Human Rights Online: Emerging Threats and Opportunities

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

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This text is being provided in a rough draft format.  Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.
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     I'm Gigi Alford with the Global Internet Freedom Program at Freedom House, based in Washington, D.C. I want to extend a warm welcome to our team of panelists.

     Sanja Kelly to my right, direct ‑‑ Freedom House's Freedom on the Net Project. Just this month her team rolled out the fourth edition of the annual report that covers the state of Net Freedom in 60 countries. Year after year this report has been a critical tool for all stakeholders to engage in prioritizing, decision making, and advocacy. This is underscored by the great number of times I've heard the report referenced in just the first day.

     We're lucky to have on the panel today two authors of country reports and they were represent with the Civil Society and academic community. Nighat Dad from Pakistan is Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan.  Vivian Zahid is a Professor of Communications in Morocco. We also have a representative from our host country; Indri is the Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy. The acronym is ELSAM in Indonesia. We also have with us from the business community, Ross LaJeunesse, Global Head of from Freedom of Expression, and international relations at also Google.

     Welcome.

     Unfortunately, our panelist from the Government Multilateral Stakeholder Group wasn't able to make it to the IGF so we hope we have representatives from the governments in the audience or participating via remote participation and I hope they'll speak up in this very interactive session. We'll say a little bit more about remote participation when we open up the conversation.

     First I want to turn to Sanja to set the stage for our discussion this morning. By popular demand, she'll run through an overview of the key findings and new trends from the 2013 analysis. I've actually met a number of people at the IGF who claim to have read all 1,000 pages of the report, which you can find online at FreedomHouse.org. But, Sanja, for those of us who haven't made it all the way through the full report yet, what are the highlights?

     A judge walks out of his chamber laughing his head off. He can't stop laughing to the point his laughter is echoing through the building. His colleague sees him and says, "What's so funny? Tell me. I want to laugh as well."

     He said, "I just heard the funniest joke ever. It's the funniest thing I've heard in the last 10 years."

     His colleague says, "Well, tell me the joke, I can't wait to hear it."

     Then the judge says, "I'm not sure I can really repeat it. I just gave a guy 10 years in prison for it."

     I think this joke, unfortunately, is more relevant today than it was when I heard it sometime ago while growing up in the former Yugoslavia. And, unfortunately, the reason for that is we're seeing more and more people arrested for things they're writing online. And this trend is really becoming so worrisome, that not only activists, but everyday people who are using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are affected.

     As my colleague duly mentioned, Freedom House as worked on an annual study of Internet freedom which this year as covered 60 countries. And this study has garnered international attention. And one of the reasons we are here is because we would like to use it to set up conversations surrounding human rights on the Internet. The study itself is composed of two parts: The first part being reports of every 60 countries that we cover; so there is a country chapter for each of them listed in the report on our website.

     But something that Freedom House is really known for is we open grade countries based on their performance Internet freedom. So in addition to these reports, you can see how they compare to one another.

     This latest edition of Freedom on the Net focuses on development between May 2012 and April 2013. But some of the most recent developments, such as surveillance, was included because although the revelations happened after the end of our coverage period, it really affected the users during the time that we focused on.

     The survey itself is actually being written and researched by 70 researchers, all whom are based in countries under study. So they're the ones that check availability of Web sites, they look at legal framework, and they count the users being attacked and so forth.

     More generally, the way Freedom House assesses the state of Internet freedom is through a series of 21 questions and over 100 subquestions, and then we divide those into three categories. So we look at issues such as obstacles to access. So there we look at infrastructure and economic barriers to access. We look at gender barriers. We look at legal and ownership control over ISPs and so forth.

     The second category contains a series of questions ranging from content control such as blocking and filtering, or take down notices, intermediary liability, issues such as vibrancy and diversity of online news media and so forth.

     And then the third category looked at violations of users’ rights, including surveillance, attacks against bloggers and online users. It looks at legal framework and general law that could actually put users behind bars.

     So one thing that is important to us when we create these studies is we apply the same standards for each country under analysis so then we're able to come up with a set of evaluations that are methodologically correct.

     As you can see on our website, I know this is too small to read on the screen, but then after we provide our evaluation, we group countries in free, probably free, and not free. Even within each of those categories there is quite a bit of variation, because we score all countries on a scale from zero to 100; with zero being best and 100 being the worst score. So even today, let's say three category, you have countries that earned 31 or 32, on a scale of 100, then you have countries that earned 55, 56, 57, which are countries that are more reflective within six months of one particular category.

     One thing that really became apparent to us when they conducted the evaluation this year is that Internet freedom is in decline, and this is something that's quite alarming. It has been in decline for the third year straight. Among 60 countries that we examined, 34 have actually registered in light of the trajectory. Unlike in the past where countries that were on downward tracks for mainly authoritarian states, we've seen some worrisome trends in some of the world's biggest democracy.

     So, for example, India registered quite significant declines on our scales, and that is for several reasons. For example, one reason was overblocking ‑‑ in northeastern states, as well as increased surveillance. And a dramatic increase in the number of people arrested for their posts in social media. United States declined, obviously because of surveillance issues, and I think most people in the audience are aware of that. But another country that has registered significant policy creation is Brazil. One reason for it is there's a dramatic increase in takedown notices surrounding election of last year, the municipal election, as well as an increase in violence against bloggers and online users.

     In fact, three online news journalists and bloggers were killed in Brazil during the coverage period for this report.

