The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Okay. Good afternoon. And maybe good morning or good evening to online participants. So welcome to our open forum session on Internet shutdown and network restrictions. My name is Yoichi Iida in the Japanese ministry of internal affairs and communications. And we warmly welcome all the participants and in particular, the panelists on site and online.
Today, we have five panelists, and two panelists on site, and three panelists online. So first, let me introduce the two panelists on site. On my left‑hand side Ms. Maarit Parovirta, I'm sorry. My pronunciation maybe. And she's a senior director from European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association.
And on my right‑hand side Mr. Edmon Chun, CEO from DotAsia.
I hope three other panelists are already online. The first online panelist is professor Azadah Akbari, with the Digital Transformation at the University of Twente.
And second online panelist is Mr. Charles Mok, visiting scholar at Cybersecurity Center at US Stanford University. And I hope the final online panelist, Ms. Niki Masghati from the US Department of State in Digital Freedom Team in Bureau of Cyber Space and the Digital Policy.
So today, our session will discuss the current situation and the future policy implications of Internet shutdown and the need to have network restrictions.
In the past periods, we have seen the importance of network connection, which, in particular, demonstrated by the COVID‑19 pandemic expansion and also we witnessed some policy implication of Internet shutdown when government tried to control their network. In particular, from the cases and the discussions around Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Not limited to those examples or cases, we have been discussing the possibility of Internet shutdown and the network restrictions and the issues and the challenges related to those policy implementations, and also some possibilities of some potential benefit of those practices.
Today, I would like to listen to experts panelists, onsite and online of their views, opinions, and the suggestions on those policy topics.
In particular, the government of Japan is hosting Internet Governance next year, and also, we are taking the presidency of G7 next year. So our intention is to pick up this important topic as a part of our agenda both in G7 and the IGF. Of course, G7 is governmental policy fora, and IGF is multi‑stakeholder forum, but we want to synergize those different discussions and we want to promote the benefits of barrier‑free, interoperable Internet. I would like to invite the five panelists to share their views and opinions and also some suggestions, proposals, on Internet shutdowns and network restrictions and probably if possible, some proposal to our government when the government wants to discuss these issues from governmental perspective, what would be the roles of government and what would be the roles of government discussions in multi‑stakeholder policy making?
So first, let me invite Ms. Maarit.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: Thank you very much. It's working. Thank you very much for the Japanese government for organizing this interesting session and for having invited us as well from EDMO. So just a brief background, I represent EDMO. So we are a grade association whose members are the European telecommunication operators so 33 of the largest telecommunication operators.
And if you think about the role of operators, of course, when we talk about Internet shutdowns or any kind of well, meddling with networks, operators are for better or worse the executioner arm who will be, let's say, operationalizing any of these things because the networks are run and operated and managed by operators. So this, of course, is an issue that is of particular importance to us. And also, an issue that we want to be very, very well vocal about and be part of the discussion.
So we are at the same time, we represent the European operators, and we consider ourselves fortunate in Europe in that our legal and political situation does not really permit Internet shutdowns as such. As we see perhaps happening in some other jurisdictions more frequently.
We have some even European regulation, open Internet rules that lay out a kind of environment whereby blocking of websites or network access is forbidden by operators. So we are kind of living ‑‑ trying to live up to the open Internet ‑‑ the open Internet vision. And by that also, we then kind of mean that all end users should have access to all legal content, of course, in good quality. And I think that as a starting point is a fortunate one. However, of course when we look at the global Internet, there's networks and decisions in one part of the world may affect other regions the world.
For example, if there is a part of the world or region who is did, has a shutdown or blocking some parts of the network, you then might have unintended consequences to the neighboring regions, et cetera. Of course, we are not totally, let's say, out of the ‑‑ out of the scope here.
Also, some of our members do have the international operators. So they have presence in Africa, you know, Orange and Telefonica, Latin America and we have some direct exposure there.
One interesting point in Europe. We done really experience shutdowns as touch, but in the very recent past, in the contest. European energy crisis that we are currently facing because of this Russian war on Ukraine, there is more and more talk about power outages and the potential of power outages.
And, of course, the consequence of such outage would be that you may have an Internet shutdown if you don't have the kind of ‑‑ well, the generators and a whole ecosystem to kind of ensure that you have Internet connectivity will continue. We have addressed this in the past months.
Going into the impacts from operators' point of view, of course, if there's a shutdown and if there is no legal framework, and I'm thinking here more the authoritarian context, this is a very, very difficult situation for an operator because you are asked by your government to shut down or part of the whole network, and failure to comply may immediately put your company, but also perhaps the employed staff in some kind of danger. So there is, of course, then a tendency to go and comply with any government ruling based on local law. And, in a way, it is not the private sector's position to go and question laws if they are written black and white, of course we do advocacy. And we are advocating open Internet, as we said but this is not then possible always in all circumstances.
And, of course, when you disconnect the network, there's all type of consequences to the operator. And it may end up in loss of revenue to the operator in the very immediate because you are cutting off all of your customers. And also then, this is very important for the customer base and the end users. It's not only end users and the matter of fundamental rights, but it's also small and medium businesses, industries, et cetera. So you have whole sectors of the economy that are being shut off and are then losing revenue and are not able to continue their business. So this is having a lot of immediate and longer term consequences.
