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.
>> MODERATOR: Good afternoon to all of you joining us here in Addis at the venue of the IGF and a warm welcome to all of you joining us online. So welcome to this main session that we will be discussing connecting our people and safeguarding human rights. My name is Paula Martins. I will be facilitating this session.
As we have been discussing for the past days, Internet connectivity and access have become prerequisites for ensuring the livelihood, safety, education among a number of other things of people around the world, and yet 2.9 billion remain unconnected with those in the Least Developed Countries and rural communities most affected.
Meaningful access is intrinsically related to safeguarding human rights online so access that contributes to the wellbeing of society is access that must have human rights at its centre. So this is what we will be discussing in this session this afternoon, and also at the interrelationships between these two issues.
So COVID has provided a new perspective on the challenges of realizing human rights in the digital times in which we are living, so my question to Irene, Peggy and Juan Carlos is what do you consider are the current main advances and new challenges in the field of human rights related to technology? And building on that what is the role of Internet Governance in particular in addressing these issues?
I'll start with Irene Khan, and I will introduce each of the speakers when I pass on the word to each of them. Irene is the special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion and joining from Bangladesh.
>> IRENE KHAN: Thank you for giving me this opportunity tonight. For me, it's night. For you, early evening. Let me say in terms of advantages, I think we saw during the pandemic how important connectivity has been and how essential the Internet has become. I think there is a growing awareness of the importance of Internet, not just as a utility or a public service, but actually as a right. And in some cases, for example, in conflicts as we have seen in Ethiopia or Ukraine or Myanmar, it's essential for people to survive.
So on the one hand there is greater awareness of the value of the Internet for democracy, development, human dignity, but at the same time we are also seeing some challenges, and from my perspective of my mandate, some of the biggest challenges have been in how to keep the Internet space, that right safe and equal. We see the gender digital divide but we see a lot of disinformation, misinformation and hate speech proliferating on the platforms, affecting ironically those who need the Internet most, women, marginalized groups, ethnic religious minorities and others who cannot congregate or organize in the offline world because they don't have the space.
So and, of course, at a practical level we see gaps in literacy and skills and the need to invest more in people as rights holders, as users of platforms and passing power on from companies to the state and communities and to people. So there are enormous number of challenges out there, but I think the value of the net is clearly established, and the evolution, seeing the net and accessing information, the net is part of the right to information and access to information and freedom of expression is growing, which is, I think, a positive thing.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you Irene and thank you for stressing that freedom and safety online are not in contribution. Irene's mandate is an independent mandate within the UN, but now I will extend the invitation to someone coming directly from the UN itself, and Peggy Hicks will now answer, please, the same question. Peggy here with me is the Director for thematic engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. So Peggy.
>> PEGGY HICKS: I'm so happy to be here with you. I have spoken on a number of sessions, but this is the first with human rights in the title. Thank you. When we look the lessons from COVID and what COVID brought to us, I think I first have to start with the fact that it illustrated a failure to secure economic and social rights, the right to health, water and sanitation and housing are failures that affect not only the billions of people that are directly affected, but that those failures actually undermine the society as a whole.
And at the same time as Irene has said, what we saw during COVID is that digital technologies can actually help us overcome some of those gaps through digital health services and virtual education when there is connectivity. And so that leads us to the first big challenge we face, which is the need as has been said to close the digital divide.
We recognize that about half the world's population doesn't have access to those benefits and isn't available to engage in virtual education or to access healthcare remotely. And in closing the digital divide, I really wanted to stress two very important pieces of it. The first is that we need to focus on women who are disproportionately affected and disconnected, but also on all others who are marginalized or on the side and that could be minority communities, people with disabilities, it can be people who face more challenges in becoming connected.
So we need to invest in connectivity for all in a very inclusive way. The second thing we need to do though if we want everybody to be connected is we need to stop Internet shutdowns. We are struggling to actually physically connect everybody, and at the same time we are purposely disconnecting some people. So that's really in contribution, and shutdowns themselves have an enormous economic impact as well as impact on people's rights.
It's really important to build an international consensus that these shutdowns are not acceptable and have to stop. We issued a report on that issue last June, and it stresses four steps on that. The first is that we call on states to stop imposing shutdowns, but we also ask for those that are doing shutdowns to have more transparency.
Under International Human Rights Law, there are standards that apply in terms of looking at legitimate purpose, necessity, proportionality. And people have a right to know if the Internet is being played with through bandwidth throttling or other techniques. And we expect states to be forthright about what is happening and to tell if the internet is off, why it's off and when it's coming back on.
The third point is we did want telecommunications companies to really explore all lawful measures to challenge implementations of disruptions when they occur. And finally, we wanted to emphasize the links of this issue to the issue of digital connectivity and that when we are connecting the Internet, it should come with some sense of obligation that once the Internet is connected, it needs to be kept on.
Quickly, I wanted to emphasize one other main challenge we face. The pandemic also exposed and illustrated a familiar phenomenon when we see when crisis and threats arise. There is a tendency on the part of Government sometimes to take the crisis as an opportunity to be able to use it as a way to shut down speech or dissent in ways that they hadn't been otherwise.
We have seen that around counter terrorism measures, we have seen it around cybersecurity measures and we saw it around the pandemic. And we are very concerned about threats to online civic space, and the need globally for that to, for global, for online civic space to be protected.
What we are seeing unfortunately is that state regulation of online speech, the types of efforts that are being talked about to address online content harms very frequently, in fact, in the majority of cases, the legislation that we see actually is broad and tends to close down protected speech as well. And these are very real threats.
We see a growing number of prosecutions for a single Tweet. Surveillance tech being employed on mass scale against human rights defenders and journalists and coordinated attacks on human rights defenders and civil society organisations online. We are looking for three tiers. We want to address that problematic legislation. We want to do more to enhance digital security for civil society groups, and third, we need everybody to commit to doing more to protect those that are under threat right now.
