Summaries of attended IGF sessions by IGF Youth Ambassadors 2020 – Daphne Stevens

Summaries of attended IGF sessions by IGF Youth Ambassadors 2020 – Daphne Stevens

IGF 2020 Pre-Event #62 Digital Sovereignty for States, Nations, or Users? An insight into the Polish Charter of Digital Sovereignty.

2 November 2020

The panelist of this talk was Jan Zygmuntowski, who works for the Polish think-tank Instrat. Instrat has created the Polish Charter of Digital Sovereignty, which can be seen as the Polish version of the Digital Services Act. They have been talking with different actors (companies, citizens, the government), where they encountered different perspectives regarding digital sovereignty.

When establishing the Polish Charter of Digital Sovereignty, they have had different achievements. A coalition was established for this subject, where actors from different fields are involved.

They have also organized a Digital Detox Day in Poland. Smaller communities find it very difficult to have an impact on digital sovereignty, and the coalition has aimed to show that this is possible. This has led more people to start believing in this as well. Currently, they are participating in different European consultations regarding digital sovereignty, and they keep advocating.

In the Charter, the coalition fights for:

  • Greater efficiency for tax collection.
  • Effective protection of Polish consumers and small and medium enterprises.
  • Extended powers for national authorities.
  • Greater transparency on digital markets.
  • The creation of common data spaces and socially beneficial AI.

The coalition also supports different EU initiatives that aim to modernise the platform-to-business regulation.

During the session, different questions were asked by the attendees. One attendee asked what impact the Charter will have on the free Internet. Jan stated that it mostly affects national commerce. However, it may boost innovation as well, for example through standard-setting.

Another attendee asked what he uses of a Polish Digital Services Act would be if an EU Digital Services Act is created. It is currently unclear what the EU Digital Services Act will look like. The Polish Charter aims to boost the national authority. It is a temporary action when better EU law is created, the Polish law will be retracted. Furthermore, the Polish Charter could be another nudge towards Brussels to take steps on the subject of digital sovereignty.

IGF 2020 Pre-Event #10 An open discussion about tackling terrorist and violent extremist content with the Global Internet Forum to Counter-Terrorism.

2 November 2020

The moderator of this discussion was Nicholas Rasmussen from the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). The panelists were Ghayda Hassan (professor on radicalization), Albert Antwi-Boasiako (national cybersecurity advisor in Ghana), and Dina Hussein (Facebook). 

GIFCT was established by Facebook, Microsoft, Youtube, and Twitter with the aim to tackle misuse by terrorists and extremists. There are 4 pillars:

  • Share knowledge (also with smaller tech companies).
  • Share technology (hashes, URLs, programs to match videos and images).
  • Research.
  • Crisis response. This pillar was established in response to the Christchurch attack.

Furthermore, an independent advisory committee (IAC) was established. GIFCT finds it very important to bring together different stakeholders from all over the world to deal with the content issues of terrorism and extremism.

According to Ghayda Hassan, a major issue at the moment is the closing of the minds. Leaders become more and more masters in instilling fear, which has a big impact on individuals. The Internet has a big influence on this, it creates a space for acting out. Users are no longer exposed to complex, nuanced voices. For this reason, stakeholders such as governments and tech/social media companies should be responsible and accountable. It is important to act proactively.

The moderator asked the panelists what could be possible outputs of the GIFCT. One aim is to expand further than just the persons on the UN terrorist list, looking at extremism as well. For this reason, it is of great importance to be transparent and to clearly define what is understood as extremism (also, who will be involved in creating this definition). Furthermore, the IAC currently has an advisory role, which should be broader.

The advice has to be seriously considered. The industry should look broader than just the economic-political considerations, they should also look at the impact. True and sincere engagement is necessary. A final output that was mentioned by the panelists was to share knowledge, for example through the creation of guidelines for governments.

Lastly, the question was asked how to manage the balance with fundamental human rights. The policies on content moderation should be transparent and publicly accessible. It is important to work together with other stakeholders and to engage with different communities.

There needs to be educated on what freedom of expression is, as this is often misunderstood. Clear definitions are necessary. Facebook uses three pillars when conducting content moderation, namely safety, privacy, and voice. The cultural context plays an important role here as well. They also invest in partnerships with experts on this topic.