And if we think about it from the operators' point of view and investment point of view when they want to operate new networks or build new networks in whatever country, what they are looking at is legal surgency, and also then, you know, an investment environment where they think they can do business with some certainty for the longer term. Of course, the upfront invests to build networks are very high. So you want to make sure that you will be able to run your business as well for the years to come. So if you see shutdowns and network shutdowns happening in an environment, it is a bit of a deterrent then to invest in such an environment, because it represents an uncertainty factor in a way. So it's a bit of a vicious circle from the operators point of view but I think this is a thing that will apply for many, many other private sector players.
And maybe just before I finish the impacts, there are also technical consequences. So I already was saying that if part of the network is shut down somewhere, then the traffic will be rerouted through the Internet, through another alternative route. And this may then cause unexpected traffic flows and even congestion on networks. And this, of course, is not something that operators like either because it may then have additional costs, consequences. You might have to manage the traffic, et cetera. So there are also technical consequences. But I don't want to monopolize. Maybe we can discuss the role of government, and the Internet governance role on the second round so everybody gets a word in.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you, very much, Maarit, on the perspective of the telecommunication operators and business players. Actually, the point of investment is very much interesting, and it has a lot of implication to the government too. So next, let me invite online ‑‑ the second online ‑‑ on site speaker, Mr. Edmon Chung from DotAsia. So I think you are experiencing Asia can be very different or maybe some different implications. So, please.
>> EDMON CHUNG: Thank you. Thank you for having me. This is the topic of Internet shutdown is quite dear to my heart. Being based in Hong Kong, just a few years ago, we would have never thought this would be something relevant locally, but we watch, you know, these type of issues come up in other places and now is probably a very different situation and we are basing some of the challenges, the potential challenges as well, and perhaps Charles can add to that. I know he can probably add to that in his discussion. But Iida mentioned one thing that I wanted to talk about. When COVID came down, a lot of the lockdowns, what we kind of witnessed is that when the physical mobility of people is really you are curtailed because of lockdowns, the digital mobility becomes critical. And a lot of the things that continue to work is actually dependent on Internet. And therefore, especially when you think about situations where physical mobility is curtailed, I think digital mobility must remain open and, you know, sustaining.
The other thing about Internet shutdowns often, you know, people forget about is that it's not just about content. And, especially if you talk about shutdown of the entire network, many different devices, even potentially life ‑‑ you know, life‑sustaining devices could be connected and dependent on the Internet connection and by shutting down, that would potentially affect those devices and, you know, human life.
So in general, I guess from ICANN and the ICANN community had, of course we stand for like an interoperable and global Internet serving people around the world. One of the things that I think is important also is that, you know, in times of crisis, it is really through unimpeded access to Internet and the flow of information. You talk about wars and crisis situations. It's through unimpeded access that people can gain knowledge. They can, being exposed to diversity of different viewpoints and information. So that's actually especially critical when times of crisis happens that access to information and communication be kept alive and could be life saving.
So the Internet, however, is a decentralized system, and as Maarit mentioned, operators play a role. No single actor completely controls the Internet and implements shutdown, so to speak. To different organizations may a role and in the reverse, different organizations play a role in defending the Internet open and free Internet as well, such as myself, also another role that I have at Internet Society Hong Kong platforms like IGF and the Asia Pacific IGF and RightsCon. Many of these platforms are important to continue to protect and promote freedom online.
And I think it's not ‑‑ it's never one and done thing. You can't write on a piece of paper and say, you know, we'll maintain Internet up and running. It's all about the implementation and the continual struggle and the continued dynamic that makes a difference. I think one of the questions is whether there are actually really legitimate reasons for complete shutdown. This is one of the big questions.
Of course, we know that there are situations where information is weaponized and fake news, disinformation. All of these things are important. Maybe we have done things too late. These echo chambers create polarized societies. Are they enough to really shut down the Internet in all layers.
You know, shutting down on different layers may have different responses and I think one the things we want to point out is that, you know, shutting down particular layers is different and especially in the technical layers, I think that is one important part to consider to actually keep up regardless of the situation. And this is an important discussion, I think, during peace time. Because when it's not ‑‑ you know, when you are in a bar, when you are in a crisis, it's probably too late to talk about up keeping of the network. So is there legitimate reason, attacks that are widespread, but even in those situations, the response probably should not be centralized, right? In response to cyber attack, it should be contributed and not centralized in terms of shutdowns. One the important things is to think through and develop policies and procedures to keep the core infrastructure online, really, and this particular process I think is important to think through using the multi‑stakeholder model and the multi‑stakeholder mechanisms. In terms of content layer, sometimes they are very difficult to say an absolute no to things like, you know, if information is being weaponized, that disinformation is happening, whether certain levels of takedown is important. But there then, I think multi‑stakeholder mechanism that can hold platforms to be accountable, not really governments. Governments should be part of the multi‑stakeholder model but not the decisive factors on these type of shutdowns.
I think, you know the last part that I want to add is besides the content part, besides the advocacy part that different stakeholders should really do and the policies set, technically, they think about community networks to be built for the resilience of networks and to make sure that on top of the telco networks, the community networks can actually play a role in crisis situations as well. So I will kind of, you know, leave it with four points that I would summarize that I wanted to bring up.