It's essential for their participation. It's not enough that we open the door for civil society to participate, but we actually have to make it safe for them to do so at the same time. Thanks.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you Peggy. And thank you for connecting this important issue of Internet shutdowns that are still so prevalent all over the world including in this region and how much it is connected to the two issues of this session, both connectivity and human rights. And also for calling our attention that sometimes our conversations really focus when we talk about the Internet on political rights, but really it's been the overall, the economic social cultural and political as well.
With that I will pass on to the third of our speaker that will address the issue of human rights Peter who is Director of Institute of Social Ethics at the University of Lusa.
>> PETER KIRCHSCHLAGER: Thank you for introducing me and having me. I wish to say as a first aspect that I fully agree with the inputs by Irene and Peggy, and I would agree that connectivity and the Internet is a right and should be considered as a public good.
Beyond that, I would like to address that we have to face the reality that we still are in a situation where human rights are not respected online we have difficulty to enforce them and realize them online. We have a huge gap between the offline sphere and the online sphere, the digital sphere, and also the use of database systems. And of course, I acknowledge the positive potential, the digital sphere the Internet can have for realization of human rights, but we have to also address the reality that there is still this huge gap between realization of standards like human rights standards between the offline and the online realization enforcement of human rights. That needs to be addressed urgently.
How could do that? I think the first step could be in the three steps I would like to propose. The first step would be that we try to get into an interaction between tech, ethics and law right from the start of a venture, right after, like right from the start of an innovation process. Secondly, I would suggest that the focus on human rights based database systems, human rights‑based Internet use, human rights‑based AI. What do I mean by that? All right in the process of designing, of producing, but also of using the Internet and other digital technologies, human rights must be respected, cannot be just a thing which we preach, but we have also to walk the talk. When I say preaching I am referring to the recommendations where if you look at reality are not implemented fully, and I think there are also difficulties with certain kind of business models which in their core are fully, with the full width with human rights violation actually based on human rights violations.
In the moment we are now in a video Conference or some of us are participating in a video Conference. This video Conference tool is actually violating our human rights to privacy and data protection. So after the first two suggestions, I would like to suggest a third one which is that we have to on an international level to establish an international database systems agency which should play the role of a regulatory authority of supervision and monitoring the digital sphere, the area of the Internet but also database system and so called Artificial Intelligence.
In general, why do I think this is urgent and necessary? If you hear voices like Elon Musk pointing out the fact that AI, so‑called AI is more dangerous than nuclear weapons, it makes you think about, of course, all of the positive potential, but also of the negative potential of this digital innovations, and I ask for this establishment of this international database systems agency, DSA, because I see that in the knowledge are nuclear technologies.
In nuclear technologies, simply put, we have done research as humanity, we have built a bomb, and then we have dropped a bomb, and then we have realized as humanity that we have to do something about it in order to avoid it. In I would call for the establishment of the DSA of database systems agency at the UN in order to make sure that humans and the planet flourish in a sustainable way.
Thank you so much for your attention. I look forward to our discussion.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Peter. I will right away invite our next speaker, want Carlos who is the dean of the university, the university for peace and I member of the commission for peace, and human rights expert from Costa Rica.
JUAN SAINZ‑BORGO: Thank you for having me. It's a great pleasure to be part of this huge Conference. I would like to elaborate a little bit what the others have just referred about these two sides of the definitions of Internet from institutional and legal point of view as a human rights on one side and as a public good in the other side. Because, you know, I think you think on the Internet as human rights and interesting categories and interesting conceptual approach to really see as a need especially in terms of conflict, in terms of disaster, I mean, we see the access of Internet as a human rights for us, but not just of the consequences of labeling a human rights, the Internet or access to Internet as a human rights.
Why I am pointing how this, remember that from the conceptual point of view, when we define something a human rights we are holding a conceptual category that we will give to the state a fundamental role as a gate keeper on the process. Remember that from the point of view we define human rights as an obligation of the state to manage that particular access, that particular right, and then we have the second level the international arena.
So my concerns are that if we put all of the regulation, all of the weight on the regulation to the tools that provide human rights, we will be reinforcing the role of the Government on this, and we all know the problems that Governments represent in the access of Internet. So how we balance the advantages that the definition of human rights from the conceptual point of view can give us to explain what is the access to Internet and the concept of the public good that I think is easier because in any way it opens the possibility to build a consensus around how we access, a consensus of the role of the United Nations or the international organisations to safeguard the access of Internet in one way, and to promote this access.
So this is my main stake on this debate. I would like to remind the importance of, and the consequences of the uses of Internet from the uses of human rights as one way category on the definition of the access to Internet.
That will be my contribution right now. I will be here. Thank you very much again for the opportunity.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Juan Carlos. You give me the first link to pass on because you mentioned Internet as a public good. UNESCO has been talking about information as a public good so give the floor to the Director for partnerships and operational program monitoring at UNESCO to address this, to share her answer to the same question.
>> MARIELZA OLIVEIRA: Thank you very much. From UNESCO's perspective, what we are looking at is access to information. The creation and participation and enabling people to participate equally in knowledge societies which is what we have now. So for us, the issue of access to information of whatever means and the Internet be a mean of information to become more and more important is access to the Internet has become particularly relevant.
What we look at, we have been talking about connectivity, for example, access, but connectivity is not necessarily access to information. You need to have access to the Internet, but then you need to have affordability, which is what we call the meaningful connectivity, to have the right devices to really be able to extract value from being online.