IGF 2020 Pre-Event #83 Agile State – opportunities and threats. How is the role of the state changing in digital reality?

3 November 2020

This was a discussion regarding how the role of the state changes in digital reality. COVID-19 has changed the way governments look at digital programs. There are more possibilities in COVID-19-time, and it has also become easier to implement these possibilities. Furthermore, governments have realized the importance and value of data and Big Data.

This may change the way that we provide healthcare for example. It brings forward opportunities, but also risks, such as privacy concerns and disinformation. COVID-19 can be seen as a wake-up call: “We can open doors that were closed before.”

Key technological opportunities and challenges for states were discussed as well, such as more of a focus on the needs of citizens (focus on the user-experience) while using technologies and using the data the government has in other ways as well. However, the increased use of technologies leads to questions regarding privacy, data, and cybersecurity.

There is a need for a better, basic understanding of technology. Governments have to become more flexible and efficient, with hopefully more technologists as well. This can lead to new collaborations. There is room for optimism!

IGF 2020 NRIs Collaborative Session: Cybersecurity local policies and standards

4 November 2020

This collaborative session of NRIs was focused on cybersecurity. First, a discussion took place about the situation regarding cybersecurity in different countries.

  • A panelist from Brazil talked about the situation there. Different actors need to be involved in cybersecurity. There are more than 40 cybersecurity response teams, which are active in different sectors. There is a focus on training, capacity-building, and continued cooperation.
  • Then a panelist from North-Macedonia took the floor. Before 2016, there was no concrete capacity regarding cybersecurity. In 2016, a critical response team was established. Now there is a national cybersecurity strategy, which consists of different components. They took a multi-stakeholder approach. The capacity has been increased over the years.
  • Then the situation in Chad was discussed. Chad is dealing with cyber-criminals and cyber-terrorists, which is a challenge to security. The cybersecurity capacity is at an early stage, there is, for example, no response team or strategy yet. Different actors are victims of cyberattacks. They are in this session to learn from other countries.
  • A panelist from France explained the situation in his country. Cybersecurity is a cornerstone of the digital agenda there. It is of great importance to raise awareness and strengthen educational programs. They have implemented different EU Directives (Nice Directive, GDPR). They also engage with the Council of Europe and other international efforts (such as the Paris Call and the Christchurch Call).
  • A panelist from Albania explained the situation in her country. There are many recent developments with regards to cybersecurity policy and law. The objective is to fully transpose the Nice Directive in national legislation. They focus on capacity-building and training. Albania receives support from many international actors, both in the region as internationally.

Then a discussion took place regarding the question of how international cooperation could be improved. It is of great importance to foster a multi-stakeholder approach (such as through the Paris Call). Stakeholders have to provide support for training and capacity building. It is also important to share information among stakeholders, with the aim to improve transparency.

Lastly, the question was asked how the culture around cybersecurity could be built, in order to get more people involved. This is quite a big challenge, but education on important topics and best practices seem to be of great importance here. Furthermore, it is important to create trust among stakeholders.

IGF 2020 OF #31 Safe digital spaces, a dialogue on countering cyberviolence

4 November 2020

This session on cyberviolence against women was set up by Web foundation, UN Women, and IT for Change. A Google Document was created to summarise this session.

Cyberviolence against women was discussed from different perspectives:

  • In India, there are gaps in criminal legislation regarding this subject. Misogyny is manifested in digital private places. There is a need for a feminist lens when making policies.
  • According to Facebook, blocking perpetrators does not always work in cases of domestic violence. Instead, the aim is to show ways in which different features can be used and how cases of misogyny can be reported.
  • Take Back the Tech aims to reclaim technology for pleasure and consent and stop online harm. The problem is that many personal attacks have political ties, targeting the freedom of expression.
  • A researcher stated that the research on this subject should consider multiplicity, multidisciplinarity, and be participatory and inclusive.
  • It also became clear that there should be a multi-stakeholder approach to trying to stop the continuum of violence online and offline.

During the Q&A, a discussion took place regarding best practices for content moderation and tech companies that focus on something else than content moderation. Furthermore, the question was raised how individuals can engage – through counter-speech (speak up and support), joining campaigns, driving discussion online, and reporting harassing content.

