A trusted internet through the eyes of youth

6 May 2016 09:00h

Event report

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Moderator Mr Carl Gahnberg (Policy Advisor, Internet Society) explained that the idea for this workshop originated from one of ISOC’s prioritised areas this year which is looking at ways to create a trusted Internet. He added that trust is one of the important factors in developing a sustainable Internet that can deliver economic and social welfare and also help us achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs). He further emphasised the need to include more youth voices and highlighted the Internet Society’s fellowship opportunity to encourage youth participation.

Gahnberg invited the panellists to share their views on trust, a personal concept that develops with awareness, association, and experience. Mr Hervé Chevalley (Master’s student, University of Lausanne) added that to further benefit from the Internet revolution, there is an urgent need to build trust online. Ms Ana Kakalashvili (L.L.M. student, University of Cologne) stressed that the Internet should be a place where users feel confident in developing themselves and not be scared of doing so.

Answering the question on how surroundings shape trust, Ms Adela Goberna (Chair, Youth Special Interest Group (Youth SIG)) highlighted the role of her city and parents in influencing and reinforcing trust by default.   Mr Nicolas Savoy (Master’s student, University of Lausanne) added how living in the free world with no particular restriction shaped his own understanding of trust and the role of the Snowden leaks in breaching them. Ms Poornima Meegammana (Founder, Respect Girls on the Net) presented her view that there is a difference in culture which holds back youth and girls in particular from trusting others and the Internet. She added that culturally young girls as a category do not feel safe. Grownups also play a part where they think that young girls will not be safe on the Internet. Kakalashvili pointed out that trust on the Internet is highly fragmented. She stressed the need for more discussions at national level to address the issue of trust.

The panellists agreed that there is a need to inform and empower users about the tools available to securely browse the Internet. They were of the view that users should also be informed about the possible risks while using the Internet. Savoy added that there needs to be a clear understanding of stakeholder interests and how government spying undermines trust in the online space. Chevalley felt that everyone should be responsible in the process of building trust and this should be facilitated by sharing knowledge with the community. Kakalashvili pointed out that building trust is based on consensus and though not everyone is happy with the end result, consensus is highly necessary to build trust.

Goberna cautioned that the role of users should not be underestimated. She added that people understand the issues, however, they don’t feel compelled to act on them and stressed the need for a different approach to get them engaged in these discussions. Meegammana felt this could be addressed by identifying and utilising different channels for communication.

Ms Kerry-Ann Barrett (Cyber Security Policy Specialist, Organization of American States (OAS)) presented the role of the OAS in bringing in all the stakeholders as equals and taking their input on policy frameworks. She felt that there is a general disconnect in the way we address these issues and posed a question about regulating the Internet to build trust.  

Savoy answered saying non-action would increase the costs of being online and overcome the benefits of being connected. He further stressed on the immediate need for empowering users, adopting laws, and doing everything possible to make the Internet a better place. Goberna felt that we have enough laws already but they are missing the goals. She added that we need a deeper understanding for a better implementation of existing laws. Kakalashvili felt that there should be a concrete understanding of the Internet as a concept before we frame new laws or impose existing ones.

Barrett presented her view that to promote an open and free Internet, there needs to be some regulation and guidelines for the developers who develop the products online.

Ms Joyce Dogniez (Director of Chapters, Internet Society) closed the session by thanking the panellists and highlighting the role played by the Internet Society in capacity building. She ended by saying policies should not be targeted at youth but should be framed with youth as part of the discussion.

by Krishna Kumar