[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]
The session, moderated by Mr Bill Woodcock, Packet Clearing House, featured discussions on content blocking and filtering and the challenges for Internet growth.
Mr Danko Jevtović, Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Board, started the session by saying that content blocking and filtering are a reality today and, in many of the cases explored during the panel, they are a necessity. According to him, the main goals of the session are to discuss technical and operational practices to filter and block content, and to promote best practices for doing so, in a way that does not violate the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Mr Sumon Ahmed Sabir, Fiber@Home, said that content filtering on the Internet has been used for a long time for safeguarding children, saving man-hours of work, and blocking malicious content, etc. The implementation of content filtering is a challenging issue. There are many different ways to filter, like filtering to a specific destination or blocking an Internet protocol (IP) address. Sabir mentioned that government requests to remove or to take down content are increasing, mainly for national security reasons.
Mr Peter Koch, DENIC, started by explaining that everything in the networks is chopped into small pieces and travels independently. This characteristic poses a challenge to content blocking and filtering. He explained the different methods that can be used to block content. One of these is to block an IP address or an entire range of IPs, and some Internet service providers (ISPs) use blacklists. Another method is to block the resolution of names. It is not possible to translate a domain name in an IP address, which hinders content access because the content continues to exist but it is necessary to know the exact IP address to reach it. Koch ended his participation by saying that it is common to filter and to block content to control the dissemination of fishing websites, malware, and botnets.
Mr Andrew Sullivan, Internet Society, stated that the Internet is seen as one network with a common numbering and naming space, but it is also formed from a lot of different networks. The Internet does not have a central control. Sullivan said that there are some options to block content. One of them is to block a specific point that is often used. According to him, the other possibility is the interception of the traffic, but this is difficult to implement in practice. He talked about transport layer security (TLS) and how it hinders the practice of interception. There is a non technical solution for the problem – the notice and take down system.
Mr Sebastian Soriano, Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (ARCEP), started by saying that information on the Internet wants to be free. It is not possible to control everything in the network. This an opportunity for content creators, but it can bring possible threats to society. Soriano remembered the Macron speech at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) when the president said that it is not acceptable to use the Internet to spread fake news, to make cyber attacks, to propagate hate speech, and to not respect copyright. There are two strong principles in France: one is net neutrality and the other is the status of hosting companies and their limited liability. France is studying the possibility of creating a new status of hosting companies for companies that accelerate the growth of content on the Internet, and the pilot will be with Facebook.
In her presentation, Ms Irene Poetanto, CitizenLab, University of Toronto, talked about the research conducted in CitizenLab on content blocking and filtering and how it impacts on freedom of speech on the Internet. She claimed that there is no transparent and accountable process in the business and it is harmful and dangerous for societies and democracies. Automated filters can over block content and cause damage.
Mr Alexander Isavnin, Internet Protection Society, said that Russian federal agencies decide if content is legal or not in the country. The regulations about content blocking are ambiguous and unclear. This can be abused by government as in the case of blocking opposition websites. The rules were created to prevent suicide and terrorist crimes, but there are no statistics to support the idea that they are helping with that. He mentioned the case of the popular video hosting site that was blocked forever in Russia because it infringed the copyright law.
Ms Mariko Kobayashi, Keio University, said that content blocking has three main impacts on the youth. First is an educational impact that comes with an over blocking of content like news. Second the blocking of the flow of information is damaging for the youth because they lose the chance to share their ideas over the Internet. Finally, many young people are entrepreneurs and content blocking impacts in this context. Young people are neutral actors. They can be responsible to connect stakeholders and bring everybody together to discuss this issue.
Ms Sylvia Cadena, APNIC, ended the session by saying that it is important to continue to discuss content blocking and filtering. She highlighted the importance of the session to see the other side of the coin.
By Nathalia Sautchuk Patricio