ARTICLE 19 at the Internet Governance Forum

ARTICLE 19 at the Internet Governance Forum - Digital

The 18th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum will be hosted in Kyoto from 8 to 12 October 2023 under the overarching theme The Internet We Want – Empowering All People.

This year’s programme covers the following sub-themes:

  • AI & Emerging Technologies 
  • Avoiding Internet Fragmentation    
  • Cybersecurity, Cybercrime & Online Safety
  • Data Governance & Trust
  • Digital Divides & Inclusion
  • Global Digital Governance & Cooperation
  • Human Rights & Freedoms
  • Sustainability & Environment

ARTICLE 19 will be hosting, or joining, the following sessions: 

Session #150 – Safeguarding Processing of SOGI Data in Kenya

(Sunday 8 October 2023, 10.15am -11.00am UTC |  WS 11 – Room J

In Kenya, discriminatory laws, homophobic utterances from public officials, together with inadequate response from authorities when handling cases of violence against LGBTQ+ people, enable and incite the culture of homophobia and transphobia and tolerance for discrimination and abuse against them. When considering the processing of sexual orientation and gender identity data, it is therefore important to assess factors that pose risks for both data subjects and controllers/processors. 

ARTICLE 19 will be launching a brief on the processing of this data. Together with other panelists, we will reflect on the processing of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data in the Kenyan context. We will not only raise awareness of data protection in the context of SOGI by different stakeholders, but also explore the collection and use of this data and its processing in Kenya vis-à-vis national, regional and international frameworks. We will reflect on the practice and lived experience of special groups in Kenya; discuss ideas for addressing the gaps in the processing and management of sensitive personal data; and consider concrete steps towards ensuring the safe and compliant processing of SOGI data in both public and private sectors.

Organised by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, the panel will feature Muthuri Kathure, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Programme Officer (Civic Space), and a representative from the the Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee.

Register here.

Session #457 Balancing act: advocacy with big tech in restrictive regimes

(Monday 9 October 2023, 9.00am-10.30am UTC | WS 4 – Room B-1) 

The digital rights landscape is transforming into a battlefield due to the escalation of government-imposed restrictions. Authoritarian regimes exert immense control over online content, pushing Big Tech companies into a dilemma: either comply with restrictive orders or face potential throttling and severe sanctions. This becomes particularly problematic in contexts where online platforms serve as the only medium for dissent. Civil society’s push for Big Tech companies to resist undue government pressure can lead to unintended consequences, such as throttling or even total inaccessibility of these platforms, jeopardising the users and communities that civil society seeks to safeguard.

The gravity and complexity of this issue is underlined by recent cases. For instance, the pre-election context in Turkey saw Big Tech platforms such as Twitter, Meta, and YouTube caught in a predicament as the government mandated content blocking. Faced with the threat of bandwidth throttling on election eve, these platforms opted for content censorship. Similarly, Facebook succumbed to content blocking in Vietnam after being throttled.

This interactive workshop focuses on fostering actionable solutions and strategies to advocate for digital rights amidst such challenges. Drawing from recent incidents in Turkey and Vietnam, we underscore the complexities and consequences of digital rights advocacy in hostile environments. We aim to tackle the nuanced task of striking a balance between resisting undue government pressure and maintaining platform accessibility for users.

Organised by ARTICLE 19 Europe, the panel will be moderated by Sarah Clarke, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Europe and will feature Suay Ergin-Boulougouris, ARTICLE 19 Europe Turkey Programme Officer, Elonnai Hickok, Managing Director of the Global Network Initiative, Trinh Huu Long, Co-founder and Co-director of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, and Cagatay Pekyorur, Human Rights Policy Manager at Meta.

Register here.