And then, but that's not even enough. We actually go beyond that and say can people really find useful information on the Internet? Can they exchange meaningfully on the Internet? So we go beyond the issues of having connectivity to having devices to having affordable data packages to see whether there is content online that speaks to the needs of local communities that allows them to express themselves in languages that they use normally and so on.
So for us, the issue of looking whether the Internet fulfills the right to access to information, we have developed a very practical tool for that what we call the Internet universality framework that looks at human rights, openness, accessibility, and multistakeholder participation in governance of Internet Ecosystems. It's called the ROAM framework that behind it has indicators that allow us to identify whether the specific right we are talking about including, for example, the right to gender equality, right to safety, so on, they are being fulfilled by particular national ecosystems.
I would like to invite everyone to tomorrow participate in the Dynamic Coalition discussion we have a ROAM Internet universality Dynamic Coalition that starts at 9:30 where we can talk about the ROAM framework and how to look whether the Internet in your countries is really fulfilling that. There are 44 countries globally undertaking the international assessments for Internet universality and 17 are from Africa and very happy to expand that number. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: With that we will pass onto the second introductory question that will really focus on connectivity, and the question is what has been the progress and the recognition of digital inclusion and meaningful connectivity from a policy point of view. Policy, regulatory, legal perspective.
This question will be addressed by our other four speakers, we will start with Nima sitting by my side. Nima is a parliamentarian, a member of Parliament in Tanzania and has been focusing on a number of issues but including digital transformation and gender equality.
>> Thank you very much, and I'm very pleased to be here. The issue of connectivity is an important one and the question that you posed is both important and complicated at the same time. So when we are talking about meaningful connectivity in terms of the policy and regulatory framework, I think what I can say is that a lot more needs to be done.
So I will start with the issue of connectivity. I come from a rural region, and it's call bordering Kenya, and Burundi, one, it's not business case for the teleco companies to set up, we have issue of getting even 2G, just the mobile network connectivity, but then, two, the cheapest and easiest way for us to connect is using things like community networks, but when you look at the policy and regulatory framework of most of our countries, community networks are being treated as commercial, similar as commercial.
And that is one thing that I personally am trying to chapel in Tanzania is to try and ensure that community networks are treated as a service because they are not profit making. So even though there is that technology and there is that of accelerating the digital inclusion, it's not possible because of the regulatory framework. And I'm grateful that the ITU I think in one of the most recent meetings in Rwanda made a resolution on the fact that, and recognize community networks as a vehicle to accelerate digital inclusion, but now the challenge comes in most of these discussions parliamentarians are not involved.
So there is that resolution that has been made and almost all of our Governments are part of that and probably our Ministers of ICTs were there, but as parliamentarians there is a gap, which then means the implementation of that resolution in respective countries will be delayed or probably not happen.
I will give a scenario. Earlier this year during the budget session, when I contributed in the ICT ministry budgets, my case was so much more stronger because I made reference to this ITU resolution. And I state in my contribution that the Honorable Minister of ICT was present in Rwanda when that resolution was being passed. As a result of that, because of that, the credibility in the contribution and the facts in it, the Minister accepted to look into it.
And that also, so from that point I went to the regulator, now, not making reference to ITU, but making reference to the Minister's commitment in Parliament. But that's only because I'm following up on these issues.
So there is the opportunity to answer your question, there is the opportunity of creating that policy and regulatory framework that can accelerate digital inclusion, but for that to happen, parliamentarians need to be central at that. That is why we are from the African parliamentary network on Internet Governance to try and strengthen the role of African parliamentarians towards accelerating digital development in Africa.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Nima. I know that ISOC has been working a lot on community radios and, of course, other issues. So I will take the opportunity now to pass on the word to Dawit who is regional Vice President for Africa with the Internet Society.
>> DAWIT BEKELE: Thank you, and good afternoon. It's a privilege for me to be in this session. Yes, Internet Society have been working in the area for quite a while, and what we have seen in the last few years, there has been some progress, especially in Africa where I'm following in the policy area as well as in some cases the regulatory area, much less in the legal area. I don't know any country where the Internet is a right let alone a human rights. But something very important that happened in the last few years, probably because of COVID, is that the use of the Internet for critical applications have become more and more abundant.
As a result, you know, it may not be right, a legal right, but it has become a de‑facto right. People now accept less and less that their Internet is cut because they depend on it because there are more and more applications that are online, and sometimes, and very often in fact, Governments depend on it as well. For example, customs applications are online.
Taxes are online, and Governments will suffer if the Internet is cut or it is not available. So there has been some progress, but less in the legislative area, but rather in the practical area. One of the reasons why there has been some progress is because as a continent the African Union has really helped developing a digital transformation strategy that has been taken at national level, and there are more and more strategies that try to have universal access.
So there is some progress. But is that enough? I believe the progress is more geared towards the ones that are in cities, in places where commercial operators have interest and in fact they will use this new environment to provide better access for people like us who already have some access, so we will see better bandwidth, we will see more options for people in cities.
I don't think that people who are currently marginalized in the offline world like the rural population will benefit from this new environment. I believe that they will continue to be the forgotten people that they won't have the access that they need because today it's no more, well, people might question that it is a right, but I think it is a need, because they need it for education, need it for employment, et cetera.
I don't think they will get it because commercial operators will not go there, and I don't think the new environment provides them the opportunity to find solutions for them. just to give you an idea, you know, there were people are used to solving their own problem. If the municipality doesn't come to them to provide water, they have a hole so they can find water by themselves and give their community the possibility to have water.
But telecommunication with Internet, they can't do that because the laws and regulations don't allow them even though the spectrum for, for example, is completely wasted because no one is using them there.