During our research we have identified the five most common Internet controls. Essentially, quite diverse because some of these governments are using different tools and different method to control the Internet. Probably the number one method that we've seen in our research is blocking and filtering. Out of 60 countries that we evaluated, 29 of them have actually blocked specific content related to politics, religion, or social and political rights. But we've seen a whole range of other topics, such as restrictive laws, or physical attacks, or separate attacks against regime critics. For example, when it comes to cyber attacks, we've seen that in 31 out of 60 countries that we examined. Also take down requests and forced allegiance. What we've seen in many countries is that governments are actually forcing content providers to take down material that they find offensive, and very often that material is related to the criticism of the authority or talking about corruption, or even environmental pollution.

     They've also seen an increase in blanket blogs of social media and ICTF. So we've seen in more and more countries that governments are not only blocking, let's say an individual user profile, or individual use of video, but they're actually choosing to block an entire platform.

     What's actually new this year is that more and more governments are actually starting to pay attention to some other ICP tools. So, for example, Voice over IP, or free messaging services, whether that be Viper or What's Up, or Skype are actually being increasingly targeted. For some countries, that is because these large telecomms are actually afraid for their revenue, so the countries choose to ban them as a way of actually increasing the revenue for these telecomms who are often government owned. But for other countries, the reason for it is that some of these services are a bit harder to intercept.

     These common Internet controls you can find on our website, but what I would like to focus our three particular controls that we found to be pervasive and particular worrisome over the previous coverage period. So one of them is surveillance. The entire world has been focused on what is going on in the United States. But what we see in our research is that surveillance is actually part of a growing trend. So over the previous years we found evidence in 35 of the 60 countries that we examined, government either obtained more sophisticated technology or increased scope in number of people monitored, or it has passed a new law which gives it greater authority to conduct surveillance.

     Russia, in particular, has emerged as incubator of surveillance technologies and legal practices emulated by other former Soviet Republic. So what we've seen in such places such as Pakistan, Turkestan, Ukraine, and several others, has actually obtained similar surveillance technologies as what is found in Russia.

     Also, another finding was that among our sample of current African countries, all of them just over the past year alone have stepped up there online monitoring activities. In part, it's because we've seen increased Internet penetration in most of the African countries, so many of them at this point are just catching up. Then part of it is that many of these surveillance technologies are not available on the market so easily that the government can obtain them without as much ‑‑ many problems.

     The Middle East and North Africa is the region where surveillance has been pervasive for a number of years and they've seen many governments actually strengthening their effort. For example, in Saudi Arabia, they've seen the government proactively recruiting experts to work in interception for encrypted data.

     The second area I would like to highlight are new laws to restrict online speech. And this is a really important area because up until a few years ago, very few countries had laws that specifically regulated or dealt with ICP. This is starting to change dramatically. So we've seen proliferation of laws that deal with Internet use. And many of these laws are extremely restrictive.

     Over the past year alone, in 24 out of 60 countries that we examined, we saw at least one flaw that negatively impacts Internet freedom. One interesting thing is many of these restrictive laws are often described as cyber security or anti‑terrorism legislation, but they also contain vague language with ‑‑ speech and prison activist. So I'll give you one example from the United Arab Emirate. In the UAE, a new cyber crime legislation passed last year deals with serious threats such as money laundering, online crime and so forth. But the same law has particular provision that prohibits criticism online of the ruling regime. In fact, it stipulates a sentence of up to life imprisonment for anyone who calls for regime change through online communication.

     We've also seen restrictive laws in Ethiopia, for example.  The new law there actually places even stricter penalties and regulation on the use of Voice over IP, and it extends the anti‑terrorism legislation that already exists to the online sphere. This is particularly worrisome in a country like Ethiopia where we seen last year a blogger and online journalist sentenced to 18 years in prison for his criticism of the government activity.

     We've also seen laws end up limiting information that are so‑called famous or blasphemous being used to censor. So it's very important to actually look at these laws that on the surface look like they're dealing with some of the more important and harmful content, it is very important to really see what are the current provisions that can limit political speech.

     They've also seen new laws specifically aimed at controlling online media, and this is important because in many of the authoritarian states, it's the online media where people can turn to to look for independent sources of information. So it appears that the authorities are taking notice of this. So there are more and more trying to find ways to actually place greater controls in the online media. One example is Jordan, for example, where the government last year passed a law that regulate to much more extent online news sources, and this new law pose new registration requirements in online media and it actually has also a requirement that holds editors in chief responsible for everything that is posted through these online news media outlets, including user comments. And the government has actually given a period of about 10 to 12 months for these online news media to register. And then the ones that didn't register were actually blocked just a couple of months ago.

     As a result of many of these new laws, you're seeing more and more users being arrested for things that they post online. So in 28 of the 60 countries that we assessed, we found the user, at least one, arrested or imprisoned for posting political, social, or religious content online.

     And as I mentioned previously, what's really interesting is that unlike in the past where it was mainly activists who would really promote democracy and human rights were the ones who are targeted, now with proliferation of social media it seems like everyone is being affected. So in 46 countries, it was actually social media users who found police knocking on their doors.

     A few of the interesting examples is one from India, for example, where a woman was complaining about traffic and service construction in Mumbai, after posting a comment on a political dignitary and she was arrested just for posting this comment on Facebook. And then her friend who "liked" this Facebook comment was arrested as well.

     Of course, after public outcry several days later, they were both released. But this really showcases the type of threats that online users face now a days.

     In fact, in India, according to our research, at least 11 social media users were arrested during the coverage period for this report. In a field tab we've also seen such cases. For example, a student was arrested for criticizing corruption at local university. And then a police said users were arrested in the Bahrain for, quote/unquote, inciting ‑‑ on Twitter.

     We are also seeing a siege that might offend religious sensitivities as landing a growing number of users in jail, as well as humor and satire. And that kind of brings me back to my introductory joke. Just a few years ago, it would have been almost funny to say that you could go to prison for a joke that you posted online. But we are really seeing that in more and more countries.