One is we need to defense against cyber attacks versus stifle speech, stifling speech satellite a bad word but attack or defending against disinformation is what we are talking about. We have to distinguish the two.
Second point is that when he would develop responses to cyber attack, shutdown may not be completely it may be useful in certain cases, but they have to be developed as a decentralized response.
And then thirdly, I think the multi‑stakeholder mechanism is most important in developing these processes and the third thing is develop these processes to keep the core network infrastructure online early, before crisis happens. So that's what a want to add.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you very much, Edmon. I think you demonstrated the importance of multi‑stakeholder discussion being continued from the peaceful and normal time so that everybody can be when some legitimate necessity comes up.
Now, I would like to invite online participants and first, I would like to invite Professor Akbari, I think your experience and your story will also give us some wider range of understanding and perspective. So please, take the floor.
>> AZADEH AKBARI: Thank you very much. I think it's important to have a visual perspective for what I will present in a short amount of time. Hopefully you are seeing my presentation.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Yes, we can see.
>> AZADEH AKBARI: Thank you very much, Japan, for organizing this session. It's one of the ‑‑ I think one of the most important things that is happening in the Internet Governance at the moment. The theme of today is also avoiding Internet fragmentation and that's interesting. My research and expertise is in information and communication technologies for development. And surveillance studies, especially in the authoritarian context.
And so today I will present the case of Iran as one the examples that I think sort of is a ‑‑ is an interesting way of looking at Internet shutdowns. So if you look at the structure of Internet governance in Iran, you will see that you have this hardware infrastructure that is quite lately was developed inside of Iran. And very soon, there's layers of surveillance integrated in the infrastructure. So the ISPs, for example, were forced to filter some of the keyboards. There are URL blockings and so on. You also have a lot of intersection technologies used by the Iranian, for example, blacklisting, URLs and SSL blocking and all items that limit and control Iranian users access to the global Internet.
And on top of that, you have a lot of governmental organizations that are also actively engaging in content production and also content control and moderation on platforms. So you have Iranian cyber Army that is established in 2005, and a lot of committees that most of them are working under the direct supervision of the highest offices in the ‑‑ in Iranian government.
So apart from these infrastructural, interconnective layers of control and institutional layers of control, you have the users that obviously, they want to have access to the global Internet. And using the Internet in Iran is very much coupled with using VPN technologies. And there you can also see that there's a chaotic market of VPN technologies. For example, during this recent uprising, the Iranian regime has tried to inject some of their own VPN technologies into the mark and by that, they are having direct access, actually, to the data of people who think they are using VPN technologies.
Apart from this intended government of fear, this is a surveillance assemblage, there's other ways that are ‑‑ other systems that are integrated in the Internet system.
So for example, you have the national digital identification and the Iranian regime has also tried to have biometric data banks to develop biometric data banks for purposes of national digital identification, but we have seen during the current protests, for example, that they are matching faces using racial recognition technologies and on the streets and so on. So you have different layers of surveillance going on there.
One the most important things that I want to emphasize today is the national Internet network. It is one of the most ambitious, one the most expensive projects of the Iranian government, and what is ‑‑ what is called National Internet Network is basically a national intranet. It's a network inside the country, all the servers are inside and inside of Iran, you have two separate cyberspaces. One is the global Internet which has a free throw and the other one is cyberspace that is localized.
What we are seeing at the moment is that the Internet shutdowns are not only used to curb access to the Internet. So we had this before in to 19, during the protests at the time, we saw that the Iranian government used five days of complete shutdown of the Internet and during that time 1,005 people were killed.
Now this time, the government is using ‑‑ is obviously showing some different behavior. They are responding to user behaviors. So we have patchy Internet shutdowns. We have localized Internet shutdowns. We have sometimes Internet shutdown just in one area, in one local area that a demonstration is happening. We have Internet shutdowns just on the mobile phone connections and not on the cable. So the government is also playing with the kind of Internet shutdowns and you can imagine if you are shutting down the Internet on mobile phones in a demonstration area, it basically means that people cannot connect to each other, cannot upload videos and so on. So you very ‑‑ in a very intelligent way shut down the Internet.
And that's what I'm trying to emphasize today, that the Internet shutdown is becoming more and more intelligent. It's not only switching off one ‑‑ one connection to the global Internet.
What is the solution? How can we talk about that? I think if we are going to the theoretical level of what kind of discourse of Internet Governance we have at the moment, I put it on a range to show that different countries are standing on different points on this range. And traditionally, we had multistakeholderism, the ‑‑ which was very much supported by the United States of America. It's based ‑‑ its economy is based on free market and the values are about free and open Internet.
On the other hand, we had the multilateralism, where China really tried to advocate for that. Obviously, China is doing that through a controlled market, and the main discourse that China is using is digital sovereignty.
We have, obviously, other models that are taking components from each of those. And we have the EU model.
It happens in a regular market, but the EU takes very fundamental approach to the rights and this rights-based approach is something that we see in GDPR, in data protection, in privacy rights and digital services act and at the moment, at the European Union and so on.
Whereas, the EU model and the US model are trying their best to collaborate together, at the beginning of this month, we had the Future of the Internet, for example, Conference, at the European Commission and different delegations from the United States and the European Union tried to collaborate to defend the global and multi‑stakeholder model of Internet.
