IGF 2016 - Internet Governance in the Middle East and North Africa policy brief

By APC
Publisher: APCNews     Guadalajara, 05 December 2016

With the annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) kicking off this week in Guadalajara, Mexico, we developed a guide for participants from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), identifying sessions on themes relevant in the region: human rights, security, trade, and the internet economy.

Human rights: Threats to human rights online are ever growing and expanding. MENA governments are using any precedent set at the global level or in other countries, particularly democratic states, to push for more restrictive legislation or to pressure private actors into responding to their requests. That is why it is critical to be aware about the trends and see how they can influence the situation in the MENA region. MENA states are learning how to deal with the internet but not always for the benefit of their citizens.

Security: Many MENA states are expressing interest in cybersecurity and pushing for more control of the internet, using the justification of defending their national interest or fighting cybercrime, as well as, more recently, confronting online extremism. On the other hand, numerous states are enacting legislation in fields like the media, telecommunication, and so on, impacting directly on the digital rights of internet users in the region.

Trade: While governments are pushing for more control through either censorship or surveillance, they still see the economic value of the internet as a means for development or responding to rampant unemployment. This was made clear when some of them participated a few years ago in multilateral agreements such as ACTA or basic free trade agreements. In recent years, there has been a growing trend at the global level to establish multilateral trade agreements which include internet-related components such as e-commerce or flow of information. These agreements therefore have an impact at the national level too, through the inclusion of provisions on issues such as data localisation and intellectual property rules, without going through consultation or legislative participation.

Internet economy: The internet is increasingly becoming an ever more important aspect of the daily life of many users, in particular the youth within the MENA region. This encompasses a wide range of aspects such as civic participation, information via social media and online media, and even the economy, through e-commerce and online services.

Context

The IGF offers the possibility to discuss emerging issues at both the global and national level and to share experiences among all participating stakeholders. Many of the trends we are seeing now will be coming soon to the MENA region or are already impacting users there. Civil society in MENA faces the challenge of coping with these new issues while continuing to cope with with the current ones, by gaining the knowledge and expertise needed to influence the related policies. Until now, civil society actors have focused, for good reason, on digital rights issues related to censorship, surveillance and freedom of expression on the internet. However, they need to include new arguments in their “arsenal”, including the economic aspect. The latter is still underused as an argument and can be a game changer in terms of influencing the discourse on the internet and digital rights in the region. The sessions and workshops listed here offer a good opportunity to learn from other experiences and case studies that can be used as references and sources of inspiration for new arguments to impact the realities of the internet in the region.

The IGF also demonstrates the possibility of influencing policy making through consultation, discussion and engagement of all stakeholders. With the growing number of national and regional IGFs, there is a possibility for civil society in MENA countries to take the lead in starting national IGFs, acknowledging the reality at the local level and that no one-size-fits-all solution exists. Arab states have traditionally pushed for having internet governance and policy matters discussed in intergovernmental settings, where only states have the last word. The IGF is setting a precedent on how a multistakeholder model can work in practice, at least in terms of policy shaping.

Relevant IGF activities

(Note: Only workshops and main sessions included)

Human rights

Several workshops focus on digital rights in general, including access, while others also address specific issues like the role of private players and online threats such as harassment or extremism.

  • Mapping digital rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A new visual tool for comparative analysis | Monday, 5 December • 09:00 – 10:00

  • Operational responses to online harassment | Monday, 5 December • 09:00 – 10:00

  • Protecting the safety of journalists online and offline in the global Internet Governance ecosystem | Monday, December 5 • 16:00 – 18:00

  • Implementing human rights standards to the ICT sector | Tuesday, 6 December • 10:15 – 11:45

  • Social media and youth radicalization in the digital age | Tuesday, 6 December • 12:00 – 13:30

  • Countering violent extremism and human rights online | Tuesday, 6 December • 13:00 – 13:20

  • Finding the balance: Access to knowledge and culture online | Tuesday, 6 December • 14:15 – 14:35

  • Linking connectivity, human rights and development | Wednesday, 7 December • 09:00 – 10:00

  • Free expression and extremism: An internet governance challenge | Wednesday, 7 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Freedom House panel | Wednesday, 7 December • 10:45 – 11:30

  • Inclusive responses to intentional internet disruptions | Wednesday, 7 December • 10:45 – 12:15

  • Encryption and safety of journalists in the digital age | Wednesday, 7 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • Holding algorithms accountable to protect fundamental human rights | Wednesday, 7 December • 15:05 – 15:25

  • Human rights advocacy: Strategies for the digital age | Wednesday, 7 December • 16:30 – 18:00

  • Sex and freedom of expression online | Thursday, 8 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Main session on human rights: Broadening the conversation | Thursday, 8 December • 10:00 – 13:00

  • Solutions for countering online abuse against women | Thursday, 8 December • 12:00 – 13:30

  • Anonymity vs. hate speech? | Thursday, 8 December • 13:50 – 14:10

  • Surveillance and international human rights law | Thursday, 8 December • 15:00 – 16:00

  • Doxxing women: Privacy protections against gender violence | Thursday, 8 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • The “Right to be Forgotten” and privatized adjudication | Thursday, 8 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • Human rights online: Internet access and minorities | Thursday, 8 December • 15:05 – 15:25

  • Direct access and the next billion: Policy problems and proposals | Thursday, 8 December • 16:30 – 18:00

