[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]
National and regional initiatives (NRIs) play an important role in bringing Internet governance discussions and topics to the regional and national level. The session focussed on the work of the NRI’s in the field of human rights, showcasing a few best practices in the protection of gender rights online.
Ms Layal Bahnam (Maharat Foundation and Lebanon IGF) presented the work the Lebanon IGF is doing in promoting the multistakeholder model and co-operation. The Lebanon IGF was held for the first time in 2018, partly because of the common misunderstanding in the region, that the Internet and Internet-related issues mostly appeal to a technical audience, missing the wider implications that the Internet has on human rights. Extending its reach to the younger generations was an initial step. The second step offered capacity building workshops in co-operation with DiploFoundation, which helped widen the active community to include also academics. Co-operation between governments, academia, and the technical community can only be achieved by including all generations and genders.
The issue of gender rights online, and the rights of marginalised groups online is discussed worldwide. In the case of Lebanon, women represent only 20% of those engaged in online discourse. Local initiatives helped women by training them in effective online communication. But this is just a part of the solution. Wider and institutional interactions are needed. In this regard, we heard about a best practice from audience participant Mr Andrea Beccalli (European Stakeholder Engagement Team, ICANN). He described a grassroots project started by Italian teenagers, and launched on social media platforms which led to the amendment of the criminal law in 2018 to recognise a specific form of online bullying: ‘revenge porn’. The Italian IGF provided the platform for the group of young people to address this issue and convey it to the policy regulator. First in the parliament, and then later in the Justice Department, the process led to a change in the law.
By Arvin Kamberi