We will see ‑‑ we see more and more countries that are trying to use this kind of discourse of digital sovereignty for Internet shutdowns and for controlling access to the net, and especially intelligent kind of Internet shutdowns.
So what we can do?
I think maybe things that I'm saying here is obviously, within the framework of human rights, freedom of expression, but I think it is also important that to ‑‑ to notice that the United Nations is also now advocating for freedom of assembly in digitally‑mediated spaces. So it's more ‑‑ it's about more human rights and more freedoms other than just freedom of expression. And finally, this may seem to be a visionary kind of idea, but I think the private firms and Big Tech companies have already shown a lot of interest, there's a lot of innovation and technological progress when it comes to free, basic Internet access globally. We have seen Meta's free basics and Musk StarLink they have their own ways of dealing with issues of internet access.
But I think as an international communicate we have shown some areas that the international community can work together. We have seen, for example, that more or less there's free basic vaccination available for all human beings on this planet and I think if you are thinking about the digital future, then we should think about Internet as a global public good and in that sense, international organizations can also really develop a kind of infrastructure that is free from governmental interference in the sense that every human being can have access to at least some sort of connection to the global and free Internet.
Thank you very much.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you very much, Assistant Professor Akbari. It's a very different world existing in Iran, and we need to think what we can do.
And the next speaker is Charles Mok, at Cyber Security Center at Sanford University. So, Charles, the floor is yours.
>> CHARLES MOK: Yes, thank you. Can you hear me?
>> YOICHI IIDA: Yes, I can hear you and see you.
>> CHARLES MOK: Thank you for having me, Mr. Iida, it's great to follow Professor Akbari's presentation. It's important to realize that oftentimes when we think about Internet shutdown, we think about the whole network being shut down, but oftentimes, it is very related to many different measures of censorship and collective network restrictions. So like you mentioned, shutting down the mobile network only, or maybe in only a certain part of the country or the city, because a protest is going on, possibly. Shutting down certain access to services or technologies or technical infrastructure. For example, certain part of the HTTP traffic or encrypted DNS are blocking certain apps or even in some cases just removing certain apps or functions from the apps or removing the apps from the app stores. This is similar to many of the measures that we normally talked about as part of censorship. So to me, international shutdown is the most extreme form of censorship.
Now Edmon brought up an interesting question, whether there's any motivation or any possible justification for having a nation down. I can't think of any of these reasons. If you look at the reality of what has been happening recently or the past many years, five, ten years of governments shutting down part of the Internet in their countries or regions, you ‑‑ you never really see that they were doing it because they were under cyber attack or some sort of reasons that Edmon, that you mentioned. Correct me if I'm wrong.
But we always see that it has to be related to certain popular uprising, people going on to the street to protest or it has to do with elections and that is how governments some governments seem to think, that's the easiest way to influence the results or discourse, or oppress certain uprising or popular expression of people's opinions.
Now, I also want to point out a 2022 report, that was published by the office of the United Nations high commission for human rights, and they concluded that international downs creates significant obstacles that damage economies, democratic processes and flow of information, which may erode trust in electoral processes, and increase the likelihood of hostilities and violence.
So to me, this is almost like I cannot find any justification for doing such a shutdown. But why are governments doing it?
I think the biggest reason is that it is easy they think it's easy and it can be done as extreme digital oppression or censorship in their countries. Now, you do see that some countries do not ‑‑ even though they are very repressive in the sense of the Internet environment, but they don't go with the tactic of international town. For example, China, because in China, I think it's a good example of having a very good sophisticated system censorship and surveillance that they do not need to go to the extreme, and in most cases they feel that they are already able to control to the satisfaction of the dictators.
But, of course, they are also still some examples in China where there were regional shutdown, for example, in Xinjiang in 2009, so in an extreme situation, they may resort to this form of tactic.
Right now there's significant COVID protests going on in China. I think it remains to be seen whether or not China will take some measures of partial shutdown of the Internet in the coming weeks, for example. So that remains to be seen.
Now, unfortunately, even as governments are doing, it I mean, what can we do? I think we have to talk about many of these impact of international downs in a more quantifiable way that will make it easier for policymakers to understand the significance and to do something about it. For example, what are the economic impacts? What are the social impacts? What are ‑‑ I think ‑‑ I think it was a previous speaker that talked about the ‑‑ the impact on investment. I think this is very interesting that we have to look further in, and I think also they talked about the technical impact, the rerouting of the traffic making certain parts of the Internet becoming more congested and becoming an issue of affecting the global Internet security and resilience. I think these are very quantifiable studies and research that we have to get into, and to expose the cost to the world and not just to these countries about international down.
But I also want to talk a little bit about the economic impact. For example, the OECD organization, estimated that another 2011 down in Egypt, cost $90 million. That doesn't include what they call secondary economic impact, such as loss of revenues from e‑commerce, tourism and things like that. So the direct cost is already quite high.
There are estimates from VPN companies, commercial companies that is there is a ‑‑ since 2019, the cost on the global economy due to international downs by government exceed US dollars $35.5 billion US dollars.
And another hat I wear is actually a trustee of the Internet Society and I could tell you that Internet society, Lebanon chapter, estimated that the international down in that country, in Lebanon, also cost them on a daily basis, US dollar $10 million. Of course, interesting reason for their shutdown is actually because of unstable power supplies. So that actually echoes a previous point about the situation in the Ukraine.