So we need to do more so that the legal, you know, regulatory and policy environment enables people in those areas to find solutions for themselves, and I agree with the previous speakers we need community‑based solutions. We need complementary solutions so that people can have access even if they are in remote and under privileged areas. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Dawit. I invite now my colleague here on the stage, Elisabetta to share views on meaningful connectivity and policy progress we have seen in this area. And she is the Director of the alliance for the protection of children institutional environment. And she is joining us from the Russian Federation. Elisabetta, please.
>> I'm going to be talking in Russian. Our alliance was built in September 2021 when nine large technological companies assumed responsibility to defend children in digital environment. So we have service providers and content providers who are committed to ensure that the digital environment for children is safe. We see that this is a global trend, and many countries in Europe and other parts of the world are interested in the same thing.
Our alliance works based on the principles of corporate and social responsibilities. We have put together a charter for the digital ethics for childhood. Several hundred organisations already joined that charter. Let me tell you about our work. Our audience is growing exponentially. 68% of children is using Internet too much, and more than 80% of children use Internet all of the time.
So it is a very big challenge for both children and their parents. It's important to protect children from illegal content, and malicious content and also to prevent their data to be stolen, and criminal communities to exploit those children.
So we would like to suggest a few measures how to combat that, such as parental controls and so on. We, our alliance is also working currently on different solutions to combat the illegal content. We allow hash data to be exchanged and to monitor the illegal content and deleting it from the Web.
We would like to connect all children, their parents and teachers to promote our work. We have already performed and held 20 different events this year to improve the children's digital literacy.
We have different means for children so that they could learn what to do when they face digital threats. We have also put together different shows and programmes on radio and on TV, both for parents for children and for teachers and educators. We have a lot of plans for the next year, different tours, different online courses on teaching children also with disabilities on how to behave in digital environment.
We have also identified different digital risks. We have a cyber risks map that shows that before they were technological in nature and they could be I'm proved by doing something technically, right now they are more psychological. We talk about cyber bullying, sexting, different dark algorithms and addiction.
It is not only up to the legislature to resolve those risks. This trend will continue into the future, and new technologies are leading to changes in social environment. We need to combat that. We need to combat fake news and information. We also have to address the AI as a means for cyber criminals to impact children's education.
We would like to educate children on how to combat risks and how to protect their rights on the Web. We have a lot of projects together with the ombudsman for children's rights, and we have a digital platform where children would be able to submit their complaints and receive psychological help and legal help.
We are always open to international cooperation and in the face of joint cyber risks, we need to bring our efforts to general cooperation. Thank you very much for your attention.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Elisabetta. I will pass to expert in technology, peace and Human Rights and she is join is us online.
>> LISA SCHIRCH: I appreciate might panelists and don't want to repeat anything they have said. So I will jump to the issue of the big technology firms that are operating particularly in Africa and Asia where they are helping to build the infrastructure for access. So if you look at Facebook's policy and Asia and across the African continent, they have been investing in the infrastructure, and they have been promoting something called free basics, which is some people describe it as a walled garden of the Internet. So certain select sites are allowed through the Facebook app which gives people activity in various regions where the Government has agreed to this.
In Asia, particularly in India, this was strongly opposed by civil society because it's seen as limiting free access to the Internet, and different sources of information in which civil society can organize, report, and challenge Governments on human rights abuses and corruption, et cetera.
So this is sort of the pros and cons of the big tech companies and their interest in connectivity and building the infrastructure for it. On the one hand they have a financial incentive to help build this infrastructure, and to ensure that people in different countries, even if they have a repressive Government that turns off the Internet for people, you know, Facebook is interested in making sure that doesn't happen because it turns off their profits as well.
The real problem with this is bigger and it goes to the human rights discussion that was at the beginning of this session, and something that was not mentioned is that the largest tech companies like Google, like Facebook, they have a profit incentive actually for polarizing content that is often human rights abusing.
So harmful content generates more engagement on these platforms, and their profit model is really based on user engagement. So when people post hateful comments, when they are sort of abusing people's human rights for basic dignity on the Internet, those posts get more user engagement.
So that generates more profit for the companies. And so there has been a lot of discussion about tech regulation in terms of privacy and cybersecurity and even digital access. What there has not been appropriate attention to is the tech platform designs and algorithms that amplify human rights‑abusing speech on these platforms.
And so I have been advocating and researching sort of how we get beyond just thinking that Facebook is a neutral platform, just mirroring society because that's not true. It's not just a mirror. It amplifies certain behaviors more than others, and the affordances that it offers steers human behavior, often in unhealthy ways.
So we need to be thinking about the design of the platforms, and their algorithms also when we are talking about human rights and connectivity. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Lisa. I told you what we were going to do, and I'm going to change everything now, because I feel we don't have time for a second round of answers. So what I will ask our speakers to do is that you all received a follow‑up question, and I will ask you to include your answer in your final remarks and I will give you more time for the final remarks. So that we have a chance now to have a little interaction with our audience, is that okay? So with that, I will give, I will pass on the word to Hisper, she is the online moderator and she will share the questions that already appeared online so those of you here in the audience can have time to think of your questions.
>> ONLINE MODERATOR: Thank you Paula. So we have a couple of questions from the online audience. The first question is what can be done in cases where Governments are enabling base violations such as Internet shutdown? The second question is how do we safeguard digitally vulnerable and illiterate people from the bad and harmful effects of the Internet? We also have another question on how the alliance of Russian Federation feels about social responsibility to misinformation of the invasion to Ukraine and the last question with the broader panel, what are your personal and organizational substances on the two‑year long and ongoing Internet shutdown in the Tigre region. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: So I will start with Nima, and I think of the other questions there was one particularly in relation to Russia, although Elisabetta is not representing the Russian Federation, I think the other speakers could respond. Take whatever angle you want on the other questions, and I will let them answer and then I will open the floor.