Cyberviolence against women

IGF 2020 OF #25 Freedom Online Coalition Open Forum

5 November 2020

During this session, a discussion took place regarding disinformation. Firstly, it was discussed why the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) aims to act against disinformation. Disinformation is not a human rights violation or a crime, but it affects the enjoyment of human rights. There are worries about discrimination and stigmas.

Disinformation can also have implications for democracy, health, and minority groups. Currently, disinformation can spread faster and have a bigger reach. There is a need for access to accurate information. Education with regards to this subject is therefore important. It is an international, multi-stakeholder issue.

One of the panelists represented Facebook. She stated that Facebook’s aim is to let people connect safely. They use independent third-party fact-checkers in order to reduce, reform and, if needed, remove harmful content. Currently, disinformation regarding voting and that can lead to real-life harm is removed from the platform.

In these cases, safety overrules the freedom of expression. Furthermore, they aim to educate their users about disinformation. It is important to note that the protection of freedom of expression is deemed of great importance.

Then a discussion took place regarding the question of why the topic is so challenging to find agreement in. It is difficult to reach a consensus because it develops itself very quickly, within organisations but also among other stakeholders (novelty, scale, etc).

The more proactive role of the platforms is something that we have never seen before, which complicates this a bit as well. It is of great importance to comply with human rights legislation and try to find common ground among countries to limit these rights in a proportionate manner. The next step is to work further on FOC’s statement regarding disinformation and act forward with regards to that.

IGF sessions

IGF 2020 OF #28 Swiss Open Forum on Self-Determination in the Digital Space

6 November 2020

This session focussed on the debate regarding digital self-determination. Digital self-determination implies that citizens should have access to their data and have an understanding of how this affects them so that they can make a self-determined decision. It contains both an individual and a collective element. 

First, the use of data infrastructure in the energy sector was discussed. There is no platformisation yet, and the infrastructure for data exchange needs to be changed. Furthermore, the use of data starts playing a bigger role, such as through digital metering devices. There is a need for further development in the field.

After this, the legal aspects of digital self-determination were discussed. Users need to have access to and control of data (and they should be able to base their decisions on this). This “right” can be found in different laws and policies. Good examples are the COVID-19 tracing applications and electronic health records.

Digital self-determination depends on the user’s knowledge of data, which is not always the case. This can create issues. It is important to work on giving the users the possibility to make decisions regarding their data.

There is a strong link between awareness and platformisation. It is important to look broader than just regulation. The discussion about this has to be continued. Questions/tensions that still arise with regards to digital self-determination are the following:

  • Should it be based on a protective stance or empowerment?
  • Is it a conversation regarding technical infrastructure or human capacity-building?
  • Is it an individualist concept or a communitarian concept?
  • Is it a story about personal data or about data in general?

IGF 2020 OF #29 Global Encryption Coalition

6 November 2020

The Global Encryption Coalition (GEC) aims to protect encryption. Encryption allows us to communicate freely, it secures privacy and ensures safety. The argument of the GEC is that governments try to weaken encryption. Backdoors make encryption less secure. They argued that better communication between different stakeholders is important (also with governments). It is important to move away from the binary view.

IGF 2020 NRIs Collaborative Session: Digital rights and impact on democracy

6 November 2020

Digital rights are becoming more important, especially now that society moves online. Panelists from different national IGF’s spoke about digital rights. There is a need for best practices and enforcements of these best practices. It is important to focus on intellectual property as well – which was a part of the debate that different panelists had not focussed on before. There is a realisation that the Internet is no longer just leisure, it is much more important now.

It is essential for the functioning of society. The Internet has a big impact on both society and democracy. It has an impact on legislation and policy. Different rights need to be balanced, for which it is important to have courts and prosecutors be involved in this process as well. There is a key role of the Internet in strengthening both democracy and the economy. Cooperation is important.

A short discussion also took place on the topic of the impact that COVID-19 has had on digital rights. It caused citizens to become more aware of their digital rights. This was also caused by the realisation that the world will become more digital. The stream of disinformation is something that we also had to deal with during this time period. Governments have been trying to raise more awareness with regards to that.

By Daphne Stevens

Edited by Connie Siu M.H.

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