IGF 2018 WS #358
Right to free expression during internet shutdowns

Organizer 1: Hija Kamran, Digital Rights Foundation
Organizer 2: Nighat Dad, Digital Rights Foundation

Speaker 1: Nighat Dad, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: David Kaye, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Melody Patry, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Usama Khilji, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Alp Toker, Technical Community, Eastern European Group
Speaker 6: Mishi Choudhary, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Seerat Khan

Online Moderator

Hyra Basit


Seerat Khan


Panel - 90 Min


The panel will bring together a diverse set of individuals, including lawyers, activists, advocates, from global south and north working towards right to privacy in digital age to discuss how government surveillance affect people’s right to privacy and what can and should be done to ensure the said right.


Digital Rights Foundation strives to highlight diversity in all its work. For these panels, we intend to bring experts and representative from communities that deserve to be heard. Our sessions focus on the issues of people of colour, and most of our work explores the gendered implications of technology. Our sessions at IGF will also be reflective of the principles of diversity that DRF stands for.

Internet shutdowns initially used to be the methods governments would opt for when it was absolutely needed. While today, the first instinct against every unforeseen event for every government around the world is to disrupt access to information by blocking the internet. Between January 2016 and November 2017, the internet was disconnected 116 times in 30 countries. Not just these disproportionate measures affect people’s right to free speech and access to information, it also drastically affect economies resulting in the loss of millions of dollars - something that developing countries can’t afford.

This panel aims to discuss how internet shutdowns are used as a weapon by authoritarian governments around the world to stifle dissent, and how in the wake of political distress, such measures further perpetuate confusion and chaos among people and ultimately give rise to fake news--an issue people around the world are struggling to overcome. The panel will also be aimed to discussed the alternate approaches that the governments may take to protect national security - an excuse widely given to justify these shutdowns, and how on policy level these very governments should ensure people’s digital rights.

The discussion will be open by the onsite moderator with the introduction of panelists, moving on to asking questions and facilitating discussion, all the while taking questions from the audience - both online and onsite - during the interventions to promote participant engagement throughout the session.

Internet shutdowns are one of the most significant predicaments that the digital rights advocates around the world struggle to counter. This particular violation of users’ digital rights not only affect their right to access technology, but is also closely interlinked with the violation of their right to free speech and right to information. Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), for example, has been deprived of access since June 2016 leaving millions of residents living on margins out-of-touch from the outside world, ultimately and directly affecting their personal lives on multiple levels. This panel will explore how internet shutdowns have affected people and communities around the world, and has given rise to fake news.

Online Participation

To accomodate online participation, the onsite moderator will be taking questions from the remote attendees, directed to them by the online moderator. These questions and comments will be collected throughout the session, and will be shared with the room as and when feasible.