Empowering Global Youth through Digital Citizenship
23 October 2013 - A Workshop on in Istanbul,Turkey
The following is the output of the real-time captioning taken during the Eigth Meeting of the IGF, in Bali, Indonesia. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> Jim Prendergrast: Hello? Okay, if you're here for the cybersecurity session, you're in the wrong room. There's been a mix-up with the sign. So, good morning. My name is Jim Prendergast. I'm with the Galway Strategy Group. I want to welcome you to the Empowering Youth through Digital Citizenship flash session. It's a new format for the IGF. We're the guinea pigs. We may be the first ones. We're not sure how it's supposed to work but we'll make the best of it.
Some of the folks here at the front who will introduce themselves in a second were involved in a workshop last year and in previous years in IGF. We wanted to take the concept we had in Baku last year which was a workshop with no presentations, no power points, and no analysts and bring it forward because it was an exciting and helpful format for the topics we were discussing. Last year in a 90-minute session, we had 30 different people speak at the microphone. If you don't raise your hand, I probably will call on you. We want this to be highly interactive. We know it's early in the morning and the room is warm. The best panelists you find at the IGF sessions are the most interactive and we certainly want this to be one of those. I'll turn it over to Kim and play Mr. Microphone.
>> Kimberly Sanchez: Thanks, Jim. We want to make it an interactive session. I'm Kim Sanchez, I'm with Microsoft. I came over from the U.S. with my colleague over here, Jaclyn Boucher. We started this conversation about youth and digital citizenship in Lithuania three or so years ago. There weren't many youth at that IGF, unfortunately.
So it was more of adults talking to each other. Then we took it to Nairobi, and the kids there really told us that the concept of digital citizenship, they didn't like the term "citizenship" because they weren't necessarily the rights and responsibilities that come with that term. So they kind of took objection to that.
Last year in Baku, the UK youth who were in our session really liked the term and said it worked for them. A lot of other youths said they had the problem with the word "digital". That's the first time we heard that. They said we're just citizens of the world. I really like that concept. So we want to take that the past three years and see where we are here in Bali.
We want to know from you, is this term digital citizenship relevant? Does it work for you? Are you talking about the concepts of the use of safe and appropriate use of technology with your parents, within the schools, with your peers. I'm going to let Larry ask the first question here. Those are the kinds of things we want to talk about. Since we only have 30 minute, we do want comments to be as brief as possible to make your point. Thank you.
>> Larry: Phil, I looked up the word "citizen" in the dictionary. You might think it was a citizen of obedient, a citizen is responsible. A citizen is good. They paid their taxes. But actually the very first definition was a citizen is a free person. It got later to the whole part about responsibility. So I guess part of what I want to learn from you is what do you envision citizenship is.
People talk about citizenship as kids, behave yourself, don't bully, don't chew gum in class. Whatever it is. If I read the dictionary correctly, it means a lot more than that. So I would like to get a sense of what it means to be a citizen, truly a citizen in the global community where borders are meaningless. Where laws often don't apply anyway. And how do you create a society where you're not only responsible but you're also empowered and as the dictionary said, free people.
>> Citizenship for me is not being submissive or passive, it's about being interactive with other people. So a citizen is engaged in other citizens and has impact on quality and stuff like that. It's basically active participation in society. I'm sorry, I'm a student with the Dutch who are here.
>> And maybe somebody could talk about what that means to be active in a global internet environment which is different than like a U.N. meeting, for example?
>> I'm also from the Dutch delegation. I think active participation in the digital space for me personally means also thinking about how to make the world a better place, how you can even build a living on the web and also improve. We think about the internet and we have multi-stakeholder approach and it means that anyone can actively participate in the on-line space, whether it be good or bad, but always from your own intentions you can actually change space, whether for good or for bad.
>> Well, I'm going to finish this. I'm also with the Dutch alliance. I think the most important thing of citizenship is belonging to society or a group or a digital group. It's the most important thing. We're all more or less equal, you know? So you belong to a group and you're all equal in the group. I think that's very important.
>> Jim Prendergast: We can't have a Dutch monopoly on answers here? So who else wants to join? Sorry.