So I think, actually ‑‑ actually, one last point about the economic impact. The Internet Society recently put out a study that looked at the cost of international down on small businesses and especially start‑ups. So they have found that actually for start‑ups in countries with shutdown, comparing to the start‑ups in countries without shut down, actually there is a 90% loss of revenues, cost and losses for companies and so it is a very direct impact that we can see on the economy of these countries. What can everybody do? What can civil society do?
Unfortunately, we don't have the power to tell especially many of these more authoritarian governments what to do and tell them not to shut down the internet. I think forums like this are very important to look at and share these potential issues that we face because of Internet shutdowns.
Now, governments obviously need to discuss about international down at a much higher level. I'm happy to hear that the Japanese government is going to take up this issue next year, when they become the ‑‑ when they take on the ‑‑ I think Mr. Iida, you said that the Japanese government is going to take on the role of the chairman of the G7. I think it's very important to put it on to the agenda, on the discussion of the future of the Internet.
The United States government just announced yesterday that the democracy summit will be held in March of next year, and maybe our next speaker will tell us more about that and maybe putting this issue of censorship, and Internet shutdown. I think it's ‑‑ I have to say that it's very ironic that the IGF this year is held in Ethiopia, because of the facts that Ethiopia, the Tigray region is forcing an Internet shutdown.
And they seem to believe or at least IGF seems to believe that there's still ail right to hold this event in Ethiopia.
Now, I finally want to say that ‑‑ oh, what about companies? ‑‑ I think it might be an interesting idea to explore setting up global standards for behaviors of companies when they face these sort of requests from governments to shut down. Obviously, companies are at a disadvantage if the government tells them to do something, and they will face fines or they will get in trouble or their staff will get in trouble.
I think it's important to develop global standards and develop these standards and measure the company's behavior and so on. We don't want to see the situation, for example, what happens in Myanmar when foreign companies were forced to divest and leave the company, telecommunication companies, I mean, that actually will make it more difficult for the local population to access the free Internet.
Now, a final point I want to say, I always think that maybe we should also call the Internet shutdown Internet lockdowns because when I think about the serial COVID situation, right now that we are looking at in China, we see many examples of the lockdown situation actually costing human and social costs.
For example, when there's a fire, the firemen don't go and put out the fire because there's a lockdown. When there is a medical emergency, the ambulance do not get sent to those people that need help because there is a lockdown.
So I think international shutdown in a very similar way. It is just that, like, the human cost, the human need for communications is shut down and we can think about, in addition to the political cost and so on, also the also of these kinds of basic needs that people have because they need to have the Internet for these basic communications requirements.
So I think if I look at it this way, international shutdown costs is very human and very much a human rights issue. Thank you.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you very much, Charles. You covered some ‑‑ to our government for the next year's discussion and also you bridged to next speaker.
So I invite Niki Masghati, from the United States.
>> NIKI MASGHATI: I want to reiterate my thanks to the Japanese government for hosting this incredibly important session. I'm so happy to hear the news that you will take over the G7 presidency and that you plan to focus on this issue. I think my other fellow panelists have done an excellent job of highlighting the economic impacts, particularly the costs and the foreign investment impacts, the impacts of human rights and freedom of expression, and highlighting some of the specific case studies.
So what I would like to do with the few minutes that I have is perhaps actually focus a little bit about what governments, have done and can do and what we can do as a multi‑stakeholder community together.
First of all, I will say that the United States the issue of Internet shutdowns is increasingly risen high level of discussions. It's not divorced from the fact that more and more governments are shutting down the Internet worldwide.
I think access is reported that they document the rights of Internet shutdowns but not just the rights and the number of countries that are implementing them and the number of times.
But to Dr. Akbari's comments, we may be seeing a more limited use but actually impacting specific communities and societies.
So I will talk about the United States and then broad than aperture, if that works for everybody, but for the United States, even under the former administration, we had already started condemning publicly, the use of Internet shutdowns, particularly as it impacts freedom of expression online.
Having the benefit of the chat, that's been happening and whether there's a legitimate use of Internet shutdown. I think Mr. Mok did a job of answering that. We are getting into a dangerous territory whether there is an ability or excuse me a on reason to legitimately use this blunt instrument. I think it really goes down to the arguments that governments are using to shut down their Internet, compared to the actual reason that they are shutting down the internet:
Oftentimes, one the biggest things we hear from a government, from another government when they shut down the Internet, whether it's targeted, they are citing a national security concern. When you dig a little bit deeper, the national security concern is that they don't want to aid voluntary cheating during the national examination, which, you know, just really kind of begs the question of is that really a national security concern?
But can you as a sovereign government sell another sovereign government that's not a security concern.
I think it's important to analyze some of the structural underlying reasons that governments will shut down their Internet and figure out a way to address those structural issues.
You know, I think this was a conversation ‑‑ in China, you don't see them using Internet shutdown because they have so much control over the information space in their countries other governments who don't have that, either over their information space. They don't feel like they have the correct police forces to quell any kind of, like, violence that may happen during a protest, will turn to this instrument as a way to address all the issues, right, because they feel like they don't have another tool. One thing that we have been thinking about is how do we think about that structural issue, think about that underlying reason why the shutdown is happening in that country.
