IGF 2019 WS #224 Social Media Content Moderation in Conflict Zones

Organizer 1: Alison Ramer, 7amleh
Organizer 2: Nadim Nashif, 7amleh – Arab Center for Social Media Advancement
Organizer 3: Rima Sghaie, Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights

Speaker 1: caroline sinders, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Nadim Nashif, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Phyu Phyu Thi, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Policy Question(s): 

Where is the middle ground between security and privacy? Content moderation and suppression of freedom of speech?
What role should Internet platforms play in defining the standards for acceptable content in light of freedom of speech and international law?
How can globally accepted standards for human rights law be reflected in digital policies of social media companies?
What is the impact of social media companies cooperation with governments and regimes in conflict zones and occupation contexts?

Relevance to Theme: For people living in conflict zones and under military occupations, many essential human rights are under threat or violated. Being able to access the internet securely and safely is one of the ways that people can gain some sense of stability and increase their resilience during a conflict or occupation. This panel will enable experts working in conflict zones and living under occupation to share the impact that relationships between governments, social media companies, civil society and the public are having on human rights and digital rights in conflict zones.

Relevance to Internet Governance: During conflict and under occupation, oppressive regimes are increasingly targeting ICT systems and users as strategies for political, economic or social control. Social media companies continue to purport that they are neutral tools that enable freedom of expression and to connect people in a democratic way to the public space. But despite this vision, digital rights advocates know that social media is also being weaponized; limiting freedom of expression, enabling the spread of hate speech, fake news and propaganda that result in real world conflict and enable regimes to violate human rights. The massive amounts of data that social media companies like Facebook collect (online and offline), make them some of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance structures on earth. Over time, journalists, academics, policy makers and activists have proven that social media companies do not sufficiently monitor misinformation and mis-use of information; users data is insufficiently protected, policies do not protect people’s rights, lack transparency, and are unfairly enforced in ways that can support regimes that violate human rights.

This panel will provide insight into the impact that current practices and policies, or lack of policies, have on the human rights of people living in conflict zones and under military occupation. It will provide recommendations from civil society members on policies and practices for social media companies and civil society organizations that can provide solutions to problems arising in these contexts that support upholding international law and protecting human rights.


Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Description: The panel seeks to address the purported position of social media companies to support democracy and how their policies and practices in conflict areas -- in particular content moderation policies -- are impacting human rights and social movements. Experts from the occupied Palestinian Territories, Myanmar, Kashmir and Ukraine will share how the policies of social media companies impact the saftey and security of people in conflict and occupation contexts and share insights on how policies of social media companies can be developed to uphold international law.

The 60 minute session will begin with the moderator opening the panel and giving a example of how content moderation policies of social media companies in conflict zones and occupations impacts the digital safety, security and human rights of people (5 minutes). The moderator will then introduce the panel members by giving a quick bio of each panelist and their qualifications (3 minutes). The moderator will then pose a set of questions specific to the panelists that will illustrate 1) how content moderation policies and practices are impacting the rights of people living in conflict zones and under military occupation 2) what strategies they are employing to increase safety and security 3) what social media company policies and practices would improve the safety and security of people living in conflict zones and under military occupations. The moderator will ensure that time constraints are taken into account and that speakers keep on topic and with equal opportunity and time to speak (30 minutes). Each panelist will have the opportunity to give closing remarks and before the question and answer section will be opened. This Q&A section will include interaction with a live audience and and online audience who will be given equal time to participate; in total 4 - 6 questions will be answered (15 minutes). The moderator will close the panel and thank the panelists for their contribution (3 minutes).

The rapporteur will take notes of the discussion and draft a summary report that outlines the main challenges for people in conflict zones and living under occupation to safely access and utilize the internet for political, social and economic engagement. The summary will include recommendations for content moderation policies from the panelists that will be submitted to the IGF Secretariat and shared via the panelists online networks.

Expected Outcomes: R1: Increased understanding of how the relationships between social media companies and regimes impact human rights in conflict zones and for people living under military occupations. R2: Raised awareness of the importance of access to safe Internet for resilience of people living in conflict zones and under military occupations. R3: Exchange of information and best practices among digital rights advocates working in conflict zones and occupation contexts shared. R4: Solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users in conflict zones and living under occupation. R5: Content moderation policy recommendations for social media companies, governments and civil society that uphold international law and ensure the safety, security and stability of people residing in conflict zones and living under occupation. R6: Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders operating in conflict contexts existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms.

Onsite Moderator: 

Rima Sghaie, Civil Society, African Group

Online Moderator: 

Deborah Brown, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Alison Ramer, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Discussion Facilitation: 

In order to facilitate and encourage interaction during the session, as well as multiply the impact of our workshop, we will have specific activities prior, during and after the session. In order to encourage people to participate during the session, the organizers and the panel speakers will share the session with our networks by posting it online and sharing it across social media. This will also include a sign up for people who want to be notified to join the panel online. During the panel the online moderator will open the necessary technical equipment which may include cooperation with Friends of IGF or other streaming of the panel, zoom / facebook live as well as the official online participation tool. Participants will have the chance to ask questions and to participate in an audience poll utilizing a link that we will share at the panel in both online and offline space. In order to facilitate discussion, an online moderator will pay attention to the questions from the remote participation hub and during the question and answer session ensure that their questions are being asked to the panelists. This will also enable us to gain the emails of people attending the session and share the report with them following the session. The report, the livestream and other photos or materials collected from the panel will be shared online via the networks of the organizers, speakers and their partners (including the Association for Progressive Communications). We will document the reach and engagement on the tools and would be happy to share them in a report as well.

Online Participation: 

We are unclear at this time how to utilize the online participation tool and were not able to find enough documentation about this online. However, we would like to include engagement utilizing this online tool with further information about its capabilities. At the least, we will be encouraging people to register to the panel using the official online tool.

Proposed Additional Tools: We are planning to utilize a video conferencing software or Facebook live, as well as the official online participation tool to encourage people to directly participate and ask questions and share their reactions of the event. If using facebook, these interactions can be record as well and shared following the event. We would also like to enable people to participate in an online poll at the panel and virtually in order to share information about the perception of audience members and gauge their reaction to the policy recommendations being proposed, and determine some of what they have learned from the panel.


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