Internet Freedom at a Crossroads - Common Paths towards Strengthening Human Rights Online

The 2018 Freedom Online Conference will take place from the 28-30 November and will include a ‘Day Zero’ on Wednesday 28 November, which will be comprised of FOC working meetings in the morning, followed by open sessions and social events in the afternoon and evening.

The Conference will be opened officially on the Thursday 29 November, with a welcome address by Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Heiko Maas, and keynote speeches by distinguished representatives.

This conference program has been jointly developed by the Chair, FOC Members and the FOC Advisory Network. Please note that this program is subject to change and will continue to be updated until confirmed.

Day 0
28 Nov 2018
Day 1
29 Nov 2018
Day 2
30 Nov 2018

Digital Defenders Partnership: Safety and Security in a Shrinking Online Space

Threats to safety and security are mounting and ‘at-risk’ communities across the globe are multiplying. Digital threats are compounded by physical and psycho-social ones and they are taking many forms: from state-sponsored surveillance to theft of information technology devices to targeted fear-mongering. The Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) exists to support individuals, groups and communities whose safety is threatened. DDP does this through: collaboration with leading safety and security organizations and individuals; facilitation of emergency responders and their networks; and as a direct contributor to safety and security support efforts and self-security activities. We will share some reflections on the impact that we’ve created to date, the challenges we see and the design of how we will work over the next four years.

Opening Ceremony

Opening Speech by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas
Heiko Maas
David Kaye
Ambassador Dr. Thomas Fitschen
Katherine Getao
Audun Halvorsen
Moez Chakchouk
Thorsten Benner

Plenary 1: Tackling Disinformation in the Digital Age

While the impact of disinformation has been recognised across all sectors, continued opportunities for the dissemination of disinformation maintain the scope of and scale of the challenges posed by digital communication. Following interference in recent elections in liberal and democratic countries through social media platforms, how can governments work with stakeholders to rebuild trust in online information?
Frane Maroevic
Andy O’Connell
Tara Denham
Rebecca MacKinnon

Parallel Session 1: Defending Civic Spaces in the Digital Age

The Internet is an essential tool for many human rights defenders, enabling them to manifest their legitimate interests, seek relevant information and achieve political participation. However, civil society in many countries are increasingly placed under pressure, with some governments leveraging digital technology to close civil society spaces, such as through the use of legislation on censorship and surveillance which disproportionately impact human rights defenders. This session will address the challenge of combatting sophisticated methods of closing online civil society spaces, and will explore ways in which businesses, governments and civil society can work together to ensure civil society can exercise their human rights online.
Scott Busby
Doug Rutzen
Peter Varga
Lillian Nalwoga
Nicole Karlebach
Hanane Boujemi

Parallel Session 2: Human Rights and 5G

5G telecommunications technology will change the landscape around user privacy and free expression online. 5G technology, as well as related interoperability, government access, and security standards, are all in the process of development across various geographies, companies, and standard-setting bodies. These standards, together with related company policies, government regulations, and user experiences, will dictate where, when, and how user data can be accessed by governments. 5G will also allow for an expansion in the number and type of networked devices (the “Internet of Things”), which is likely to increase the number and types of companies that may be on the receiving end of government demands for data. This workshop will help educate participants about the ways in which 5G may alter online user experiences, company and government data collection opportunities, and device tracking, as well as current opportunities to participate in processes underway to standardize and regulate this emerging technology.
Amie Stepanovich
Jason Pielemeier
Karmen Turk

Parallel Session 3: Bridging the Digital Divides

Surmounting the digital divide to enable universal Internet access requires, among other things, sustained investments for the expansion of infrastructure, the education of individuals with skills to effectively use web applications and adequate protection of privacy where data is exchanged for services. While especially marginalized groups, including girls and women, can benefit most from the Internet, it is them who may face higher hurdles to access since societal divisions are reproduced online. This session will explore initiatives to close digital divides and recommend ways to build capacities for participation of marginalized groups and support civil society voices, especially in the global South and amongst women and girls.
Anja Kovacs
Alison Gillwald
Kenneth Adu Amanfoh
Maria Sefidari
Andrew Puddephatt
Luca Belli

Parallel Session 4: How to Bring a Human Rights Lens to the Governance of Artificial Intelligence