In the United States, we have been shaping global norms. Charles mentioned one the ways that we can actually address this issue from an international standpoint is to create the norm that this is not an acceptable action. This is not an acceptable tool to be using to address, quite frankly, pretty much any issue that may be arising in the information space.
You know, as a very active member of the Freedom Coalition, which we will take over the chairship, we have created a task force on Internet shutdowns and there's quite a bit of work in that task force, developing best practices for governments to engage with other governments that are shutting down the Internet.
Trying to connect the Multistakeholder community together. The community that actually observes the shutdowns to the civil society community, to the governments to the actual telcos and trying to create those connections and streams of conversation.
In addition, within the G7, during the UK's presidency, we, in fact, pushed the issue of Internet shutdowns and we were so happy to see that reflected both in the digital minister's statement and foreign ministers’ statements and in the leaders statements and excited to hear that Japan will pick that up and move that forward in the next year.
And then finally, I heard a few references about the declaration to the future of the Internet. Of course, working to address Internet shutdowns is an aspect of the DFI and something that for us, you know, is very important to include that in the DFI, to elevate it and create the global norm that we really should not be shutting down the internet.
I did want to make a comment and welcome an ask, as a government that supported the open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet in the multi‑stakeholder Internet Governance model, for us, you know, what we have seen in our engagements with governments that have shut down the Internet, oftentimes when we cite an economic cost or we cite a human rights impact, when we're having an engagement with a government that is shutting down the Internet or in the middle of an Internet shutdown, it doesn't seem to matter to that government when we are citing these costs.
I think quite often, it is because they are using this tool because they are quite desperate, right, for some sense of control, whether it be in the information phase, in the physical sort of space, and so I think I would implore our joint community to think a little bit more about what are ‑‑ what can we discuss when we are having these conversations.
Quite frankly, again, the thing that they are trying to address isn't really the reason that is being stated and how do we create a norm so it's the appropriate use of this tool?
And then, you know, Dr. Akbari made a point about the net as a global public good. There's a number of governments that are discussing digital public goods and of them are rights respecting and then you don't see them shutting down the Internet. The number one country that shuts down the Internet around the world, and how do we have a conversation about having the Internet be a global public good in a way that's understood nationally.
One the things that I have been thinking about quite a bit recently, we describe the Internet and access to the Internet as a human rights or fundamental freedom, but should we be having a, go about it being humanitarian? Do we move past that point because it's quite obvious that folks should have access to water and food and shelter, but there isn't quite that same conversation happening around the Internet. And it's become ubiquitous to society. It's become part of everything in society. How do we have that? Had a how do we bring the two conversations together.
I will stop, there because I realize we're reaching time. I appreciate the conversation from the panelists, and I appreciate you trying to find solutions to this really blunt instrument.
>> YOICHI IIDA: I was so concentrating listening to the panelists, and I forgot the time and forgot my role as moderator, but my intention and desire is to learn from those experts. So my desire is for the field.
But I want to invite the are floor to make some questions and because of the time constraint maybe I have to limit maybe two or three. So I see three hands up. Maybe you. Okay. Just try.
So let me invite these three people to make up your question.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: First, I would like to thank Japan government for facilitating this kind of open forum. So my question is for the association of the operators. So it is obvious that currently half of the world population is governed by an authoritarian government. So if we ‑‑ if we don't think some way of delivering this necessary public good, for those in need, it is not always an option to not authorize the shutdowns so the authoritarian governments, whether the next 50 years or 100 years, they will continue, some kind of government.
So my question is: Is there any technological advancement like when a crisis‑affected community, especially because of ‑‑ like other places that are affected by some kinds of authoritarian crisis to deliver the public good, using satellite technologies.
So some kinds of humanitarian civil societies or like, even United Nations can deliver this like food, food and water that will be delivered for those communities. So this access must be also delivered, but so thank you very much. So that's my question.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm with the Uganda network. And my question goes to Niki who talks about creating a task force on Internet shutdowns during the freedom online coalition, and the panel really emphasizing about the Internet being a global or ‑‑ or a global public good. How is the task force that has been created going to ensure that the perspective of our women are going to be included in the discussion of the impact of international ‑‑ and then I wanted to also talk about some submission on the impact of international shutdowns. I think it's very important to start looking at the impact of Internet shutdowns on the different Sustainable Development Goals, some or all, which is very important.
And also, looking at the emphasis on the shutdowns on the economic ‑‑ the economic aspect of the country, I think is also very important to look at what is the impact of international shutdowns on some of the marginalized or structurally silenced groups and also I wanted to also allude to the point about starting to quantify the impact of international shutdowns.
I think one of the aspects is that we need to start thinking about the network measurements, trying ‑‑ doing training on network measurements on the impact of international shutdowns such as only ‑‑ and, of course, looking at the global ‑‑ I mean the Google transparency reports that exist when we talk about quantifying. I think this is very important when we position ourselves in advocacy, around the impact of Internet shutdowns looking at both what is the quality ‑‑ the quantifying and the quantifying and qualifying of the impact of Internet shutdowns on the human rights and different countries and being of course, I think also it's very important that one of the speakers talked about I think creating community networks. So I think it's very important to start thinking about what are some of the coping strategies when Internet shutdowns happen, because that has really been a very big aspect because when we are talking about Internet shutdowns, sometimes this is the Internet outreach and Internet blockage. And so when ‑‑ there is the Internet outreach, it means that someone is not able to access Internet shutdowns totally.