>> Yes, indeed. I do not represent the Russian Federation. I represent the Alliance for the Protection of Children in the Digital Environment, and our functions are very important and the responsibility is to teach the children, to educate them to evaluate the information that they receive online. Children all over the world should be critical thinkers.
They should realize what is fake news and what is the true information. This is one of our functions, main functions and I think that this is, it boils down my answer to your question. I think it's very important and I'm ready to entertain any other questions.
>> PEGGY HICKS: I wanted to jump in. First of all, we do have an organizational position and we are opposed to the Internet shutdown that's going on here. We think it's a good moment to look at that question. As I said, one of our concerns is Internet shutdowns don't just have an impact on accessing the Internet for communication, but also for essential services and other things.
So it affects the economy, it affects everybody, in a disproportionate way, so really looking forward to that changing. But I do think the question was broader about how do we hold Governments and I would say also companies accountable for Internet shutdowns and how do we change the policies here. I wanted to have a shout out to access now and the keep it on coalition which has done exceptional work in this area.
Part is putting on the public record what I said, which is something that not only human rights activists should care about but everybody should be active in trying to oppose Internet shutdowns because of their impacts on economies. It's a bad thing for the Governments and not just the Governments, but the people of the countries in which Internet shutdowns occur.
And then also really looking as access now and others have at prevention here. We know when shutdowns are occurring and unfortunately tends to be at the time when we most need Internet, which is around election persons with disabilities and around when there are protests or other crises going on. Since we know that, we can also get in earlier and say more earlier to try to make sure that we encourage Governments not to shut down the Internet in situations where they might, and to show them the benefits of allowing people to stay connected, which is such a fundamental right. Thank you.
>> I will start off where she ended, the issue of (Nima) the issue of Internet shutdowns and aggravated hate speech happening during elections. Something which APNIC has decided to take on as a priority for 2023, and this is particularly because the year 2024 is the year, has been the pegged as a year of elections. We have over 20 elections in 2024.
So we have decided that we are going to prioritize a digital democracy. One of the activities we are going to be having next year, and we have already been told different partners about it is to do digital election missions.
These will happen prior to election, like three to four months prior to look at specifically the issue of misinformation, disinformation, and because as parliamentarians we can bring on board different stakeholders to discuss together, we can bring on board the regulators, the Government, the civil society, and our fellow colleagues as parliamentarians to have such discussions ahead of the elections because it is months to the build up to the election that all of these things tend to take place.
And by the time it's Election Day, we already are late to try to come up with interventions. We feel that oftentimes a lot of people talk about Internet shutdowns, et cetera, but we believe as parliamentarians there is so much more power in us as parliamentarians advocating for Internet to be kept on because it is also in in the best interest of ourselves as parliamentarians as it plays a role towards our own campaigning.
For example, I'm here in Addis, and I would like people in my constituency to be able to see what I most, what am I doing here in Addis. And to me that is political mileage because they are seeing what their representative is doing. So there is so much power if I advocate for Internet to be kept on for that particular reason as opposed to someone else who is not vying for any political position.
That is the added value of collaborating with a network such as ours as the African parliamentarian network on Internet Governance.
>> MODERATOR: Let me turn now to online speakers so that we have this flow. Irene, could you share your thoughts?
>> IRENE KHAN: Thank you. I wanted to respond to the issue of misinformation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to broaden that. Misinformation and disinformation has been part of warfare for a long, long time. I think the Russian invasion of Ukraine where misinformation, disinformation was the weapon to justify aggression shows the risks in the digital age, whether in Russia or in Ethiopia, the dangers of misinformation, disinformation, hate speech during conflict times, the results of that are very, very clear.
That requires us to rethink of the way in which human rights law is being, let me rephrase, the way in which the relationship between International Human Rights Law and national humanitarian law works on the ground. We need to rethink and strengthen human rights law much more because it includes the protections that we have been talking about, but we also need and companies need to take seriously their responsibilities here of human rights due diligence and take action.
Some of the bigger platforms have responded well to Ukraine, and what the message should be is that if since they have the capacity and the knowledge and that experience now, they should apply their commitment to human rights consistently in all conflict crisis situations where they are operating.
My third point would be about stronger accountability for the use of disinformation and misinformation at a time when people are in desperate need for accurate information. And people are extremely vulnerable in conflict situations. That is the place where I think companies and governments and the international community needs to become much more alert and act rapidly.
>> MODERATOR: I have to ask speakers to be brief so we can also hear from the audience here. Peter could you share your answer.
>> PETER KIRCHSCHLAGER: What I would like to point out is participating in this discourse, the aim of the field of ethics in this is to critically examine positive law, legal norms and their implementation, and enforcement. If it's just, if it's legitimate, and if there are necessary changes or new regulations, especially if we talk about technology‑based innovations.
So in this sense I think it's positive what can be the impact of ethics in this field. On the other hand, we have to be careful that this identification of ethical risks and challenges can also lead to action. And there I think at the moment we are not addressing the ethical challenges and the legal challenges we face in the digital sphere on the Internet, but also on the use of so called AI and database systems as strictly as necessary.
If you look at business models which are basically built upon human rights violation or abuses of human rights, this needs to be addressed as firmly, it would be addressed offline, and there is a strong necessity and urgency that we do something about it. That's the reason why I would suggest a human rights‑based approach with like human rights‑based digital transformation, human rights‑based database systems but also the establishment of an international database agency as a global supervisor and monitoring body and regulatory authority because these are global issues which we need to address on a global level, and just to pick up something else which was discussed beforehand, I mean, all of this danger of Internet shutdowns is a reason chose of necessity of establishing this DSA. Thank you so much.
>> MODERATOR: Lisa.
>> LISA SCHRICH: I don't think I have anything else to add at this point. I will let the audience talk.