>> Thank you, FIONA McIntosh from Australia. I think it has the contribution effort that the Dutch delegation was talking about. There's a give and a take. I think there's expectations if you're a citizen, there are some -- some protections around you and the group of citizens will agree on what they are. And that you'll contribute to the conversation about setting those boundaries and the infrastructure around you.
>> Jim Prendergast: But if I can ask, if you think about being a citizen of a country or a city, we have laws. There's certain things that the government rules. In the internet, we have much less of that. So how do we establish these norms and patterns? And for lack of a better word, how do we enforce them since we don't necessarily have a government to dictate what we're supposed to do and send police officers over if we don't do it right?
>> Microphone, Larry?
>> How do you govern an organization that's ungovernable. I think we're working through that.
>> I think you can't -- I think you cannot govern people on the internet. You can set some regulations on the possibilities of the internet, but you can't decide what people do and not do on the internet. It's almost impossible to check what did I do? So I think we should -- that's very important mindset on this point, I think.
>> Jim Prendergast: You got a lot of hands up in the air. Good job.
>> In Indonesia, it's not exactly ungoverned because there's examples of you saying he's an atheist or anything, he's being captured and being jailed. So it's not because the government probably doesn't want it on the internet, but other people do. And they actually told of the -- sorry, the authorities.
>> Hi, Bianca from LE mission. I think digital citizenship is more of a consciousness because there's not a global governing law on the internet. There's a consciousness of people. Just like citizenships sometimes you say you go to metro and you should -- if there's a woman, you should walk aside and give her a seat, right? That's more of a consciousness rather than something that can be enforceable.
>> Edmond from Asia. You started off by saying that you saw on the -- in the dictionary that the first sort of meaning is to be a free man. I guess that came from the probably the Greek free man, those kind of things. And I think one important part of being free is to not only -- to know the boundaries of liberty as well. That's sort of wrapped up into rights, responsibilities, and respect.
So it's not -- you know, it's not -- that's what citizenship means and doesn't really matter whether you're on-line or off line. The other thing you mentioned, it's in terms of that on the internet, it's difficult to govern, you know, people with rules and stuff. I'd like to kind of challenge that. Because first of all, I think the laws of the land still applies on most of the activities you do on the internet.
The other thing is that in the real world, it doesn't mean in the real world not a lot of people are violating rules and laws. Just because we can't catch them. On the internet, it's different. Everything is logged, everything is -- you know, you can trace it back down and therefore you can see more of the abuse, more of the -- you know, like cyberbullying, for example. You can see it more. You have the evidence. But in physical bullying, not a lot of people have seen it. Because you don't have the evidence there all the time any time anywhere.
So I guess it's not that people have changed -- suddenly changed into law abiding citizens on the internet, so I think that's my point. The internet gives you a very good evidence of what happened. So --
>> Oh, keep it short? I like that you mentioned like the real world because I think of the internet as just like -- yeah, like an extra part of your world. And the physical world. But what it means is also the morals and laws you have no real life applied to on-line as well. Especially morals. Yes, you can see people being bullied. But, yes, you as a citizen have to respond to your morals, whether you go with the guy bullying or you say, hey, cut it out. It's nice. It's more clear, it's more transparent. It's like the real world, it's the world.
>> It is the world. How do you stand up? How do you create a better internet? How do we do that? That's going to be the safer internet theme for 2014. So what do you do when you see things you don't like? How do you take action against that?
>> So I think now the big influence on the website on you bully. In a sense, I think there could be regulations about that. The responsibility lies in the first place with the person who does that.
People should have this feeling that hurt somebody in the real world, the internet is just as real also applies on-line. But it's not that people have no feelings if they're on-line. But now the responsibility lies more with the website. But in the end it would be better if we have some Universal declaration of some kind of what's only websites are using in a way as a guideline.
>> Jim Prendergast: Anyone else?
>> That's an interesting concept, principles or declarations as you called it. What do you guys think about that? These are the norms that we expect?
>> I'm a bit worried about the nonexistence of freedom in the internet like it's interesting to see from the teenagers' perspective that the internet should be governed. But from more adult perspective, I think like I'm worried about this guy who's actually being captured because he claimed he's an atheist and he thinks he had freedom in the internet. But it turns out that he doesn't.