Session #386 Safeguarding the Free Flow of Information Amidst Conflict

(Tuesday 10 October 2023, 5.00am-6.30am UTC | WS 2 – Room A

Protecting freedom of expression and access to information is crucial during armed conflicts. Civilians need unhindered access to information to receive potentially life-saving information on the security situation, to access safe passage or humanitarian assistance, and to contact their loved ones. Freedom of expression also allows journalists to disseminate accurate information about the conflict to the public and report on crimes committed by the warring parties – key to counter a culture of impunity. While internet shutdowns, censorship requests and disinformation campaigns – amplified by digitalisation – have taken on an increasingly central role in both international and non-international armed conflicts, there is still a lack of understanding as to what legal standards under international humanitarian law and international human rights law apply to these and related issues. The role of businesses, such as internet service providers or social media companies, and the extent of their responsibilities during armed conflicts, is also underexplored. 

The panel discussion will address the following topics: (i) threats to freedom of expression and the free flow of information during armed conflicts, (ii) the extent to which protective principles and recommendations can be derived from international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and (iii) identifying gaps requiring further guidance and elaboration.

Organised by ARTICLE 19 and Digital Security Lab Ukraine, the panel will be moderated by Chantal Joris, Legal Officer at ARTICLE 19 and will feature Tetiana Avdieieva, Legal Council at the Digital Security Lab Ukraine,  Khattab Hamad, Disinformation Lead Researcher, Beam Reports, Elonnai Hickok, Managing Director of the Global Network Initiative, and Joelle Rizk, Digital Risks Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross.  

Register here.

Session #61 Beyond Development: Connectivity as Human Rights Enabler

(Tuesday 10 October 2023, 4.30 am-6.00am UTC | WS 6 – Room E)  

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly recognises that the spread of information and communication technologies has the power to bridge the digital divide. As such, governments are increasingly addressing connectivity expansion as part of their efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. However, framing connectivity solely as a facilitator for social and economic growth is limiting. These approaches ultimately privilege the most powerful telecommunication industries that can afford international agreements; if all connectivity is provided by the same few global incumbent telecommunication operators, there will be very little diversity in technologies, content – and little space for dissident voices. 

Would it be possible to re-centre connectivity as a human rights enabler, moving away from the development-only approach? How can PPP and cross-national agreements help solve the digital divide while allowing the diversity in ISP technologies, improving innovative policies and techniques to spectrum management instead of just promoting one specific industry? 

The session will bring together regulators, members from the private sector, the technical community, and civil society to discuss the questions above and present alternatives resulting in more civil and political participation, in addition to economic and social development.

Organised by ARTICLE 19, the session will be moderated by Raquel Renno Nunes, Digital Programme Officer at ARTICLE 19 and will feature Nathalia Lobo from the Ministry of Communication Brazil, Jane Coffin, expert on international infrastructure and the internet, Thomas Lohninger, Executive Director of, and Robert Pepper, Head of Global Connectivity and Planning at Meta. 

Register here.

Session #139: Non-regulatory Approaches to the Digital Public Debate 

(Thursday 12 October, 2023, 00:45 UTC – 01:45 UTC | WS 9 – Room C-2) 

The lack of compliance of private tech companies and states with human rights obligations online propels effects of online violence, discrimination, and disinformation on democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law. There is increasing evidence of the configuration of a more hostile communicative environment towards traditionally discriminated groups and a more polarised and distorted debate towards voices of reference to democracy (academia, journalism, and public health, among others). 

In this context, regulatory proposals emerge globally. While there are complex systems that try to address issues of competition, data protection, interoperability, transparency and due diligence in the public sphere, there are concerns around fragmentation of the internet, side effects on freedom of expression and privacy, and the effectiveness of relying solely on regulatory practices. Furthermore, in many jurisdictions in Latin America and the Caribbean region and around the world, the regulatory debate is still incipient or even absent. In view of this, soft law principles and rules of international human rights law have been especially relevant to guide alternative frameworks to protect human rights in the online public debate. 

Organised by the Inter-American Commision on Human Rights, the panel will be moderated by Jonathan Bock Ruíz and will feature Chantal Joris, Legal Officer at ARTICLE 19, Pedro Vaca, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Anna Karin Eneström, permanent representative of Sweden in the United Nations and co-facilitator of the Global Digital Compact, and María Elósegui, judge at the European Court of Human Rights. 

Register here.