>> And we have developed a meeting information literacy curriculum and tools to help raise capacities of young people, for example, to resist and think critically when encountering information in digital ecosystems. We work with Ministers of education to really mainstream this kind of curriculum through how the education so they can learn from the beginning how to think critically and act wisely on the Internet.
We work on the ethics of AI so this these systems are not prone to amplify harmful information or to mislead people and trap them into chambers that can polarize in society, and finally we look at working with the Internet platforms themselves so that they can be transparent about how they moderate the content that they, that there is accessible on the Internet. And make sure that such content eliminates, you know, the harms without impinging on the freedom of compression and access to information rights that people have.
>> MODERATOR: Let's move now to the audience. We ask you to please use the mic.
>> JUTTA CROLL: My name is Jutta Croll. I am from the German Digital Opportunities Foundation and child rights advocate. We are working based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and on General Comment Number 25 on children's rights in the digital environment. So my question goes to Elisabetta. I got a bit alert when I heard you saying more than 60% of children are too much online.
So how do you define that? What is too much? And do you differentiate what they are doing there and what they are doing not, whether it's beneficial or not, and how do you balance an approach of parental controls as we have referred to children's rights to access to information, to children's rights to freedom of expression, thought, science and religion, also to the freedom of association, right to privacy and so on, so on? How do you find a balanced approach to that?
I got the impression that it's an overprotective approach that we are following and, therefore, my critical question. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: The gentleman at the back.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you so much, and especially for the panel. This was such a fascinating discussion, and a lot of elements for us to move forward in the debate. I would like to get back to a point that one of you have raised on the fact that we are dealing with a global issue that requires global response, and it is very, it's becoming clearer and clearer that human flourishing through the digital age is very much connected to digital divides and data divides as well, and there is a growing analogy between the challenges that we have before us and the climate change challenge.
And what happened in relation to climate change is that the international community came together to launch a regime in which we would have mechanisms for implementation, financial mechanism, technology mechanism, capacity building mechanism for collaboration to transfer of resources from developed to Developing Countries.
My question to you would be how to move the international community in that direction, how to avoid that that those being raised now will come to a point which in 20 years from now, we are going to be asks as we are in the debating climate change when we are dealing with loss and damages instead of really preventing disaster from happening. Thank you.
>> Thank you I am from Dr. Mohammed from a university in France. I would like to ask the honorable speakers to relate the human rights and right to Internet as a basic human rights how because there is not any Convention or any resolution which is stating that clearly. One of the Conventions is the right to development as a human rights
I see that the right to Internet could be embedded into that and taken to Geneva or New York and also to be recognized by Governments, and at least to include all of the elements related to the inclusion of the people who have not, who had not access to Internet or cannot afford, especially in the rural areas because also within the digital divide, we see that the rural urban divide, and within the rural urban divide we see there are some communities that are completely marginalized and are not included in this transition.
And most of the consultations are done electronically. So there will be those with this continues this trend will continue to be excluded. I don't know if UNESCO comprehensive thing is embedding the right to Internet as a human rights or it is yet an aspiration, or it could be included in the Global Digital Compact. Thank you.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. I would like to raise my concern, as we all know, Internet is very important. It is a platform for personal, social and academic development. Almost 60% of our population around the globe are connected to the Internet. But my concern is recently if we have come across the research conducted about 20 to 30% of our Internet users are affected, have been affected by information overload.
This is affecting families, friends, neighbors, communities, even countries as a whole. So how can we offer them. What keeps of strategies or policies do we have to overcome this problem. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: That will be the last question, and I understand with the exception of the question on child like that of course the other speakers can take on but it was directed to comments made before. So unfortunately we only have 15 minutes to close the session, and I think with that we can have a time for all of you to share final thoughts with us. We’ll start with Elisabetta.
>> Thank you very much. When a child is born we carry them outside and the child can walk on their own. They know where they can go, where they are not supposed to go, first of all, the responsibility of the child's parents and the virtual world is very similar to the actual world.
At first it's up to the mom to say you cannot watch this cartoon, for example, but at some point the child learns how to tell what is right and what is not, and what's wrong. So I think this critical thinking is key here.
Thank you for this discussion, I hope it's going to be continued in the future.
>> MODERATOR: We will go online now, Juan Carlos, I think one of the questions relate to the right of the Internet and you mentioned the approaches to looking at that in your initial remarks.
>> JUAN SAINZ‑BORGO: I think it has been extremely diverse. We need to build up consensus at civil society and international community of what we want to do with the Internet. My concern is, for example, if we compare the access to water as a human rights. We have been discussing that for the last 30 years, and the regulation is still extremely weak, extremely fragmented.
So I think we can do better. I'm not criticizing the approach, what I said is if we compare it with other human rights discussions around the international community and the success of it I think we can do better that's why I think this kind of event to really bring civil society, bring the Governments, bring the international organisations together to build a consensus about everything related with the access to justice we need to do. Thank you very much again for the opportunity to share with all of you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Juan Carlos.
>> PEGGY HICKS: Thanks to everybody for a really deep and interesting conversation. I will weave in some of the questions that were raised and come back to what some of the panelists have said as well. I think one of the issues here that we want to emphasize is the responsibility of both companies and of Governments. There is a tendency to say the companies have the bad algorithms and it's their fault or the Governments are doing everything wrong, it's their fault. And in fact, sorry to say, from our research and the work we have done, they really both need to do much better.
And that means that on the company side, yes, we need to look at what they can do better with online content. I do think that a lot has happened and the issues of amplification are quite complicated and there has been done to address the amplification issues.
One of the concerns we have is a sense of some that you can sort of flip a switch and get rid of hate speech online. It isn't that simple. When we try to do it in an over inclusive way what we end up doing is silencing a lot of very important speech as well.