For example, for the case of Uganda, we still have Facebook blocked until now, since the January 2021 elections and nothing has been done about that. And you can imagine how much the impact of Internet shutdowns has been created on several sectors in the country.
And, of course, some of the structurally silenced group or women have been able to leave the platform and they do not know that you are supposed to maybe to use a VPN to be able to access or use Facebook. So these are some of the conversations we need to start having around the impact of Internet shutdowns and, of course, positioning ourselves on advocacy or Internet shutdowns.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you. Yes, this gentleman.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you very much. I will speak on my capacity as a citizen, who was former undersecretary in Sudan. There was a shutdown imposed on the population, and still it continues to be. Even today, while we are here, there is a slowdown, there are people who are going to the streets calling for civil ‑‑ civil government, while the military, who are have the private company to slow down and shut down. Is there any innovative way, and is there any way that to put ‑‑ to put sanction the companies themselves who ‑‑ who submit themselves to the call of the government. If awe allow shutdown, we will create another alternative company. So all the subscribers to that company will migrate from you and we are going to provide them the service. So they will learn and then they will lose ‑‑ they will lose their money in this case and they are not going to submit.
So this is about like an alternative, not to punish only the governments but also to punish the ‑‑ the private sector who was the operational arm of this shutdown. This is just ‑‑ I don't know if it's feasible or not, like also ‑‑ instead of using the international key for the country, which is plus something, then you use something which is global, which is satellite dependent and doesn't depend on the country's dictatorial system.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thanks. Hello, my name is Judah, I'm from Russia, imperial dialogue. I have two short questions, really. You said that you have faced shutdown because of an energy crisis. We also face shutdown, a political one, when Russia finds itself in I it.
Isolation. We don't have plenty of services in Russia, as you know. We also live without corporate products that are necessary for businesses and even with blocked Visa and Mastercard so we can pay by card for example here. It's millions of blocked bank transactions.
Soviet shutdown from the global bank system, while almost 70% of Russians are used to paying online. So could we deal with that? That's my first question. And the second, the next speaker said from US that Internet should be accessible as water. I strongly agree with that.
The water was poisoned in February of 2022, after the special military, Meta outlined online users to call for violence against Russians also. What could we do with that? Thank you.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Okay. Thank you very much, because the time is already ‑‑ so just very quickly.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: A form of Internet shutdowns in part of the country. And outside of this place and on Twitter and so on and so forth, one doesn't see the term irony and you see hypocrisy. People are commenting on is it right to be meeting here at all.
I'm inclined to the view that as long as we are safe to be able to ‑‑ in this place, both raise the Ethiopian government for the things it is doing right and criticize governments for the things that are wrong, then we are not guilty of hypocrisy. Then we are trying to build a society in which things are open.
But I think it would be very, very remissive of the IGF as a body and for people who participate in the IGF and I think an accusation of hypocrisy might fly if we don't find ways to hold two seemingly contradictory notions. People have defensive responses to things, that a government has a Responsibility to Protect its sovereignty. There's an old Latin phrase, the existence of the state is the supreme law. And that leads governments to doing things.
We understand that governments have police officers with guns. But we have to also understand that when governments do things that infringe on global norms and infringe on norms, they have to be criticized. The United States undertakes actions quite often and they protest about it. There's action about it. Is it safe ‑‑ and I'm sure as hell hoping it is safe ‑‑ for us to criticize the Ethiopian government's conduct in enforcing an Internet shutdown?
Is safe to say that Russia's conduct in 2012, well before the current situation of implementing blacklists and Internet restrictions inside that country flies against the global norms of an open Internet. If we can't say that create the space where we can say, yes, we understand why governments do this or do that and we understand that a lot of things have nuance and complications and so forth.
There's ‑‑ we can legitimately, we must be able to legitimately criticize the European Union and the European Commission in respond to certain things. If we can't have that criticism, we can't have an informed and engaged debate after the fact. We need to be able to say why you did that at the time or based on the information that you took that position.
But I'm quite concerned and what I would like to ask the panelists maybe just the ones who aren't in the room, but possibly the ones in the room is are we in a position where we are prepared to say that it's right and proper an organization like the IGF and for events like the IGF to say, yes, we understand why governments do things and why governments ‑‑ every government commits crimes at points in time and every government violate human rights at some point in time, but it's the duty of the Internet community to criticize them. Does anyone else share that sense from the panel? Thank you.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you very much. I would like to invite Maarit and Niki to respond to some of the questions and I will ask all the panelists to respond more.
>> MAARIT PALOVIRTA: From the operators’ point of view, the operators being the instrument of ‑‑ in an unintended way, even to do the shutdown of partial law or full shutdowns and how to avoid it or how to ‑‑ how to get around it.
It's a tricky question and I'm now having to resort back to the European context, the regulators are regulator sector. You need to have a license to be able to provide connectivity services and the licenses don't come from the skies. They come from the government. So if the government then basically tells you that now you have got to shut down this and that because I just introduced a new law and they say this is what they need to do, and they want to be a compliant company and out of trouble, they most likely will be doing what the government law says, and et cetera, because they have the license and they have been given this right.
