IGF 2018 WS #187
Surveilled and Silenced: Defending youth rights online

Organizer 1: Matthew Hatfield, IFEX
Organizer 2: Veronica Yates, CRIN
Organizer 3: Marcelo Daher, OHCHR
Organizer 4: Mariel García-Montes, Berkman Klein Centre

Speaker 1: Marcelo Daher, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 2: Veronica Yates, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: David Kaye, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Jeremy Malcolm, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Round Table - 90 Min


As covered above, David Kaye and Marcelo Daher will be asked to share their perspective on the international frameworks that exist around youth rights, including formal legal requirements under international human rights law, and voluntary standards that intergovernmental organizations and civil society have developed. Mariel Garcia Montes and Veronica Yates will speak to their experience with specific policies and initiatives that violate the expression rights of youth, and their experience campaigning against these policies.

Our as yet unfinalized speakers referred to below will likewise draw on their unique experiences. At RightsCon our youth panelist spoke at length about her experience being railroaded into educational programs that provided extensive surveillance of her activities, and the impact it had on the perception of the rights amongst her peers, while our participants from the global south spoke to their experience dealing with much less formalized legal frameworks around privacy and surveillance for both adults and youth in their respective contexts, how traditional culture magnifies and enables online surveillance problems in Pakistan, and how export of rights-violating software and legal standards from the global north to their context is a significant problem.


We are assembling a gender balanced panel that currently includes speakers with experience in academia, civil society and intergovernmental organizations, and Latin America, Europe and North America. We are currently screening candidates for our panel to increase representation and match the composition of our session at RightsCon - a local youth activist who can speak first-hand to their experience and that of their peers, and a representative of an organization currently working on these issues in either South Asia or East Africa.

Session outline/agenda:
1. Introduction: briefly introducing session's topic, moderator, and panelists.

2. What rights are we defending? UN speakers briefly discuss relevant formal rights of youth that exist in international law, as well as recent voluntary standards (such as UNICEF's recent recommendations document: https://issuu.com/unicefusa/docs/unicef_toolkit_privacy_expression) that have been developed to help operationalize them.

3. What's actually happening on the ground? Civil society speakers speak about what they are seeing companies or governments do in their context that violates these rights. Case studies such as Prevent UK, mandatory school enrolment apps that collect and share extensive data, anti-gang initiatives that often misidentify and profile young people. Audience invited to contribute their own experiences.

4. Where is this going? Speakers and audience briefly invited to consider the repercussions of some of these trends for the future freedom of expression and democratic participation of young people.

5. What should be done about it? Speakers invited to suggest specific changes they would like to see decision-makers adopt to change these trends that would provide for the direct protection of young people while having a less severe impact on their fundamental human rights.

A key benefit of engaging with the IGF's audience will be to connect us to organizations and individuals that are not yet part of civil society's conversation around these issues, including those who may have a different take on the appropriate balancing of youth rights, and strong audience participation is crucial to fulfilling that goal.

For this reason, drawing our positive experience at RightsCon, we'll have a short (~20-25 minute) opener in which we identify the speakers backgrounds and ask them to share their core experience, then we will be switching to a more conversational format. For the remainder of the session we will put discussion questions out to our speakers, but encourage the audience to raise their hand and offer their own contributions, comments and critiques of the ideas we're sharing.

IFEX staff will track online questions and contributions made under a hashtag for the session, and provide a mix of them to be read out during the session proportional to the volume of online contributions versus in person ones.

We will also be live-tweeting strong statements from speakers and participants from the session (attributing only with explicit established permission), and retweeting many tweets made under the discussion hashtag.

Good work is being done to protect young people online from harassment and direct physical harm, yet much less attention is given to their other rights - particularly their right to express themselves freely, privately, and without undue surveillance and collection of their data by third parties. Too often, law and policy adopted in the name of protecting young people in practice strips them of these rights, enabling unwarranted control over them and collection of marketable data about them that can follow them through their adult lives.

This session will ask our participants to consider the bigger picture of the online world we are constructing for young people, one where their every political and social expression is held in perpetuity by companies and governments to use against them. The session builds on an earlier workshop held at RightsCon 2018 (summary coverage of that workshop available here: https://ifex.org/international/2018/06/04/rightscon-youth-surveillance/). It will continue to highlight specific violations of youth expression rights, assess them against binding and voluntary international standards, and evaluate potential consequences for the future of privacy and citizenship.

Online Participation

We will live-stream the session through our social media and under the #IGF2018 hashtag, and IFEX staff will monitor the discussion and relay questions or comments from the audience to the on-site IFEX staff to include in our audience participation section.