“What Next for Advocacy Against Network Disruptions?”

“What Next for Advocacy Against Network Disruptions?”

By David Sullivan |

Few events bring together the multitude of actors with a stake in tough technology and human rights challenges quite like the Internet Governance Forum, or IGF. The 2018 edition, held in Paris and hosted by UNESCO, was no exception, with nearly 2,000 delegates from 143 countries. It was a particularly suitable setting for the Global Network Initiative, or GNI, to
gather a panel of experts to reflect on the alarming trend of government-ordered network disruptions.

The sharp increase in the number of major government-ordered disruptions from 2015 to 2017. Figure from Jan Rydzak’s report for GNI: “Disconnected: A Human Rights-Based Approach to Network Disruptions.”

Collaborating with the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative, GNI brought members and experts from civil society, the private sector, and international organizations together to consider challenges and opportunities for the movement fighting network disruptions. Session moderator Daniel O’Maley from the Center for International Media Assistance opened the conversation by noting that disruptions are increasing worldwide, affecting both democracies as well as authoritarian countries. With this prompt, the speakers highlighted successful advocacy initiatives and shared their insights into this concerning trend.

Usama Khilji from Pakistani civil society organization Bolo Bhi described how network disruptions have become normalized in many societies, with an increasing expectation that connectivity will not be available around events like public holidays or political protests. He said there is little evidence that the use of network disruptions and shutdowns during sensitive moments is effective at providing security for citizens and stressed the importance of making this point with policymakers.

Providing a company perspective, GNI Board member Patrik Hiselius from Sweden’s Telia Company described tools that help companies contend with “unusual requests” such as disruption orders. Telia has a form they use to assess risks and escalate such requests, ensuring senior company officials are informed and reducing security risks for staff on the ground. He also highlighted GNI’s one-page guide on the negative consequences of shutdowns, a document that arose out of a brainstorming session at the 2016 IGF and which has now been translated into 12 languages.

Ashnah Kalemera from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa, or CIPESA, discussed their work documenting the economic impact of disruptions on the African continent, which was used successfully in advocacy to prevent shutdowns in Ghana and Kenya and to strengthen partnerships with the private sector and technologists.

This article was first published on November 29, 2018 on GNI Website.

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