Now, are there any ways around it in a crisis scenario? Well, I don't know. Somebody mentioned community networks before. I think as something that might work, depends, I guess, on circumstances.
Satellites might be something I think we have seen that working out in crisis situations before. So there might be ways. But certainly, I don't think that when an operator in a certain jurisdiction, they in good faith entered the market, saying this is a risky market but as you said, we need Internet services to be serving all people and many people, and so we want to launch services here.
But then if there is a government order, you cannot really blame the operator for doing that, because they are just doing the law in the country.
I guess the other option is to not accept that law and shut down your business and leave that country, which doesn't really help the position of the regular citizen. Sorry not bringing you the answers you want to hear but that's the way I see it. Thank you.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you.
So if ‑‑ Niki, are you still on?
>> NIKI MASGHATI: Yes, I'm on and I have to jump off right after this. I did want to come to the question around representation of ‑‑ I guess I should say an inclusive representation on the freedom of coalition task force and Internet shutdown. That's something that's very much a priority, I would say for the whole freedom online coalition. In addition to the task force on shutdowns there's also a task force on digital equality, and one of the mandates is that all the different task forces have an eye for making sure that the work that is done is equitable. It emphasizes diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. And so it's very much on our radar and something that the task force is thinking about and it's looking at the marginalized communities.
Thankfully, we also have expanded the aperture, and so it includes members outside of the freedom coalition. And we invited the measurement communities and Uni and Aida have joined and they are making the connections in the task force.
The last point I want to just say is that, you know, I think the conversation around the hosting of IGF in Ethiopia is a rich one and I appreciate the comments. We understand that under the terms of this succession of hostilities, they committed to ‑‑ the government of Ethiopia committed to expedite of restoring essential services in the Tigray region. We understand that restoration is underway, and we called the Ethiopian government to expedite the Internet access in conflicted areas. I wanted to be very clear about the position that we have taken on this, and I believe that many other governments participating in IGF have a similar position. With that, I will leave you all. Thank you so much for having me as a panelist. I leave you in the good hands of my other panelists.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you very much. So I ask the other three panelists if you have anything to respond, what to say.
Would you like?
>> EDMON CHUNG: Sure. Just briefly. I threw out the question on whether there are any legitimate reasons to do shutdown and I'm actually pleased to hear my fellow panelists remind us, probably not and that's probably the right answer.
I want to ask a couple of things besides the community network, I think it's important to response in terms of resilience. Issues of shutdowns of Twitter and Facebook should be mitigated better by civil society embracing more of a federated social media and let's get out of the big platforms and go to a federated social media approach, and then, you know, it's much harder to shut down a federated social media platform, and I will throw that out for your thoughts as well.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you. What about Charles or Professor Akbari.
>> CHARLES MOK: I think the question about the use of satellite and low orbit ‑‑ low earth orbit satellite, the unfortunate fact is that, I think the technology is not quite ready for all kinds of different use. Because typically, if you are in a International Space Station where a country is trying to enforce censorship in that country, they would probably not release or allow these downlink equipment to be imported to those countries. So I would have to say that, for example the situation in Ukraine is very, very different from the situation in Iran, because the Ukrainian government would welcome such equipment to be imported and not the Iranian government. It's not a magic bullet. The equipment needs to be more accessible without having the kind of downlink equipment that is currently required.
One final report about the question about ‑‑ from the Russian audience, I think sanctions about an illegal war is very different including many discussions and votes in the United Nations about a ‑‑ about a certain event, about war. And we have to say that it's very different from what the decision a government of itself to shut itself ‑‑ to shut down its own Internet. These two different things. So I don't think we can mix them up. And we have to refer to also the facts that even when the Ukrainian government requests for the shutdown of the domain of Russia, that was not taken up by most of the governments around the world or the other major governments around the world that are opposed to the illegal war. So I think that that is a testament to the fact that don't mix up these two different things.
>> YOICHI IIDA: Thank you very much. Is Professor Akbari there?
>> AZADAH AKBARI: Yes, I will make a short comment because I also have to leave, unfortunately. I think as somebody as also as mentioned in the comment and I real with that, to understand that Internet shutdowns ‑‑ when we are talking Internet shutdowns. They are not happening for technical reasons or so on, we are talking ‑‑ at least I was talking about internet shutdowns as a way of censorship, control and surveillance. This is a method being used, especially in countries in authoritarian countries that they have a very bad record of human rights violations. So that's a very different discussion when we talk about Internet shutdowns in that context, and compares to for example, Internet shutdowns that happen because of cybersecurity. Unfortunately, in that context, digital sovereignty is a lot of ‑‑ you have a lot of excuses, I would say, protecting the family values, protecting the cybersecurity and so on. These excuses are being used sort of structurally in a way to curb access to the global Internet and control the free throw of information. So political context plays an important role in how we formulate any kind of encounter or policy regulation, or any kind of norm development when we talk about Internet shutdowns. Thank you very much.
>> YOICHI IIDA: So our time is pretty much over and I have to apologize if any inconvenience to audience. And so at the end, thank you very much for the discussion and also thank you very much for the questions. And I think we had a productive discussion and at the end, whatever evaluation or argument we have, we are very grateful for the Ethiopian government and the peoples initiative to host IGF this year. Thank you very much, for the discussion and the session is over.