     I will give you one recent example from Turkey. A prominent composer posted on Twitter a joke saying something along the lines, "Do you know why a ‑‑ player lasts only 20 seconds?" It was implying that because religious authorities need to go back to their drinking and mistresses. And guess what? He was arrested.

     I will show you here a cartoon from India of a cartoonist who posted this along with a series of others cartoons and he also was arrested, although later he was released.

Although this picture seems quite grim at the moment, I also want to highlight that we're seeing more and more Civil Society activists, and businesses, and people from the secular community trying to push back and resist against some of these quite negative practices and legislative proposals. Although the push back is much smaller than the number by governments that control the Internet, it's extremely important to acknowledge it because we've seen that it has started to yield results. So in 11 countries that we have evaluated over the past year, we saw a negative law being deterred or parts of the law being passed as a result of civic mobilization and pressure by activists, companies, international community, and so on.

     One example comes from the Philippines where the Cyber Crimes Prevention Act was presented by the Supreme Court after over a dozen petitions were filed by citizens and lawyers. In Sibistan, for example, the law on protection of children was similar to quite burdensome law in Russia which also shows because of student activism.

     In Mexico, a very interesting example where a coalition of NGOs earlier this year came together and they were able to push the government to craft a new constitutional amendment which now guarantees freedom of access to the Internet. Although right now Mexico development has not passed any secondary legislation to specify how this new right would play out in practice, it's a very important victory for Civil Society in defense of the things, thinking that actually constitutional amendment was able to come to light is something that is viewed as extremely positive.

     So I really want to send a message here that we are seeing these threats becoming stronger and stronger but then at the same time there is this critical movement of activists who are trying to push back. And it is very important to actually support a growing movement because most of the countries that we see are looking into passage of new laws to regulate the Internet and a few years from now it might be too late because a lot of negative practices might be in place. But right now while they're still being considered, this is a critical time and place to try to shape the discussion and really bring about positive change.

     So I'm going to stop here and we are going to start a discussion. But I will turn the mic briefly to my colleague, Gigi.

     We're now going to basically open up the conversation among our panelists, but this is a conversation that the audience is invited to join in. So, we're going to think about the presentation that Sanja just made and try to look forward with getting a better sense of the different key issues that are affecting Internet freedom in the countries that are represented here and covered in the report. And then we want to also do what Sanja just highlighted for us and get more information about various in‑country stakeholders who have tackled these issues; what worked, what are you currently trying, and what are some ways that we can have an exchange of ideas. Then we also want to tease out what kind of efforts have yielded results. Not only what is currently being tried but what has actually worked.

     One of the goals will be to try to figure out on how to best respond the various types of threats to Internet freedom on a global level since here we're at the IGF, we want to look at international.

     Okay. And just one more note about remote participation. Of course, we have the IGF website for that, but then also if you're following along on Twitter, if you post any questions using the hashtag, #FOTN2013, we have a Twitter moderator who will capture those questions and make sure that the panelists address those.

     So, again, the panelists themselves will start to ask each other questions, but then definitely we invite the audience to do so as well. We'll have microphones going around, just raise your hand and one of the runners will bring you a microphone.

     So turning to our panel, let's take off with some questions.

     Now, if you read the reports I co‑authored for Morocco, Obstacle to Access to Control our Content, the first two main components of the report, Morocco really was fine because there was no block in ‑‑ you know, to access our content. What ‑‑ the pattern in terms of threats to Internet freedom of cyber attacks, imprisonments of the journalists, and we're looking at this pattern that is growing of arresting online activists but not charging them using laws that target ‑‑ using articles in the law that talk about freedom of expression. They would arrest them during street demonstrations and charge them with destruction of public order, insulting a police officer, and they jailed them. And really, jailing is online access is over the online activism. But the State has learned that using charges like drug related destruction of public order will keep these guys from the radar, so national human rights organizations. This is a pattern that we see happening in many of these oppressive, non‑democratic developing countries. So it's really scary moment right now in Morocco.

     So it reminds me of a saying that we had in the former Yugoslavia where they can say freedom of speech, but no freedom after speech. So let me go to Nighat, and if you can tell us a little bit about some of the keys sets of Internet freedom in your country.

     Just to ‑‑ I mean, I recall that last year when I was on the same panel, I was talking about the UT blocking in Pakistan. And Google ‑‑ was here and I posed a couple questions to him. Just to update you guys, You Tube is still blocked in Pakistan.   

     But ‑‑ Civil Society organizations and Internet rights activists, they have now found few ways how to reach out to the government, how to raise awareness around blocking and  censorship and how to educate the authorities that Internet freedom is also, you know, comes into human rights.

     So just ‑‑ it's interesting to know that the day when Freedom House launched its report on freedom on the net, the same day our government announced the blocking of Skype, and Viper and What's Up for three months in the name of national security.

So it says a lot about governments attempts to block these communication ways.

     In Pakistan, we have seen that the past year those governance attempts has been made a lot. Also the censorship and blocking of website, social media networks. And also the mobile communication has been shut down on every special occasion. But now we have seen lots of efforts coming up from the Civil Society. For instance, once Civil Society filed a petition against this You Tube blocking in the high court and asked the government ‑‑ I mean, they filed a petition under the fundamental rights of access information and freedom of expression. And ‑‑ and I'm so glad that high court didn't file any order and they actually asked other Civil Society to be a amicus on this lawsuit and to educate the judiciary that how we sort of tackle the issue.

     So, we have seen this attempt by the government and also the efforts of the Civil Society in Pakistan. So the case is still pending in Pakistan for the last many months, but we hope that, you know, it is will end soon.

     Then we got to the track against the Internet freedoms, we noticed that some of the factor has been mentioned in the presentation like the source versus the lack of law which is strongly protected, the right of the people in terms of Internet freedoms, and it comes from either the dependency that more and more regulation are actually becoming and put more proficient to control the content that can be post, submitted, or downloaded from the Internet, as well as justify ‑‑ we call it illegal, wiretapping practices.

     We notice in the case of Indonesia, now there are 16 leader provisions existing and effectively operating in the countries that give several different agencies of the government to do a wiretapping without any proper procedures. Like where I'm from, the court guarantee the remedy of the victim in case there is any misconduct or abuse of those provisions. Some of them are highlighted in the report like in the case of contractors and policy, but many other were not actually directed to that issues. But it's operating legally.

     Twelve out of the 16 are in the form of laws. So, actually, it can be challenged before the conceptional court in the country. We managed to challenge one law so that the standard that any practices of tapping need to be based on law. The delicate issue we ‑‑ what kind of conditions and what kind of limitations that enable the government agency to do that practices?

     Another tract also raised by the ‑‑ conducted by the Freedom House, which is the overcommunications of ‑‑ against individuals that try to raise their issues in constant through the Internet. In the case of Indonesia, we see more and more cases where actually target in which probably the ‑‑ is against the right defenders. Now a days, more and more cases are actually on the individual basis, like the consumer and the business sectors in the allegations that are using under the pretext of information ‑‑ software companies. We saw many cases on this. One case would be a good example on how Civil Society and individuals, as well as the Internet users, try to consolidate the effort to fight back against these. The cases of pre ‑‑ housewife that tried to complain about the services from the informational hospital; that she said below the standard and can be considered as a mal practices of the medical services. And then to suffer of both at one time, the allegation of defamation is a criminal sanction up to five years imprisonment and also a high fines, you know, because of this; circulations of the e‑mail among this college.

     Then because of this, this is also the first example in which NGO can work hand in hand with individual Internet users, as well as others, try to fight back the allegations and could be scarce into the issues of justice. Because the third aspect that we also note is from the ground is probably not explored in the ‑‑ is lack of or not well functioning of law, especially targeting that the court is not proper to handle this case. I mean, the Internet ‑‑ the, you know, the case of defamation related to Internet users is new in Indonesia and the legal precedence may not be appropriate because we use the long panel coat which hasn't been able to be reform up to the present. It's the inheritance from the Dutch system.

     So anybody can actually suffer both from the new law that give a harsh prison and sanctions in the case of defamation, as well as the application of the law, the previous code we inherited from the Dutch. Because of that, usually individuals and more and more cases were reported actually, the causes also related to the fact that the cause, the defamation clause is very weak to be defined and there is no standard ‑‑ let's see, the past standard we recognize in the different regions in which one case, actually, can be strong case of defamation.

     In here, if anybody feel that he's dignity or actually destroyed by one other individual's action, they can come to the court and file the case with through the panel court and through the legal action. Then that it is justified because I suffer from those actions, you know, destroyed by this, some sort of action. And with lack of capacity from the court themselves, I mean, like, the prosecutors and the judges, those become a new trend in which the criminal sanction is becoming a repercussion to other ‑‑ reputation is in danger because of this. We have no sound evidentiary examples in trying to Google that.

     The very issue with that is, first, there isn't any standing obligations that justify those practices. Secondly, I don't like the practices because it's done by the third party. It's substantially, you know, in breach of the human rights standard as mentioned in many U.N. documents about how to limit the freedom of expression on the Indi Internet.

     And the third is, there hasn't been any proper provisions that guarantee if I am the victim of those practices, what kind of considerations or remedies that I can go for. And in this case it just ‑‑ with the support of human rights ‑‑ other human right and certain NGOs, we try to go to the ministries of informations and then try to ask them to lift the block. And it's done. But, of course, the practice has been ongoing. There hasn't been any sign that government tried to stop that because of the ‑‑ under the pretext of protecting the morality of society, especially when it comes ‑‑ we also notice that there is a double standard because we saw somewhat the right wing, for example, conservatives from the certain regions continuously posting material on the net which is actually, from our perspective, considered as enticement or case speech against other regions. It's never been blocked up until now. I mean, you can see when it comes to the ‑‑ you know, like, I should mention Voice of Islam. It's a web that really is a common people and then I go to their website, eventually can be considered as enticement of hate speech to other regions among the community.

     So they never been blocked, up to now. There are many, many website in those type that is now existing in the information.

     So, Ross here is from Google. And often times when we talk about Internet censorship, we focus on the fact that censorship has on political activists or Internet censors more broadly. Ross, tell us what kind of effect does restrictive Internet freedom environment have on the business community and tech companies such as Google.

     I think the way that we look at censorship, and surveillance, and issues like that, we look at it through the prism of our users really, and how is the censorship and the filtering affecting our user experience first and foremost? Because we're a company that very much believes in putting our users first. And if you do that, then everything else is going to follow. You're going to be successful. So that's the first thing we think of when we see these things.

     We also look at it from the perspective of a business. And when we decide to enter a new market, for example, whether or not we're going to launch our product in a new market, take Vietnam, for example, which has been the subject of many conversations, what sort of ‑‑ what are we subjecting ourselves, our products, and our users to in that market? So when you take an environment like Vietnam where we have a pretty clear sense that things would be difficult for us, a lot of requests from the government to block information or provide data for users, which we don't do. At the same time, we do take that into account. Like why would we go into Vietnam if we're going to be constantly subjected to these government requests that we're not going to comply with? Then you look down the road and get a sense of what life is going to be like there.

     But we have to ‑‑ we have to also counterbalance that with what our real mission is, which is to get our products to as many users as possible in the world and to provide access to the net, really to as many users as we can around the world. So those are some of the things we think about when we think about filtering and censorship.

   >> SANJA KELLY: Okay. So then, more generally, what role then do you think should the private sector play in insuring free and open access to the Internet?

>> ROSS LAJEUNESSE: I think it should be playing a very large role, certainly a larger role than it is. We have to be smart about how we do this, of course. One of the reasons we fund Civil Society NGOs all around the world is because we recognize that in many parts of the world they are the voices that are going to be most effective in this fight. You know, we're very conscious of the fact that my going into a government meeting demanding free and open access to the net can often be a counterproductive way of spending our time.

     So we do a lot of work to find and fund and enable users around the world to be those advocates because those voices are very important. We do recognize, however, that in other parts of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia where there's a particular emphasis right now on economic development, that Google can be a very powerful voice. And we usually meet with those governments when we're talking about open access to information and we approach it from an economic development argument. That's ‑‑ it's not ‑‑ many governments feel like, okay, just give me the net, give me access to the web and everything is going to be fine. And you have to explain to them that that's not really true; that what they're seeking is sort of, you know, economic development. But you need a free and open web in order for that to happen because it's the free and open access to information which allows for the innovation, and the creativity, and the entrepreneurship which in turn leads to economic development that everyone is seeking.

     So when we go in and make those arguments in certain parts of the world, that can be really powerful. I think what industry needs to do, however, is recognize that an even more powerful argument is when all of business and all of industry goes and makes those arguments.

     It's one thing for Google to do that, but the reality today is that pretty much every business is, to some extent, an Internet business. Say you're a car company. The reality is today that you can't reach new customers. You can't source raw materials. Your employees probably can't even communicate with each other without using the Internet. So every business is an Internet business. And yet when we see things like cross‑border ‑‑ you know, blocking cross‑border data flows, or filtering or censorship, we don't see enough companies who are not typical Internet companies come to that fight. And that's something that Google is trying to work on to get more partners in the business world to engage in this because it really does affect everyone. And we're starting to see more engagement on this, particularly in the world of trade agreements, you know, and both bilateral and multi‑lateral trade agreements. But we really would love to see more industry engaged in the battle all around the world.

     You know, I think trade and trade agreements is an area where industry, particularly technology companies, really need to engage more. The reality is that we are relatively new to that space. We've let a lot of what I would say ‑‑ not to be, you know, not to speak ill of them, but sort of older economy type of industries play in that space, like manufacturing where the focus is on terrorists and issues like that. But when you look at what's driving much of the economy in the world right now, it's this knowledge‑based economy and the Internet enterprises and we're just now engaging in a very real way on that issue.

As we continue to do that, I think we're going to see really vast improvements in how those agreements are used to advance free expression in the free and open Internet. That's my hope anyway.

     So there's a sense that somehow a country can, okay, every piece of data is going to stay right in here and that way we're going to have access to it. It just doesn't work that way. The arguments that seem to work best, really revolve around explaining how the Internet works and how industry is just simply not going to be able to do this.

To be honest, the issue is a harder one when you have a larger market like Brazil where companies are going to want to be in Brazil and they're going to want to participate in that market. And if Brazil were to sort of enact data localization requirement, that would be a really hard battle. In smaller countries when they're starting to consider data localization laws, you can make the very valid argument that what you're really doing, country acts, is you're cutting yourself off from the Internet. That it sends a very clear signal to business that this is a place where you have to think very long and hard about whether you want to be accessing that market at all. That's not the sort of direction that most countries that care about economic development want to go in.

     What I want to do next is I would like to focus on a couple things that were said during the panel which specifically deal with activism. There is always the roll of courts in overturning some of the bad or negative laws that we've seen being passed in countries under study. Nighat mentioned, for example, that the UCs are blocked or apparently being looked at by the court. At least there was a petition to the court to look into the matter. And NG and also mentioned some efforts regarding surveillance in Indonesia to that extent as well. So, Nighat, could you actually tell us a little bit more about those efforts and do you really see the courts stepping in and being the protector of Internet freedom in Pakistan.

But now I have seen the trend is now changing slowly and gradually.

     After this adjudication, it was very good to see that judge didn't decide himself anything about the You Tube case, but he actually invited different amicus to assist him on the case. By the way, an amicus is here in the audience and she can tell more about the effort they are doing in terms of, you know, doing advocacy planning, another representative from the organization who have actually filed the case in the local high court. So it would be good to hear from them how they are educating the judiciary and how they are raising the awareness about the Internet freedom in Pakistan. So it would be good to hear from the audience as well.

     Oh ‑‑ here. Okay. Would you mind sharing a few words about the effort?

     As a part of that we had prior meetings with these judges before this. Not anticipating any cases, but just the fact that the whole high court, just for the record, is also the court that ordered for the blockage of the Facebook ban and, therefore, it's not ‑‑ it does not have a very good reputation. And we met with three judges, one is the one who took up the YouTube case. He was aware of the work we were doing and he was also aware of the fact that we had very politely conveyed that the judiciary does not appear to be tech savvy. We also mentioned most officials not being tech savvy. The role we've been playing as amicus is to provide the court with as many resources as we can and to steer the debate away from the unfortunate video to the larger context of what You Tube or Google is as a platform and how people are using that for different things.

     One of the campaigns we've done, both public campaign, as well as a campaign with the court, and that includes sending citizen letters to the judge. When the case started, the judge began by saying, "This video needs to be blocked and let's move on with saying how do we block it?" And we were really, really anxious at that point because that meant that they would want localization, they would want Google account, which would, unfortunately, much more sort of obsessing over Google and government ‑‑ between the two. And also would mean, a passageway for the UR arbitration system.

     From that, in three months we moved the judge saying if we buy a technology and that does not ensure 100 percent blockage of all kind of content, why waste money anyway? It happened not only because of the work we're doing, but also the diverse voices that have come into the debate that have allowed the judge to say, it's not about the video, it's about the driver saying he can't read English. And he spelled everything all day, his only resource to normalcy, his only resource to daily life is just watching news channels via the live stream on You Tube.

     Or this artist who is deaf and is one of the most brilliant photographers that we have in Pakistan who learned, you know, to communicate through technology. So, yeah, just at this point the judge has referred the case to a larger bench, which we feel would be a much, much better way to approach it because if a larger bench gives any decisions, it will be legitimized much more. It will be hard to challenge it, because there's also a parallel case in the ‑‑ higher court. We don't want to talk about where that's going. So hopefully things get better. That's the summary of what's happening in the You Tube case.

     Also speaking about judicial decision, in the Philippines the example that I cited earlier is that as part of the Civil Society contains different ‑‑ files for their Supreme Court which in the end decides to suspend a law. So it seems like in the countries where there is at least some level of judicial independence where those channels are available, the courts are definitely at disposal. However, it really becomes problematic in countries where the judiciary is not independent at all and activists can't respond to that and they have to respond to other method.

     We do have full house here in the audience and I wonder whether anyone would be willing to share a successful example or successful campaign from their country which was able to either overturn a particular law, or deter it, or something that you really feel like made a difference where you live?

     This experience was successful. And the second reason why this is important, it is because this is first time in Mexico's history our constitution has been modified by a proposal coming out from the Civil Society.

     It seems like we have one more comment for Jorge right in front of you.

     And finally, I think society‑wise, people realize that it's a very positive thing. We're going to have indigenous communities connected in different language the new models of technology because the mobile phones are going to be accessible very soon for everybody. So for us, this empowers society. Something Very positive. And the real secret of this also is that we were underusing our connectivity with the electric line of the country has fiber optic and it was not used. So now with the fiber‑optic loss, connectivity through the mobile phones, I think we will have very soon most of the country connected.

Thank you.

     I wanted to ask, you know, this struck me as a very positive development. And perhaps the question on everybody's mind is, is the government thinking about any measures to take to ensure the safety of the population online? As you know, there are many non‑state actors that are perpetrating a lot of digital violence and offline violence against citizen journalists and bloggers. What questions are you asking, and perhaps how can other stakeholders work with you to address those concerns of safety.

The more people is connected, also there will be new ways to tackle these problems. So for us this is really, you know, I think the positive side is there. There's, of course, some things that we have to watch out. Society, we have to start solving them. As a whole, as we said before, I think Mexico society is very happy of these new things taking place. Thanks.

   >> GIGI ALFORD: Jorge, if you want to answer, and then give it to the gentleman next to you.

   >> JORGE: I want to comment, there are two elements in Mexico which is so important. First of all, the law was made in order to ‑‑ for fear officers can track any ‑‑ any information to journalists, that's what they were trying and that's very important.

     In the past, 80 attacks to journalists. We have about 80 journalists killed in Mexico over the last few years. In the past it remained like a local issue for local authorities to investigate. But now the federal government cannot shut the case and they can use the fear capability in order to investigate more deeply the assassination of the more local journalists. And the second step is the congress and the executive power managed to get support and change the law in order to get government and make a ‑‑ to protect ‑‑ human rights defenders. Right now this is, of course, that's the process. The ‑‑ this commission needs, of course, more budget and more people trained. At least I think this is headed in the right direction.

     When it was completed, we basically went offline. So we went to legislators to lobby for the bill. Actually, several legislators, and we found two or three champions now in the senate. Aside from that, we also went offline to the different communities that affected; so media people, other bloggers, other journalists all around the country to get support for the bill. What we found was this was not only an effort to convince people that this was a good alternative, but also to stretch out a lot of issues with the document and how it would affect them.

As such, the bill itself is a growing document to reflect what the ‑‑ what the people want with their Internet.

     Okay. Let's get some more stories. I see the hand up in the back, so if our microphone runner ‑‑

     I believe there are limited factors when you talk about freedom of expression. There is lack of policy at national level though there are treaties, charters. But when it comes to national policies, it is not defined. Right? So there is a vacuum. I believe there is lack of awareness as well, and lack of governance.

     I think bloggers and activists, and micro bloggers, are more prone to the consequences of freedom expression rather than journalists, because journalists are more protected by their organization, as well as they have their own feasible rights because they have federations to address them.

     One question that I have is, you know, we are talking about the ‑‑ we are talking about freedom of expression, but what about the citizen journalism websites that are hosting these ‑‑ Shouldn't they actually be accountable in respect to defending the rights of bloggers and citizen journalism? Because at the end of ‑‑ when it comes to reality, when action happens, it happens to the bloggers and they're left behind with few press releases. That is a reality. And that actually happens. But the websites through which they communicate, they are least bothered. They are least bothered, I'm telling you this.

They probably take off their hands. So what about accountability of journalism websites? Thank you.

     I saw a hand here.

     We are ‑‑ we've been very hopeful about the Supreme Court because the track record on free speech issues is pretty good. However, in the last few proceedings which we've been following, I think Sanja spoke about how the judges aren't aware of how technology works is one. Second, everything in India at least starts with a conversation about communal right.

     Third, I think the companies are actually helping. They're mostly in the reactive modes. They answer litigation when they're dragged to court for one thing or the other. And they make distinctions like, the holding company, which, for example, Google Incorporation is not responsible for the action ‑‑ is the one which is responsible and is the service provider for these services. And the Indian company which is only the holding company is ‑‑ and a subsidiary of that ‑‑ is not responsible for these actions.

     What I observed at least, the judges would come and say, well, we understand the technicality, but the issue is that you are here, people are using your services here and if this is the distinction you're going to try to hide behind, then I'll be darned, these are not ‑‑ nothing has been decided, but they have made just statements offhand from the bench where they would say things like, "So, how does China do it?" Which we from Civil Society read as that although in they pride their self from distinguishing these authoritative regimes, but they are willing to at least ‑‑ are they trying to consider these other things? And what is these companies, how are they going to assist us?

     Because I understand it's not ‑‑ the Civil Society appreciates that the companies have no right or no mandates to protect free speech and expression of the various users, but the business model is such that they're bound to do that and now it has spilled over in the space. But all these arguments make us just wonder what's happening. That's India's experience. Nothing has come out right now, everything is in pendency stages and hopefully things will come out in favor of free speech and not otherwise.

     So, of course, that's where our interests align. So there is increased cooperation. But other issues, of course, things would be different if you're going to be talking about privacy and surveillance, we're not going to be always on the same side.

     You know, correctly pointing out that intermediary liability is a key issue in India right now in reform of the IT act. So I take issue with your characterization that we're hiding behind these shell companies, because in the absence of true intermediary protection, if we were to say, yes, we are fully an Indian company and we're completely subject to the law, that would be highly problematic. As you noted, intermediary liability is a key issue to protect users and to protect free expression, and it's why we're so engaged on it.

     I think it's ‑‑ so I would say that it's not exactly correct from my point of view that we are completely reactionary and being dragged to court. We are actively engaged in litigation to try and address these issues. And we're also actively engaged in lobbying the government and supporting Civil Society to get these rules changed. Because I completely agree that our interests are 100 percent aligned on this. Maybe there are disagreements about specific strategies and approaches, but I think it's important to keep in mind the broader picture that both of our hearts are in the right place and we're all trying to go in the right direction.

     I'm glad to hear that you feel at least there's been a dialogue about that, even if it hasn't been 100 percent perfect.

     Eduardo, I think you are next, and then we have several hands over here and over there.

     I want to share what ‑‑ some experience in Argentina. It's very similar what our colleague explained in India. One very big issue, not the only one, but one very big issue in Argentina is intermediary liability. There are more than 200 cases in the courts. The good news is that one of the cases reach to the Supreme Court, the decision is pending. And why I'm saying that this is a good reason, because up to now the opinion of the Attorney General is a good opinion in favor of freedom of expression and for non‑liability of intermediaries. So, it's not an obligation of the Supreme Court to follow the opinion of the Attorney General, but it's a good step forward.

     And what I want to highlight here is important of litigation in some countries as activities that can start changing the environment. At the same time, many Civil Society organizations are following and pushing for the reform of the law itself because the problem is that, I said, that we have over almost 200 cases and the judges are deciding in very different ways. And one reason is because they don't understand what Internet is. And the other is because the legislation is not clear enough to apply to this kind of situations.

     So this is the situation in Argentina. But I have a question, too, for Ross. I'm thinking in another strategy. One of the old strategies in the protection of human rights is what we call naming and shaming. So you name the violator, put in the spotlight, it's a shame, and that's it. And it's a way to prevent violations, actually.

     I think that in some way the Google Transparency Report has something to do with that strategy, okay? And I welcome that kind of report. And I welcome that after Google and more companies try to do some similar reports. But my question is, does Google already finish some sort of assessment of the Google Transparency Report? Has the Google Transparency Report, did you feel it was useful to start stopping  some sort of request for blocking or taking down? I mean, I know that, you know, maybe you don't have the answer yet, but I think it would be interesting to know how the global transparency ‑‑ the Google Transparency Report is working. Because it will not be the same for some countries that in the past sent a lot of requests for the companies to take down content. And nobody knows that. Now we know. And now we know that in Latin America, Brazil is one of the most ‑‑ is one of the country that have more requests for blocking and these kind of things. So that's my question. Thank you.

     We have about 10 minutes left. We might cut about two or three minutes into the lunch hour. So why don't we have five minutes for a couple more questions, and then we'll take five minutes for the panelists to address the various issues which have been raised, which incredibly address the three categories that the Freedom on the Net report uses to analyze the net freedom. So we'll get to that.

     In 2011 the government tried to pass the national assembly ‑‑ actually passed the first draft of a bill, Internet bill. And this bill essentially made it a crime for individuals to post online without the consent of the parties mentioned in the correspondence, or even pictures, those involved in the pictures, and exempted the State media and the public sector from such law.

     Also, the same draft law also made it a crime, conferred discretionary powers to the military and the police and the state security to search homes without warrants to seize data and related equipment, including computers, hard drives, cell phones, on suspicions that these individuals might be engaged in the defaming the authorities through the Internet.

     So there was an immediate reaction from society and this bill, the approval of this bill has been halted. But because there isn't international recognition of what is happening, at any moment, because the ruling party has over 72 percent of the citizen parliament, this bill can be made into a law at any time. And so what I bring to your attention is the need to just basically get to know a little bit of what is happening in Angola because if this bill is approved and made into law it will be the most draconian one in the world at the moment.

     Thank you.

   >> I have a question for the gentleman from Morocco. My name is Luta Keiser (phonetic), I'm from the Netherlands. I work a lot in Eastern Amsterdam, little Morocco as they call it. I have a question when it comes to the kissing incident, the picture. I don't know if everybody is familiar with it. But some young people posted a picture that they gave a sweet kiss to each other and they got into a lot of trouble. Actually, I want to ask this question to you, but I guess it is similar in many more cases in countries. But the youth that I know ‑‑ I work a lot with Moroccan youth in Holland and they're scared. Should they do something? Should they post stuff on Facebook? But then they are very scared because every summer they go to Morocco. The same thing with ‑‑ I founded an Ethiopian Youth Organization, same thing when it comes to Ethiopians in different circumstances. But I would like to direct these questions to you. What is your advice for immigrant youth in other countries that, you know, feel the need to do something but are very afraid that something will happen to them or their families if they step up? So what is your personal advice? Thank you so much.

     You said some country recently have ‑‑ censorship of a political speech. But these countries sometime arrest and punish individuals who post political speech on cyber space. So some people say censorship and the ‑‑ more dangerous than punishment to speech. So what do you think difference between censorship and ‑‑ punishment in cyber space from the free speech perspective. That's my question. Thank you.

     So if everyone will indulge me in five more minutes, I'm very sorry, we're going to have to wrap up with questions from the audience because we are almost out of time. If we can have the panelists ‑‑ I'm sorry, can I get the microphone up front, please?

     So we heard a lot from the audience about various kinds of restrictions on the net. We heard about alleviating obstacles to access in Mexico. We heard about pushing back against control content in the Philippines and other countries. We talked about violations in of user rights in Nepal and other countries.

     Ross, specifically, we want to hear from you about the topic of naming and shaming through the Google Transparency Report and a little bit about what users can do, not only in the countries where the repressive tactics are being practiced.

     So if you can each take one minute to address the issue that you that you kind of ‑‑ most spoke to you, and then we will conclude.

Broadcasting needs to be regulated for ‑‑ because the nature of broadcasting is different. You need a license, you need the airwaves, you have to regulate that because it's all technology.  

     Number two, the technology is pervasive. You turn on the radio, you don't know what to expect. You're with your kids. You may hear something that's obscene or whatever. So broadcasting in the literal terms it's agreed upon that ‑‑

Now, for the Internet the dominant argument i s the literature right now is that it should be treated exactly like print. It should not be treated like broadcasting. What the states are trying to do, especially ‑‑ and this includes every ‑‑ basically democratic or non‑democratic states, they're using national security, child pornography, privacy, copyright, and they're using this argument to say, no, we have to regulate the Internet in the same way that the broadcasting is regulated. And this is the fight I think we need take on is to try to protect this, you know, the Internet.

     Now, in terms of what you can do as a blogger, I think you're in the right place. There's so many agencies and Freedom House is one of them, that really look after your interests. And the level of Nepal is to organize, just like the journalists are doing in many oppresive countries, they organize in associations, unions, why not the bloggers, you have every right to organize and protect yourself.

     With just a very brief summary about the kissing incident.  Two kids from high school kissed. A friend of ‑‑ their friend took their picture, post it on Facebook, all three were jailed and then they were released a day after.

     My advice is that they should do more of that. They should not stop. Now in Morocco they should feel safe about it. In Morocco, your livelihood is threatened if you're very politically active and you publish and you write in Arabic and you write about the king, and you are very articulate about what you say and you have a lot of influence. That's when you start to become in trouble. For everything else it's a wide marginal freedom. We explored that.

     Now, after the kids were detained, there was uproar in the country. Online and offline, everyone was angry. Trust me on this, nobody will be arrested in Morocco over kissing, pictures online, because those kids had the courage to do that. I think I would encourage other kids to ‑‑ I'm not being ‑‑ not to kiss, but anybody ‑‑ I'm getting old. You know, they're high school students. So anybody willing to take a chance and do things to push for ‑‑ I mean, the journalist is now in jail. Again, if we can get this guy released, I know the State will not arrest somebody like that because we make them look bad and we will continue to make them look bad.

     So I would tell everybody, take risks. The marginal freedom we have in Morocco, we have that because many people went to jail, because many people did things that they felt were crazy at the time. But because they did it that's why I'm here being able to say this freely. And I'm going back to Morocco. I'm going back and I know I'm going to be fine, I hope.

     I would, I would also request to the Civil Society organizations to join hands with each other within the country also. Not only outside the country and not only speaking on the banners and going out and talking about issues, but also within the countries. Join hands, share information with each other because we see that as countries begin to increase censorship and governance efforts we should actually join hands together to fight with these attempts by the government. Thank you so much.

Thank you.

     And then the next is also because some of us are actually put forward the important rules of the court and the judiciary. Then one homework that I think is important is to ensure that those walking behind the bar really understand the standard. Because in many cases like in the South Asia countries, especially Indonesia, some of the government relies on that. You know, the Attorney General offices have no ideas about the standard of freedom of expression ‑‑

     We're aware for our transparency report that there is a naming and shaming element to it. But I'd say the primary driver of it, Eduardo, is just the fact that there's just simple power in that information itself. You can't really have a debate about these issues without knowing what the facts are and what the reality is. It's one of the reasons when the Chinese government, you know, wasn't described particularly for the government, but when our systems were attacked emanating from China that we went public when no other company would go public. Because you can't begin to address a problem unless you acknowledge it exists and you have facts in which to have a vigorous debate about it. That's the reason we're doing the transparency report, why we've done it for the past three years. And we're also, I just want to say, working around ‑‑ in every release of the report, we make it more granular and more data. We're working right now with NGOs all around the world for them to produce transparency reports. We were successful in Astonia. We were recently in Hong Kong and we're working with about a dozen other countries, NGOs in those countries to produce very local versions of those transparency reports to keep that debate going and keep the debate informed by facts.

     We do have some copies of the summary of the Freedom on the Net report if anyone is eager to get their hands on those. Thank you all very much for indulging us for a little bit of extra time. Enjoy your lunch break and we'll continue the conversation.

(Applause.)

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This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.