost twenty years. Initial utopia of unhindered and direct political participation for citizens throughout the world has progressively given room to skepticism. The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed a systematic effort by state and non state actors to influence democratic practices elsewhere through campaigns to spread disinformation. In the aftermath of Cambridge Analytica, different countries have announced measures to combat the spread of disinformation and to secure political processes from rogue interference.
  2. The Brazilian electoral process has been marked by the usage of personal data for the  massive sending of messages. Research institutes and universities showed that those messages contributed strongly with the phenomenon of information disorder, especially through WhatsApp.
  3. Brazil have been facing a strong polarization of the population, with many negative externalities, including physical violence on the streets. It has become a common understanding that the fake news phenomenon is a strong element influencing this landscape of social conflicts in Brazil. Due to this context, many initiatives dealing with the information disorder topic have been developed since the beginning of the year. CGI.br argues that  a multi-stakeholder approach is necessary to address the issue and this can contribute to comprehend the problem and to consolidate initiatives. The CGI.br actions were conceived in a multi-stakeholder environment. The session made a brief presentation of this actions like the creation of dedicated council within the scope of the Superior Electoral Court mandate, and the set of activities recently developed by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br), which included the release of Guide (Guia Internet e Democracia) to help general public and authorities to combat the phenomenon and mitigate its impacts.

 

- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [300 words]

The panel focused on CGI.br's actions in the context of the Brazilian presidential elections. Although the panel focused on the Brazilian experience, there were participants from different nationalities in the audience, showing the relevance of the topic in the IGF context. While the focus of the panel was not fake news, most of the audience's input brought some thought into how to address different issues and troubles related to the information disorder phenomenon. Participants agreed that the 2018 Brazilian presidential election was strongly influenced by the massive dissemination of fake news, undermining the democratic process. But some believe that the electoral legislation and the Marco Civil da Internet, the Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights, was fully disregarded and the authorities failed in not recognize the phenomenon. Some participants remembered that the Brazilian electoral law criminalizes messages and commentaries which have the specific purpose of offending the honor or denigrating the image of a candidate, party or association. So the Superior Electoral Court could have acted regarding the facts denounced by the media.

Also, there was no agreement about the role of the platforms in the electoral process and its responsibility as they are a stage for the public debates. Some speakers defended that platforms should not be liable for what happened and others think that their commercial practices may be causing damages for the democratic institutions of the country. An issue was raised on how the absence of net neutrality and business models as zero rating has influenced on disinformation.

The discussion in the room did not show agreement concerning how best to address the spread of fake news over the Internet. The general discussion indicated that the impact of disinformation in elections is a complex issue. CGI.br representatives on the table emphasized that the Internet Steering Committee advocates for a multi-stakeholder approach in understanding fake news phenomenon and the impact of the Internet on elections.

 

- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [200 words]

This topic was not covered by discussions that took place during the session.

 

- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue?

This topic was not covered by discussions that took place during the session.

 

- Please estimate the total number of participants: 47 on site participants + 05 online participants

- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present: 25 woman on site + 02 woman online

 

- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]

Gender issues were not covered by the discussions held.

 

- Session outputs and other relevant links (URLs):

CGI.br Internet, Democracy and Elections guide

<https://cgi.br/media/docs/publicacoes/13/Guia%20Internet,%20Democracia%20e%20Elei%C3%A7%C3%B5es>

Session Time: 
Tuesday, 13 November, 2018 - 12:30 to 13:30
Room: 
Salle XII

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