This workshop will help policy makers recognize the value of the existing universal human rights framework to confront emerging governance challenges related to Artificial Intelligence and Machines Learning (AI/ML) technologies in particular focusing on internet freedom. The workshop will also help socialize technologists in the existing international human rights law, so that they do not assume they need to invent an ethical framework that is applicable to AI/ML technologies. The speakers will assess the impact of existing AI/ML technologies on the enjoyment of human rights, from freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, the right to privacy, the right to work, the right to non-discrimination and to equal protection of the law. They will also provide analyses of how AI/ML impacts transparency and accountability for governance decisions. The speakers will then discuss how stakeholders can anticipate and assess the possible implications of AI technologies on the horizon, such as Artificial Generalized Intelligence, and assess the relevance of a human rights framework to alternative ethical approaches to AI, including “human-centered” AI.
Mark Latonero
Mishi Choudhary
Wolfram von Heynitz
Lorna McGregor
Eileen Donahoe
Bernard Shen

Parallel Session 5: Measuring the Protection of Human Rights Online

A central objective of the FOC is to promote freedom online and to discourage negative trends. This session will look at methodologies through which stakeholders can capture and measure current trends in order to define the degree to which human rights are protected online globally.
Hibah Kamal-Grayson
Guy Berger
Sanja Kelly
Rebecca MacKinnon

Parallel Session 6: Enforcement of Laws and Regulations and Human Rights

While online platforms facilitate numerous opportunities for exercising freedom of expression, they also leave room for an increasing amount of unlawful and harmful content to be shared. This has led to a variety of different approaches on regulating online spaces and finding the best way to enforce laws online without harming freedom of expression. Initiatives have been introduced in order to establish liability for online platforms that fail to remove unlawful content. Another approach focusses on strengthening and expanding ongoing voluntary collaboration and partnerships with private technology companies to assist them in enforcing their terms of service rather than imposing regulations. How can we ensure that the enforcement of laws online happens with full respect for human rights and only those laws are enforced that respect human rights? How far can we trust private companies to ensure their terms of use minimize unlawful content while encouraging freedom of expression? How do we manage the cross-border implications of potential regulations, including different national definitions of unlawful or harmful content and strengthen the ability of citizens to freely access information on a global internet? Governments, private companies, civil society, academia and community leaders alike are therefore faced with a number of important questions to answer as neither of them will be able to solve the arising problems alone. Speakers will cover a range of topics including access to data, copyright, content regulation, and more, illustrating how forms of enforcement can impact fundamental rights. The conversation may lead to suggestions about the roles and responsibilities of states and stakeholders in addressing these challenges.
Wafa Ben-Hassine
Dennys Antonialli
Stefan Heumann
Daniel Holznagel
Solana Larsen
Maryant Fernandez Perez
Daphne Keller

Parallel Session 7: Security and Human Rights in the Digital Age

The recently passed CLOUD Act in the United States and the EU's current efforts to pass a new legal instrument on access to evidence are just two recent examples of how law enforcement and public prosecution are adapting their protocols to the digital sphere. The Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe aims to protect persons and their rights in cyberspace. While governments are under pressure to respond to existing and emerging security threats, it is essential that measures to protect public safety and security respect human rights law. This session will explore how to ensure security in the digital age in a way that is rights-respecting and open, inclusive and transparent.
Rauno Merisaari
Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar
David Kaye
H.E. Mr. Damjan Manchevski
Bedavyasa Mohanty
Lisl Brunner
Tatiana Tropina

Parallel Session 8: Levy on Internet Services – a Threat to Human Rights?

In recent years there have been increasing incidents of taxing popular internet services, including on social media use and voice of IP (VoIP) calls. While such measures are proposed for a variety of reasons, they could pose a significant threat to freedom of expression and make it even more difficult for people to gain access to the internet. This, in turn, can limit developing countries' ability to harness the potential of the internet and other technologies for sustainable development. For example, in Zambia in August 2018, the cabinet approved a ZMK0.30 (USD 0.03) daily levy which will apply to VoIP calls. This follows a March 2018 directive in Uganda requiring online content providers to register and pay an annual fee of USD 20, and a July 2018, social media taxes that requires users to pay a daily levy of Uganda Shillings (UGX) 200 (USD 0.05) to access to social media platforms. In Tanzania, according to regulations also passed this year, online content service providers and producers have to pay over USD 900 to register with the state for permission to maintain their platforms. This workshop aims to unpack the phenomenon of taxes on popular internet services, the motivations behind them, the human rights online implications, and the impact on users and economies.
Alison Gillwald
Katherine Getao
Emilar Gandhi
Deborah Brown

Parallel Session 9: Evolution of Global Standards for Privacy and Data Protection

