Freedom on the internet Is for EVERY stakeholder

12 Nov 2018 09:00h - 10:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]

Every individual and every stakeholder needs the Internet, but individuals can benefit from it only if it stays open and free. For this to happen, all stakeholders have to come together to take joint responsibility about ways to keep the Internet open, free, and safe.

The session was moderated by Mr Mariko Kobayashi, Keio University, who presented the speakers. He noted that the session will offer views from different stakeholders regarding the benefits of freedom on the Internet and regarding ways to apply these benefits to government and private sectors, so that the benefits reflect actual policies related to Internet shutdown, content blocking, and censorship. 

Ms Sanja Kelly, Director, Freedom House, noted that each year Freedom House publishes an annual report, ‘Freedom on the Net’, which is a compilation of reports from 65 countries. The top three issues from the latest report concern online manipulation, personal data protection, and Internet governance. Kelly noted that for civil society, the ‘Internet has been essential in the ability to push for greater rights and we’ve seen this in some of the most challenging, most repressive environments.’ On the other hand, she warned, we have also witnessed suppression. 

Mr Hirotaka Nakajima, Researcher, Mercari Inc., stated that the open and free Internet is important in accomplishing the sustainable development goals (SDGs). With growing blocking, filtering, and Internet shutdowns, often by government interference, the freedom on the Internet is threatened. He underlined that talks around blocking or filtering occur in such way that policy makers and other stakeholders avoid real discussions, but tend to criticise each other, which makes it difficult to build multistakeholder dialogue and solutions. 

Mr Thomas Grob, Senior Expert Strategy Deutsche Telekom AG, stated that for German operators it is quite usual to contest in court orders to block content. German operators currently do not have any blocking procedures, but they are expecting them. As a private company, they see their responsibility to their customers in a competitive market, and for them ‘it’s definitely important to sell access to the full Internet.’ In regard to the ‘black list’ provided by the Internet Watch Foundation, with the aim to prevent target abuse, material to be distributed, and even words to be used for profit online, no formal decisions have been made, but they noted that the implementation of the list would be a breach of net neutrality. 

Mr Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO, noted that the Constitution of UNESCO states that the Member States should collaborate in the work of advancing mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples through all means of communication. A few years ago, the concept called ‘Internet universality’ (Internet for everybody, everywhere) was defined by 195 Member States. These Member States saw Internet universality as extremely relevant to sustainable development, which resulted in the four ROAM principles (Rights, Open, Accessible, Multistakeholder). He concluded by saying ‘if you want to have rights, openness, accessibility, you need to have a multistakeholder practice.’

Ms Lillian Nalwoga, President, Internet Society Uganda Chapter, said that in 2015, of the 56 shutdowns, 26 were from Africa. Nalwoga pointed out that the technical community in Africa had ‘a bit of push’ from stakeholders, Internet users, to find a solution to respond to governments. She pointed out that in 2017 at the Africa Internet Summit, a proposal was presented to remove the IP addresses of governments implementing Internet shutdowns. In practice that would have meant that a lack of IP addresses from governments would cut people off from the Internet even more and lead to further inaccessibility, because ‘if you cut off the IP addresses of the governments and these governments are the ones providing them, they’re the ones that are buying the IP addresses.’ 


By Aida Mahmutović