Addressing Impacts & Remedies of Network Disruptions

22 October 2013 - A Workshop on Human Rights in Bali, Indonesia

Internet Governance Forum 2013

Workshop # 231 Report

Addressing Impacts & Remedies of Network Disruptions

Organizer Name 

Brown Deborah

Organizer Entity 

Access (

Workshop Theme 

Human Rights / Freedom of Expression on the Internet

Consise description 



Background Papers:

Access, Forgotten Pillar: The Telco Remedy Plan

CDT, Unpacking "Cybersecurity": Threats, Responses, and Human Rights Considerations


Governments throttle and shut down mass communications networks, on their own or through telcos and ISPs, for a variety of reasons, including to stifle free expression and inhibit freedom of association.  Such shutdowns and throttling are a direct threat to the development and governance of the Internet and can have significant economic and societal impacts.


This workshop will look at the range of actors and issues involved in these forms of network disruption. It will seek to understand the security-related motivations for such disruptions and assess them in the broader cybersecurity context. It will seek to assess the consequences of such shutdowns, in terms of the economic, societal and governance costs, and the impact on the rights of users and other parties involved. The workshop will discuss the roles of stakeholders in addressing the threat of or implementation of network shutdown and throttling.  It will also look at mechanisms for identifying harms and assessing remedies for the adverse impacts of shutdowns and throttling. The remedy discussion will draw from the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights and related civil society guidance.


The panel will seek to answer questions such as:


Unpacking cybersecurity - what are the threats, responses and roles and responsibilities?   

What types of network disruption are there and how have such disruptions been used recently?

What are the objectives of network disruption?  Can network shutdowns mitigate against cyber attacks?

What are the human rights and governance arguments against network shutdowns?

What are the economic and societal consequences of network shutdowns and throttling?

Which grievance mechanisms, whether judicial or otherwise, are best suited for identifying harms, hearing claims, and implementing appropriate remedies?

What practical options for substantive remedy could the ICT sector implement, especially in response to network disruptions? 


The discussion will address issues critical to the future of internet governance.  For example, the ITU Constitution allows governments to impose some restrictions on the free flow of communications, but increasingly, the rights of users to access information and use the internet are seen as fundamental. This workshop will inquire into the respective obligations of different stakeholders, including companies and governments, to remedy infringement of internet user rights and advance coherent cybersecurity policies.



The moderator will give opening remarks, introductions, and a statement of the problem as it has arisen around the world. Panellists will offer 5 minute responses to a first question, which may include a hypothetical situation involving a communications shutdowns. Panelists will share experiences on point, adverse impacts suffered, and an explanation of how they contributed to remedies. Open dialogue follows, with a facilitated discussion focusing on how accurate definitions of cybersecurity, remedy, and the roles of various actors can best prevent and mitigate network disruptions. Anticipated outcomes: 1) Broadening understanding of the ecosystem of actors preventing, implementing, and responding to communications disruptions, as well as their motivations, 2) identifying of best practices and 3) agreement on key take-aways on discouraging network disruptions, lessening harms, increasing remedies and maximizing free expression.



Remote Moderator 

Peter Micek

Have you organized workshops at previous IGFs?


Workshop format 


Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions 

We see many governments shutting down networks across the world, to suppress protests; restrict activists’ ability to organize, access information, and inform the rest of the world; and calm unrest or preserve public order. Governments also justify network shutdowns for national security or anti-terrorism reasons. The most recent of which was on September 25-26th this year in Sudan, during such time as up to 200 protesters were killed. - But the human rights impact of network shutdowns is significant: in addition to disrupting the ability to organize and protest, network shutdowns prevent people from accessing necessary information in emergency situations, can interfere with the delivery of emergency services, and cause significant economic losses. They are to be avoided at all costs. - Telecom network operators are generally the ones tasked by the government to enact shutdowns (in most countries). The Telecom Industry Dialogue has created a set of principles, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to guide telecom network operators in responding to requests from governments to take action that harms users’ human rights. Telecom companies expressed their need to balance a desire to push back against government demands with the safety and security of their staff in the country. They are creating a policy to deal with government requests and to formalize that process. The Industry Dialogue is asking companies to provide examples of cases where they have complied with governments. They will also be issuing some form of transparency (report?). - The ability for a government to shut down the national network depends in part on structural features of the network: if network operators are required to route through a single point, this gives the government a single place to go to demand network shutdown. Reforming the licensing and regulatory framework for telecom to remove these requirements is essential. - Remedy is the third pillar of the Ruggie Framework, and civil society actors believe its key that the Industry Dialogue begins to establish grievance mechanisms and makes good on human rights violations that occur as a result of telecom activities. - Civil society actors also talked about blackout resilient technologies including speak2 tweet, and forms mesh networking as a response to government/corporate shutdowns.

Conclusions drawn from the workshop and further comments 

All panelists, including the representative of the Telecom sector, unanimously agreed that network shutdowns were disproportionate restrictions on free expression and were never justified. Efforts to enable users to circumvent network shutdowns must be tailored to local context and take into account existing infrastructure, resources, and safety concerns. Civil society around the world dealing with network shutdowns should coordinate and share information about the human rights, public safety, and economic arguments against shutdowns, to better enable them to advocate with their own governments.

Reported by 

Emma Llanso (CDT) and Brett Solomon (Access)

Estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session 

About half of the participants were women

To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment? 

It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised

Discussion affecting gender equality and women's empowerment 


Workshops Staticals 
Number of FEMALE participantsNumber of MALE participantsNumber of Young participantsNumber of Developing Countries ParticipantsNumber of Developed Countries ParticipantsNumber of LDCs participantsNumber of TOTAL Participants
0 0 0 0 0 0 0