IGF 2019 WS #31 Digital Security and Human Rights in Tricky Landscapes

Organizer 1: Dominic Bellone, Counterpart International
Organizer 2: Marilyn Vernon, Counteroart International
Organizer 3: Olivier Alais, Counterpart International

Speaker 1: Iryna Chulivska, Civil Society, Eastern European Group
Speaker 2: Kuda Hove, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Chirinos Mariengracia, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Alp Toker, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

What are the changing threat models faced by human rights activists at the forefront of human rights, technology, and democratic advancement?

What tactics are human rights activists using to stay one step ahead of state and non-state threats and what are the policy implications? e.g.coping with internet censorship during times of national crisis

What is the impact of proposed legislation to confront online hate speech and how are governments using these laws to stifle free expression?

How do the threats in Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe compare with international trends?

How can human rights activists leverage international support and attention to hold governments accountable for online attacks and deliberate network disruptions?

Relevance to Theme: The panel's focus will be on the technological resilience of human rights defenders' ability to cope with digital security threats arising from phishing attacks, malware, censorship, surveillance, etc. and the translation of that experience into policy remedies and advocacy.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The relevance to internet governance is our focus on policy remedies to mitigate attacks from state and non state actors. We'll discuss how pervasive digital attacks against human rights activists inform public policy development in at risk countries. We'll explore the inherent conundrum in trying to produce legislation that will place a check on a government's ability to carry out a cyberattack against its own citizens.


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Description: Security, safety, and resilience online are all prerequisites for citizens to effectively engage in civic activism online. When these attributes are tampered with by state and non-state actors to stifle civic activism, however, everyone's fundamental rights are put at risk. Unfortunately for most activists in non-permissive states, ensuring the online platforms on which they conduct advocacy are secure and resilient is a perennial struggle. Our panelists from Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, and Ukraine all hail from different policy, political and security contexts, some more restrictive than others, but all struggle with protecting the internet as a space for healthy, unfettered democratic activism. Our discussion will delve into each country context, how activists are working to stay secure online, and comparative practices in other regions. Our panel will explore the policy implications for keeping the internet secure and resilient in the face of threats to online rights. A technical expert from NetBlocks will discuss the various techniques governments use to manipulate and censor the internet and what the trend lines look like globally for online censorship. The format will be interactive and will encourage audience participation in order to surface new ideas for staying safe online while engaged in human rights activism.

Expected Outcomes: Our expected outcomes include exposing the IGF audience to the digital rights and security situation in four key countries, sharing new ideas from other civil society activists on confronting threats to security online, sharing regional trends and responses to online censorship, and to form and strengthen multistakeholder ties among the panelists and audience.

Onsite Moderator: 

Dominic Bellone, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Olivier Alais, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Marilyn Vernon, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

We'll have a remote moderator onsite fielding questions and comments online, we'll be publicizing on each panelists' social media feeds, and the onsite moderator will promote remote participation throughout the panel.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

Proposed Additional Tools: We'll largely focus on Twitter because that is where a disproportionate number of the IGF and digital rights community convenes.


GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions