Oppression Online: Rights and Restrictions on the Network

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

Internet Governance Forum 2013

Workshop # 183 Report

Oppression Online: Rights and Restrictions on the Network

Organizer Name 

Sullivan David

Organizer Entity 

Global Network Initiative

Workshop Theme 

Human Rights / Freedom of Expression on the Internet

Consise description 


The workshop will explore the social and economic impacts of national level ICT legislation and regulation as well as international telecom practices on human rights, particularly freedom of expression and privacy, including the impact of government and private sector practices at the national and international level. 

A selection of panelists will present the particular issues at play in their own regional settings, including the nationalization and/or monopolization of telecom regimes, content filtering and takedowns, and communications surveillance. The workshop will particularly examine the differences between emerging and developed country policies, and their impacts upon one another, as well as the role of private sector companies, including the responsibilities of Internet and telecommunications companies under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. After identifying particular problems and challenges, the panel will then explore possible solutions and responses both at the national and international level for addressing such issues.



The agenda will address the following issues: 1) Updates from stakeholders from Chile, Pakistan, the UK, and Indonesia on the particular challenges they face on the ground. 2) What is the private sector doing to address rights to freedom of expression and privacy online? 3) How can diverse stakeholders in the Internet governance ecosysem engage with national governments to advance online rights? 4) What can be done at the international level? Is there a role for the International Telecommunication Union or other international institutions?


John Kampfner

Remote Moderator 

David Sullivan

Have you organized workshops at previous IGFs?


Workshop format 


Workshop Transcript 


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


The panel touched on how government action (e.g. blocking and surveillance) and inaction (failure to regulate companies) has affected people's rights to freedom of expression and privacy in countries throughout the world.  We talked about the value of multistakeholder engagement in law and policymaking (particularly in Chile) and through fora such as the Freedom Online Coalition.  We talked about the need for government accountability and mechanisms for corporate accountability, as well as how international human rights should guide the approach of both to freedom of expression and privacy.


The panel also discussed both the collective responsibility (as governments, corporations or civil society) and the individual responsibility to uphold and promote human rights and ensure we minimize online oppression. An emphasis was played on the important role of whistleblowers in highlighting the most egregious examples of online oppression. Reference was made to specific national laws including those of Indonesia, the UK and US.


The panel also focused on the various practices that were emerging nationally and trans-nationally in the telecommunication and internet space that enabled the imposition of oppressive and repressive practices by national governments, at times facilitated by the private sector from these developing and emerging markets. One of the panelists cited the example of the regional and national  impact by providers, citing the specific example of Etisalat and the monopolies effect in Pakistan and the region which had led to monopolistic anti competitive effects, reducing the number of service providers, unifying all infrastructure under one telecom provider and voluntarily bearing the costs and effectively de-liberalizing the telecom sector thereby enabling and facilitating of filtering, surveillance, monitoring of all traffic and driving up costs by charging for services contrary to the principles of net neutrality and thus widening the digital divide.


Approximately 60 participants attended the workshop, with representation and active participation by governments, civil society, the private sector, and the technical community.   



Conclusions drawn from the workshop and further comments 


The panelist also raised the question of the various international forums or groupings where the issues with respect to oppression may be raised, addressed and resolved. Though there was little consensus on whether such issues should be taken to the ITU or the UN there appeared to be broader consensus in making such issues topics for the next IGF and having groupings such as the Freedom Online Coalition address these challenges.


Reported by 

David Sullivan, Lisl Brunner, Zahid Jamil, and Michael Harris

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