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The workshop entitled ‘Tackling Internet Disruptions via Multi-stakeholder Advocacy’was organised jointly by the Center for International Media Assistance, the National Democratic institute, and the Center for International Private Enterprise.
The objective is to elicit specific recommendations around three core topic areas: What steps can technology companies take, consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the Global Network Initiative (GNI) Principles, to examine and limit the potential human rights impact of government demands to disrupt networks; how to strengthen existing mechanisms for connecting local private sector and Internet governance stakeholders to grassroots digital rights advocacy initiatives around Internet disruptions, and identify new channels for co-operation; and how can multistakeholder communities, such as those at the IGF, help set, promote, and enforce norms around preventing Internet disruptions?
Mr Daniel O’Malley introduced the session by providing brief statistics of Internet shutdowns around the world. Specific mention of data from Access Now showed that in 2017 there were a total of 108 Internet shutdowns. In the first six months of 2018 there were 81, which shows an increase. He cited Cameroon as one of the worst examples where between January 2017 and March 2018 the Internet was shut down for a total of 230 days, approximately 60% of the year.
O’Malley then mentioned that there has been 124 shutdowns and disruptions in 2018 already in India, the world's largest democracy. Daniel pointed out is that Internet shutdowns and disruptions is a global issue affects countries everywhere.
Ms Kathleen Ndongmo, Civil Society, Cameroon, joined the session remotely and shared on-the-ground experiences from the shutdowns in Cameroon. She was of the opinion that one way that multistakeholder actors can work to prevent shutdowns is to oppose any legislation that limits freedom and also advocate for the draft of proper legislations that defends the openness of the Internet.
Her second point was on the economic impact from the shutdowns. She said that presentations offinancial loss per day to governments, as well as a collective push by stakeholders can go a long way to influence how governments views shutdowns.
Mr Usama Khilji, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific, stated that one thing that should be demanded of governments is accountability, and letting citizens know whether there is genuine reason for the shutdowns and whether it is being achieved. He also said that governments must ensure transparency.
Mr Patrick Hiselius, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG), Board Member of GNI, said telecom companies can play a role in the multistakeholder process to halt Internet shutdowns by tapping into the leverage the GNI provides so that telcos can collaborate and make joint collective demands.
Mr David Sullivan, GNI, went into detail of the work that they are doing to get different groups on the same page to develop greater leverage. Particularly through the Internet for Democracy project, which is developing an advocacy playbook that will empower democracy activists to respond to Internet disruptions and Internet shutdowns.
Sullivan then summarised the session and acknowledged that although there is a greater understanding of the impact of shutdowns, there is a long way to go which requires more collaborations and work in this area.
By Jacob Odame-Baiden