So we do need to be deliberate about it, and find an approach that really holds the companies to account, makes them put in standards that we think are the right ones, and then makes them account for how they are doing it, and if they are do using the best available technology to make that happen.
On the Government side, Governments have a responsibility to regulate the companies to make all of those things that I just said happen, but they themselves, of course, have to avoid using their power to overregulate in a way that silences speech and undermines basic human rights as well.
Governments themselves also have to do human rights due diligence on how they are using digital technologies. We haven't talked about surveillance technologies and mass surveillance and rollout of AI and human rights risky endeavors like law enforcement. Those are all things we need to look critically at.
All of those areas I would stress the need for three things, transparency, participation, and accountability. Transparency means both Governments and companies need to be more transparent about what they are doing. We need access to the data that's right now locked inside the companies because that will help us create a freer and safer Internet, but companies, countries also, and Governments also have to be much more transparent about what they are asking for from the companies in terms of data and other things.
Participation, everybody at IGF 2022 has heard me talk about participation more times than you want, but it is the absolute bedrock for making a better Internet, and addressing the human rights problems and connectivity problems that we see. When we get civil society and all of the stakeholders into the room, we will find better solutions. We need not only to push further participation, but to make it safe for them to do so.
Finally I want to emphasize the extent to which human rights integration is essential from the very beginning, from the development, from the design of digital technologies. If we bring human rights in, if we use it as we can as a tool to help solve some of these questions, we will end up with better connectivity, and an Internet that actually helps us fulfill the global goals that were talked about.
And with that final question in find of whether there is a right to an Internet, I want to emphasize that I think it's in a way the wrong question. We now know that Internet connectivity is absolutely essential for people to have access to virtually all of their human rights, so we believe that the right to the Internet is essential for human rights and, therefore, we refer to it as a right as well. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you Peggy. Lisa, can we hear from you?
>> LISA SCHIRCH: I would like to double that and say that it's both technical companies and Governments responsible for thinking about the current technology platforms but I wanted to bring up a third point which is that we can design technology that serves humanity better. These tech platforms were not designed as public spheres to provide information or to serve humanity and build social cohesion.
And so it's not surprising that they don't do that. We didn't realize that they could be weaponized as they are, but new tech platforms are being designed that are taking into consideration information and how humans need to be able to exchange information and communicate with each other. So there are new platforms, two of which I will name which is Pol.IS and remesh which has been used by the UN in the peace processes in Yemen and Libya.
These platforms are designed with affordances and algorithms that reduce human rights harmful communication and that enhance problem solving, finding common ground and developing policy solutions in conflicted, polarized situations.
I think we can do better. I think we can be thinking about this third area of how do we build new tech platforms on the Internet that are going to be able to protect human rights better. Thanks.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Lisa. Nima.
>> Thank you very much. I think as a concluding point, I would like to touch on the issue of human rights on the Internet, and it's very important to acknowledge that any offense or unacceptable behavior offline should equally be unacceptable online. And for so long the Internet space has been left ungoverned which is sort of normalized the unacceptable offline behavior that's happening online.
This is particularly on online abuse, and hate speech, et cetera which is oftentimes subjected to women, but also when it comes to the issue of girls, there is a lot of manipulation for girls and young girls and young women online as well.
This issue has to be addressed in the technical platforms. Tech companies also have a social responsibility towards this because it's as if the more hate and abuse there is online, they somehow benefit monetarily. That's on one side. Also, even the human rights activists and organisations, we also need to truthfully and openly differentiate between freedom of expression and what's not freedom of expression.
I can give an example as a female politician, when I am abused online and I call it out, the immediate reaction is I get is, one, you are a politician, you should have thick skin, two, you need to learn how to accept criticism. And what I always say, you attacking my gender that's not being critical in what I raised, but as a legislator if I raise it in my Parliament, I get it more abuse that I'm suddenly, I want to shrink freedom of expression, but do I really want to shrink freedom of expression?
So when we talk about freedom of expression as human rights activists we need to remember two sides of the coin. You shouldn't use your freedom of expression to make me not use my freedom of expression. You shouldn't use your freedom of expression to make me self‑sensor. That is why the digital gender divide will not end. We are not going to bridge it if we don't address the issue of online abuse.
There is an example I have given before. I have seen a female in Tanzania selling lingerie online. The amount of abuse she gets is horrific, but I have seen a male selling lingerie on line. The amount of praises he gets is shocking. So we want to see more women taking advantage of digital economy. They are not going to do it if the environment is not safe.
So we need to collectively address this issue and categorically differentiate between freedom of expression and abuse. Let's stick to the agenda, and not the gender. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. Irene, I know you have been working a lot on this specific issue, so I wanted to give you the chance to be next.
>> IRENE KHAN: Thank you very much. Yes, I published, presented to the UN General Assembly a report on gender justice last year, so I can appreciate the importance of addressing gendered hate speech, gendered disinformation and online violence, but at the same time, I think women should not have to trade between freedom of expression or anyone trade between freedom of expression and safety.
And while online violence should be dealt in the same way as offline violence and restricted or prohibited depending on severity, I believe the freedom of expression is a very vital enabling right for all our human rights and we need to be extremely careful of taking an approach of censorship towards, as a means of fighting disinformation. Experience and research shows that it is totally counterproductive.
You cannot fight disinformation with censorship or restrictions. I think Governments need to be very careful in this area, either wise we will be creating more problems rather than resolving problems. I wanted to make one point, and that is about the importance of the Internet as a human rights. Information, freedom of expression, our ability to communicate, organize cannot be left to commercial market forces alone.