And it's more like I would like to give -- how do you say it? Some kind of a warning like the -- you probably doesn't really have that much freedom in the internet. So you don't get in trouble, even though you express yourself in the internet, you don't get in trouble in real life.
>> Hi, Jeremy Blackman from Australia. I want to introduce the idea of talking about governance and enforcement. But also an important part of kind of governance is leadership as well. So I think about citizenship in the off-line world and the government's role is to provide vision around values and activism. But not a problem with the internet, of course, is just like with enforcement, leadership is also in some ways a nebulous thing. Who's leading the values and the vision particularly in regards to youth as well?
>> Yeah, I just raised my hand because of what you said. I think it's very important that people are actually aware of what they say on the internet is not anonymous, never. But then on the other hand, what you said that they got arrested, I think that's a problem because then the local governments interferes with what people say on the internet and people need to be aware of that. But then I hope that in the end, that's going to change and it can be actually a little freedom on the internet. But you're right. It's actually still a big problem that a lot of countries, it's not there.
>> Jim Prendergast: One of the -- go ahead.
>> I don't know if you're saying if it's actually being governed. That's what's happening in the Netherlands. There are people being arrested because they threaten people on the internet. But there's a large flaw in it. Because you take it as a given fact that if it comes and it tweets. It owns the perspective owner in the real world. So I can make an account on his name and make a threat on someone. I don't know if it has to be me or him. That's a big flaw. They're all flaws. You can check if it was your iPhone and if you were managing the iPhone. So you can really make good evidence into the Internet Governance.
>> Jim Prendergast: One of you made an interesting comment about activism on the web and how a citizen on-line could take an active role in improving the community. What might that look like. We have plenty of history of people rolling up sleeves and cleaning up messes. But on the internet, what does it mean to take an active role? What is a community anyway since possibly you could be in the Netherlands and I could be in Bali and we could be living in the same on-line community.
>> Indonesia and Dutch are racing for the lead.
>> Sorry, Wikipedia, Indonesia. The native language in Indonesia is dying and Wikipedia is actually giving server -- if there's initiative to actually live in the language. What's interesting to me is that I thought it would be the adult that started the native language in the internet. It's not. It's actually teenagers. So I think that's empowerment. And it's an empowerment that wasn't exactly started by the government or anyone else. It's by them.
>> Kimberly Sanchez: You said it earlier, it's by the citizens. The citizens have to be able to empower themselves in some way too.
>> I think it's great about the internet. What can promote active participation? It's so easy to write a blog, give your opinion, talk about things that were you, share it with other people. So it's like the content P text of the internet is so big and to see that it's not only in English but people talk in other languages on the internet and start a community that is in a way smaller but maybe more powerful than just the global community but also the global active engagement is really important as well, I think.
>> Adding to your point of what does it mean by a community and what does it mean by citizenship in that sense. One of the things that I find is interesting is you can do a lot of things on the internet, write a blog, those kinds of things. But one thing that seems interesting is, you know, when it breaks into the physical world as well, when the movement that starts in the -- on the internet gets the momentum and spins out the physical world. Because then you can see the community, not just the on-line discuss forums or blogosphere, things like when you pour it out to the street.
In Hong Kong, there was a case where a movement that started on the internet drew 200,000 people that came out to protest the government. That's the kind of community I think the -- the building from the digital world into real citizenship. So that sort of bridges what we're calling digital citizenship almost like exclusive. But really as coming back to the point about last year is it's really the citizens of the world. It's medium that connects people and this engages the community, you know, really gets reflect in the real world, I thought.
>> Jim Prendergast: Anyone else?
>> Well, I can just repeat what he said. But I think is interesting when it comes to on-line activism or anything on-line, especially when we're talking about citizenship is that the question was what -- what part of -- what kind of citizen are you? Are you a citizen of a city or of a community? I think the great thing about the internet is you can become a citizen of any kind of community.