Following the entry into force of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new standard of demands and responsibilities has been set out for those handling personal information and data. In a post-GDPR society, how have other governments responded to protect users from the exploitation of their data, and can a global standard for privacy and encryption be achieved?
Toby Mendel
Philippe-André Rodriguez
Jyoti Panday
Grace Mutung’u
Juan Carlos Lara

Parallel Session 10: Internet Freedom as a Freedom of Choice

The question of freedom is closely related to the possibility of making choices: political, economic, social and personal. A key question is how to preserve a human’s capacity to ‘choose' in the political, regulatory and economic environments created by the rapid technological developments of recent decades, environments set to change further and rapidly through the breakthrough of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. By discussing “Freedom of choice” the session seeks to link the work of the Freedom Online Coalition to date with the challenges ahead. The work of the UN Secretary General’s “High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation” will also be a key focus on the session. Information about the goals and work of the panel will be presented and we will use the session to formulate key messages for transmission to the High Level Panel as an input to their work from the “Freedom Online Coalition”.
Jovan Kurbalija
Wolfram von Heynitz
Lynn St. Amour

Parallel Session 11: Gaps and Opportunities in Rights-Based Cyber Norms

In a world where disinformation and securitization increasingly shape the political and governance landscape, the lack of progress in developing norms to frame the online behaviour of stakeholders threatens the realization of economic opportunity and social progress. The need for rights based norms that address both the relationship between human rights and cybersecurity and frame the online responsibilities of stakeholders has never been greater. The workshop will advance a paradigm shift with respect to cybersecurity to address systemic, society-wide vulnerabilities due to digitization of society and bring a much needed focus to the digital security of individuals and accompanying norms. In doing so the session will discuss a rethink of the relationship between human rights and security, particularly cybersecurity, through reflecting on norms developments including the UN's Group of Governmental Experts, the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, as well as other approaches, including the initiative. The speakers will discuss the merits and downsides of these and other approaches and explore how progress can be made in building rights based cyber norms to enable all stakeholders to fully benefit in their shared digital futures.
Eileen Donahoe
Kaja Ciglic
‘Gbenga Sesan
Mallory Knodel

Parallel Session 12: Towards Global Norms and Mechanisms for Good Platform Practice

With a global resource like the Internet, holding companies accountable for how they treat, protect and respect the human rights of users in diverse jurisdictions is rather difficult. This workshop discusses two efforts to develop standards, benchmarks and incentives for global platforms to respect human rights everywhere they operate, highlighting how stakeholders and experts can address gaps in the promotion and protection of human rights in a range of areas, from workers' freedom of association to Internet users' freedom of expression and privacy.   The first example is the Ranking Digital Rights project whose Corporate Accountability Index benchmarks the world's most powerful Internet, mobile, and telecommunications companies on disclosed commitments and policies affecting users' freedom of expression and privacy. The indicators used to evaluate companies build on international human rights norms, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the inputs of many stakeholders regarding human rights risks and harms, best practices and transparency standards related to corporate practices affecting expression and privacy.   The second example will focus on freedom of association and other related rights. The FairWork Foundation will share a draft set of principles and criteria for fair platform work, along with the possibility of offering a kitemark or certification mechanism to platforms which achieve minimum work standards in developed and developing countries alike. More than seven million ‘platform workers’ around the world perform work outsourced via platforms or apps in the so-called ‘gig economy’ today. Lacking the opportunity to collectively bargain, platform workers have little ability to negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers.   The proposed workshop will bring together diverse stakeholders to discuss practical measures to protect human rights online, and how efforts like Ranking Digital Rights and the FairWork Foundation also highlight gaps and areas for improvement or innovation in government policy and regulation. The speakers will explore how global benchmarks and certification mechanisms and frameworks can become an important and permanent element of global governance infrastructure in a digitally networked world.
Mark Graham
Jeanette Hofmann
Luca Belli
Rebecca MacKinnon

Plenary 2: FOC – Vision and Future Direction

This plenary will provide a platform for multiple stakeholders to engage with FOC government members and review the FOC's current activities. It will offer an opportunity for stakeholders to contribute to a discussion on the FOC's priorities for 2019 and beyond and contribute to outlining a vision for the FOC's future development.
Wolfram von Heynitz
Andrew Puddephatt
Katharine Kendrick
Matthew Shears

Closing Ceremony

Prof. Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at Oxford University and Author of “Free Speech: 10 Principles for a Connected World” will deliver an address titled “The Battle for Freedom of Speech Online".
Timothy Garton Ash