Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min
The Internet arrived with the promise of access it provides to all individuals. Internet access has helped individuals and communities to grow by going beyond social, educational, economic and geographical barriers. It became the biggest possible public square where people who were earlier divided became united. Over time, the open and secure nature of the internet has started eroding and it has become a tool for exclusion. Meaningful access to the internet has been denied to a large population, especially in South Asian regions. Governments disrupt access by adopting various measures like shutting down the internet, bandwidth throttling, blocking access to social media etc. Marginalised communities are the most vulnerable to these measures. Internet access has given women and other marginalized communities agency and the undemocratic throttling of the Internet comes down most heavily on them. Especially, internet shutdowns, being the most extreme measure, affect women, economically and socially weaker sections and children severely as they rely on the internet for their freedom of expression, access to education, and healthcare, which they normally would not be able to access due to the sidelining they face in everyday life. Most importantly, the Internet and its tools have given them safety. The session will focus on the impact of internet shutdowns on marginalised communities. Further, it will focus on the narratives that have been sidelined to understand the impact of internet shutdowns on marginalised communities across the world. The session also aims to discuss the methodology for documenting these shutdowns and circumventing these shutdowns. there is a lot of opaqueness around the procedure related to internet shutdowns, it becomes challenging to track, record and document these shutdowns. Such documentation especially for the consequences of the less privileged is important to create resilience against such denial of access. This panel will discuss the manner in which Women and Marginalized groups can fight against shutdowns in thier everyday life and the role of civil society in enabling them to fight back in absence of state intervention.
We plan to use visual media to enable participants to connect more deeply with the issue. Hybrid sessions are quite accessible, we plan to have some speakers on-site and do a dry run to understand that maximum facilitation can happen between the onsite and offsite participants. We believe that we learn from the audience as much as we learn from each other. We will be focusing on that as well.
Software Freedom Law Center, India (SFLC.in)
Radhika Jhalani, Internet Shutdowns Lead, SFLC.in, Civil Society, India
Oliver Spencer, Consultant - Free Expression Myanmar, Civil Society, Myanmar
Maria Xynou, Research Lead, Open Observatory of Network Interference, global community, Canada
Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director, SFLC.in
Arzak Khan, internet governance and cyber security expert
Felecia Antonio, Keep it On lead, Access Now
Arjun Adrian Dsouza
Targets: Women and Marginalized groups face inequality in all facets of life. The SDG 'Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women is connected to this session as it aims to document and fight against the shutdown of enabling technology.
The session had speakers from regions impacted by Internet Shutdowns. The session saw reflections from Activists, Researchers, and Lawyers on Internet shutdowns in their side of the world. Some major themes that came up from the session were how shutdowns impact people. Internet shutdowns basically Exacerbate humanitarian crises. and they do not allow support to journalists and human rights defenders. On network measurement, it was felt that it Helps increase internet sensitivity around the world. It has been observed that it is a pattern that access to social media platforms is blocked in times of conflict and unrest. The impact is felt hardest in marginalized communities which often goes unnoticed. In the case of Myanmar it was reported that the shutdown had lasted for 18 months in 54 townships where 12% of the population does not have access to data. Loss of the Internet means loss of access to each other. For women, this is especially hard as they are married off at an early age because of lack of information. In case of Balochistan, it was reported that the general public is becoming more and more frustrated with internet shutdowns, especially in cases of students and young professionals. There is not just a shutdown but also throttling where speed is downgraded. There is a lack of regional and national level cooperation. In the case of India as well, there is no government documentation for the same which leaves the onus upon civil society to document shutdowns, advocate and litigate against them.
The key takeaways of the session were -
1. The need for more documentation to understand the nuanced impact of shutdowns.
2. The need to have coordinated efforts to actually understand shutdowns
3. More transparency on shutdowns from both government and private institutions.