  • The internet and ESCRs: working from experience to policy | Friday, 9 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Assemblies and associations online: coping with challenges | Friday, 9 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • VoIP crackdown: implication for gov, telecom, & civil society | Friday, 9 December • 11:30 – 13:00

  • Analyzing the causes and impacts of network shutdowns | Friday, 9 December • 12:00 – 13:30

  • Children’s rights to privacy, safety, and freedom of expression | Friday, 9 December • 12:00 – 13:30

  • Conflict Management & Human Rights on the Internet | Friday, 9 December • 13:50 – 14:10

  • Electronic voting: Is the future of democracy not digital ? Friday, 9 December • 14:15 – 14:35

  • Practical Challenges in Tackling Online Hate Speech | Friday, 9 December • 14:40 – 15:00

Security

A number of workshops address the ongoing discussion about cybersecurity, covering awareness and jurisdiction issues and how to balance security with human rights.

  • Stanford University – Deliberative Poll on Encryption | Monday, 5 December • 13:00 – 18:00

  • BPF/Freedom Online Coalition on Cybersecurity – Creating spaces for multistakeholder dialogue in cybersecurity processes | Monday, 5 December • 16:30 – 18:00

  • Cybersecurity – Initiatives in and by the global south | Tuesday, 6 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Security, privacy and the ethical dimensions of ICTs in 2030 | Tuesday, 6 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • How to acknowledge cyber evidence reform/new parallel law | Wednesday, 7 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Law enforcement, cyberspace, and jurisdiction | Wednesday, 7 December • 12:00 – 13:30

  • Decrypting sextortion | Wednesday, 7 December • 12:30 – 13:30

  • Users’ data and their unlawful use | Wednesday, 7 December • 13:00 – 13:20

  • Working together: Collaborative security in local contexts | Wednesday, 7 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • BPF Cybersecurity | Thursday, 8 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Can law enforcement catch bad actors online anymore ? | Thursday, 8 December • 10:15 – 11:45

  • What makes cybersecurity awareness campaigns effective? | Thursday, 8 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • NetGov, please meet Cybernorms: Opening the debate. | Thursday, 8 December • 16:30 – 18:00

  • Let’s break down silos in cyber security and cyber crime! | Thursday, 8 December • 16:30 – 18:00

  • How do cybersecurity, development and governance interact? | Friday, 9 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • On cybersecurity, who’s got our back? A debate | Friday, 9 December • 10:45 – 11:45

Trade

Sessions on trade focus on how recent and upcoming trade agreements deal with digital issues, and how they relate to multistakeholder norms.

  • Aligning multistakeholder norms and the digital trade agenda | Tuesday, 6 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Meet TISA: The trade agreement you’ve probably never heard of | Tuesday, 6 December • 10:45 – 12:15

  • Digital trade policy: TPP as a minimum standard or more? | Tuesday, 6 December • 13:50 – 14:10

  • Main session: Trade agreements and the internet | Thursday, 8 December • 16:30 – 18:00

Internet economy

Workshops in this category cover the role of local content, connectivity, and new trends such as the internet of things in terms of economic growth and development.

  • Exploring demand side drivers of internet adoption | Tuesday, 6 December • 10:45 – 11:45

  • Local content and sustainable growth | Tuesday, 6 December • 11:15 – 12:45

  • Main session on Sustainable development, internet and inclusive growth | Wednesday, 7 December • 10:00 – 13:30

  • ICT4D: Connecting CS roles on access, finance & knowledge | Wednesday, 7 December • 10:45 – 11:45

  • Is personal data “mine” or to be “mined” | Wednesday, 7 December • 10:45 – 11:45

  • Competition in the digital age: Between status-quo and unknown | Wednesday, 7 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • Harnessing IoT to realize the SDGs: What is required? | Wednesday, 7 December • 16:30 – 18:00

  • Empowering and educating the next billions of internet users | Thursday, 8 December • 09:00 – 10:00

  • Digital economy and the future of work | Thursday, 8 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Markets, communities and public policies for access and HR | Thursday, 8 December • 10:15 – 11:45

  • Smart cities and big data: boundless opportunities? | Thursday, 8 December • 11:30 – 13:00

  • Fostering digital capacities for decent life in MENA | Thursday, 8 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • Internet of things for sustainable growth | Thursday, 8 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • Trademark systems enable sustainable growth on the internet | Friday, 9 December • 13:25 – 13:45

Other

Other sessions of interest.

  • ICANN – Reflections on the evolution of the multistakeholder model in the context of the IANA Stewardship Transition | Monday, 5 December • 11:00 – 12:30

  • Community networks: How to build community connectivity | Monday, 5 December • 15:00 – 18:00

  • Internet fragmentation and net neutrality | Tuesday, 6 December • 09:00 – 10:30

  • Teaching internet governance: Experiences from 10 years of SIGs | Tuesday, 6 December • 12:00 – 13:30

  • Reality of answerability in the multistakeholder model | Wednesday, 7 December • 12:00 – 13:30

  • Community connectivity: Empowering the unconnected | Wednesday, 7 December • 15:00 – 16:30

  • Challenges of internet governance in the MENA region | Thursday, 8 December • 14:15 – 14:35

  • Main session: Shaping the future of internet governance | Friday, 9 December • 11:30 – 13:00