That is my concern about companies, and while companies have a big role to play, companies need to have some degree of regulation. And that otherwise, I think, we are commercializing an extremely important right. The Internet is a means of communication is as valuable as media is. There was a time when print was not considered to be printed newspapers were not considered to be a human rights.
We have come several centuries since that time. I think if we look to Internet when we look back and my final thought would be about empowerment of people. Users are rights holders and we need to see it from the perspective of the users and obviously a challenge for human rights is going to be how to create a multistakeholder system for developing and protecting and respecting the rights when we are used to a state oriented human rights system. I think we are moving into new and exciting areas. Technology is forcing us to confront issues so we need to see how human rights accountability can be developed in that kind of space with much greater cross‑border cooperation, global discussions like the Global Digital Compact and so on. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Mariasi, can we continue with you?
>> We need to think of human rights on Internet as a human rights in terms of the access to information being a human rights. Your question regarding whether the UNESCO document and framework look at Internet as a human rights, no, it doesn't, because it works with established international covenants and human rights instruments that already exist.
We are in the process of revision of the Internet universality indicators and we may consider something like this in the future, though I do agree this is an access for information of freedom of expression and so on.
To the point that were raised by Nima, which I think is when we talk about the connectivity to bring people in the Internet, but we don't think about how to keep them on the Internet. And keeping them on the Internet, you know, it means that the Internet has to be less costly. We have 782 million people join the Internet recently in the last two years because of the pandemic, but at a great cost to them.
They didn't join before because they didn't see value on the Internet, but because they couldn't afford to be online. We need to keep them online and to keep them online means we need to look at the business models and the costs of accessibility. People should not be trading being online from eating and from having access to food. The other thing is about hate speech.
Women online suffer a barrage of abuse that is absolutely unbelievable, and it keeps women offline as well. And kicks them out. 73% of women journalists because UNESCO works with media, 73% of women journalists suffer harassment of egregious levels online, and 20% of those actually are attacked in real life.
So the harm that starts online transfers to real life. One in four of these end up leaving the profession.
I'm not talking about leaving the Internet, they leave the profession. Their means of sustainment because they cannot really live with the level of abuse that they receive. This is horrific. And we need to do something serious about regulating and about enabling the Internet Ecosystem, the information ecosystem to be safe, to be reliable, to be welcoming to all persons leaving no one behind.
We have one billion Persons with Disabilities Internet platforms not necessarily offer accessibility. So we have 7,062 languages in the world and less than 200 on the Internet. We need to look the at all of the different aspects and how to keep them safely deriving benefit from being online.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. Let's stay for a couple of minutes long. And to Peter, let's start with you, and then with Peter.
>> DAWIT BEKELE: Thank you. Well, I believe that any right will take time to be established, so all of the rights we are talking about as human rights today didn't happen like that. People fought for it, and I think the discussions like that are very good beginnings and we have had such discussions at national levels as well. One of the commentators here was talking about the shutdown in the Tigray region and other regions in Ethiopia and this has been discussed at national IGF.
This is a good beginning and I believe that we need to continue so that the Internet becomes, access to the Internet becomes a right at national and global level. However, I see a big challenge for this to happen, and that is what has been discussed by many of you, which is disinformation and other abuses that will become harder for Governments to accept the Internet access, and currently we are asking companies sometimes who have interest of having these abuses to regulate and I completely agree. I think it was Irene who said we should have some multistakeholder way to really make sure that the Internet is a safe place for everyone, and only then I think Governments would agree to consider it as a right.
Therefore I think we must have, you know, an approach that will continue to fight for the Internet as a right, but at the same time to make sure that the Internet is a safe place for everyone because Governments also have the responsibility to make it a safe place for everyone.
For example, if someone is bullied, the Government has to do something. I can give you hundreds of examples where the Internet has been used against the rights of people. So I think we have to work on those, and I think it's something that well get there but it will require everybody thinking, everybody's work at national and global level, so that one day it becomes a right establishes like any other right.
>> PETER KIRCHSCHLAGER: Thanks so much for giving me the floor. I would like to address the question which was raised by the gentleman on site in Addis on the comparison with the climate discourse and how far we got there and that it's realistic that we get to establishment of global institution in the field of digital technologies so thank you so much for your question.
I am quite optimistic that we establish this international database industry at the UN fast and in an adequate manner. Why? Because if you look back in the history of humanity, we were able to do it with, for example, the international atomic energy agency and the global regime we put in place there and I think we are able to learn from our global dealing with the climate disruption, which I agree wasn't that successful so far, but we are able to learn and hopefully make it better now dealing with digital technologies, the Internet, and database systems so called AI.
And in view of the Global Digital Compact, I would like to suggest that we should include principles as database systems must be transparent, which is already raised, database system must be traceable, database systems must be explainable, database systems must be operable, and we should ensure that database systems do not manipulate humans but rather respect the autonomy of every human, and database systems and performance should be controlled, monitored, measured and evaluated on a regular basis, and their assessment should be published each time such that it is accessible to the broader public.
And finally, I think what is also important is the field of so called AI of database systems that they must include so called emergency button. Metaphorically speaking, for humans so that they are acting in a way we are not happy with or which is violating human rights abuse, that humans are always in the position to stop that and to intervene.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Peter. And really the session, the conversation today was very rich and really brought to light or brought to the floor here how the Internet is an enabler of rights, but it also amplifies a number of violations. We talked a lot about challenges, and it's important that the challenges and the online context for exercising rights continues to be met, continues to be monitored, but it's interesting we also discussed a lot about clear strategies for looking forward that are also centred on the respect for human rights.
I hope that we all continue to use the IGF as a forum where we can plan concrete actions around this type of strategies, and I hope to see you around in the remaining sessions and the remaining coffee breaks so that we can continue this conversation. Thank you so much to all our speakers online and here with me, and thank you to our audience for engaging so much.