It's easy to connect and gain an audience for your activity or for your calls, which brings me to a second thought that I wanted to share with earlier is when it comes to drawing the line about morals or law on-line, it's difficult. And, for example, youfortune and those kinds of forums, they're a bit more aggressive, they're more ominous, more criminal, most of the times, more bullying when, for example, Facebook, a totally different kind of platform. There's active involvement in stopping cyberbullying and that kind of thing, etc. It's for different platforms for different parts of the society and citizens. You should think about that when you talk about drawing a line on-line.
>> I have an example. I live in the Netherlands in a city of around 300 people. On Sunday, someone posted, tomorrow, I'm going kill my Dutch teacher. I'm going to kill my Dutch teacher and posed with a weapon that was found four years ago on the internet already. He said tomorrow I'm going to kill my teacher.
The police ordered to close the school for three days. There were thousands of kids that couldn't go to school because of that. I'm curious. Is it good action for the police to close down the school or should they ignore the message. They couldn't find the person who posted it because it was posted in Columbia somewhere. After a month, they found him. At the moment, they didn't know who he was. Is it an action or not?
>> Jim Prendergast: That is a classic conundrum that law enforcement has to go through. I don't think that's an internet problem. We deal with that all the time. This whole NSA surveillance scandal, it's really about how far do we need to go to protect society and how many rights do we need to take away. How many people need to spy on? How many students do we need to inconvenience on the 1 in 100,000 chance it will kill people? It's very difficult -- I don't have the answer to that.
>> Yeah, I also had a question relating to that. I was wondering if we talk about Facebook, it's always Facebook has this sort of quality about using your own name and if you want to say real identity. And on websites like fortune, you can be anonymous. So I was wondering what everybody thinks about morals and law on the internet? If you can be anonymous.
>> We'll yield to a new speaker.
>> Yes, my name is Willie. I happen to be a circumvential tool developer myself. So I have the expertise in how people use anonymous proxies. The thing is that like any conduit, you cannot control as a provider of this service, what people will see, just like any tool that you have. Just like -- a knife, you can use a knife for some good purpose or bad purpose. So it comes down to the morals of people.
And I suggest strongly against the idea of trying to prevent because when you begin using prevent, it's preemptive action. That action led to wars, the Iraq war. And it's also the other, in the case that you want to prevent cybercrime and trying to use surveillance and other tactics, the better and higher ground is to use awareness and to think in the long run. Because every community has its users. So using awareness and campaigns in education is the undoing.
>> I like that. Kind of leads to my next question about how do you teach people about these concepts. These guys are a little older. Did you get this talk when you were younger in school? Did your parents have this talk with you? Who's responsible for educating people about the responsibilities and awareness?
>> First of all, I think again it comes from different kinds of rooms, from parents who actually care about it being there. They're very -- it's their motivation to teach you, or should be. But then you have learning about the internet and morals on the internet. What I think about is you can learn from the -- from the failures of other people on the internet because it's also transparent and very connected. You can actually see what happened.
For example, in the Netherlands, when people tweeted, I'm going to burn down my school or something like that. And when they called two or three girls in the same time, those tweets, they stopped because everybody saw, okay, if I'm going to read something like this, under the law, I can be called by the police, I can be put in jail or something. The same happened to me, it wasn't like I said I'm going to burn down my school.
But I was criticizing a company and apparently you're not allowed to criticize a company in the Netherlands before you give them a chance to answer your criticism. I'm teaching you a lesson. You can't criticize a company in the Netherlands on twitter. You have to remember it. It's harsh when people are put in jail, for example, because of TWEETs. Example for everyone in the country so people can learn from it. I think this is the best way to teach morals on the internet.
>> Who has the ability to educate the people to use internet? And people always say that parents or schoolteachers are qualified to do it. But I would like to share an example. I'm 19, my parents are 50 and 60. So when they were young, they did not have computers or they did not have the internet.
So basically they do not have the experience to use the internet as children. I doubt if parents have the qualification to educate the children. I think the service provider has the responsibility to teach because they are the one that provides the service so they should take the responsibility to educate the uses of how to use the service so that they know how to use correctly.
>> Jim Prendergast: As a parent of an 8 and 10-year-old, is it -- shouldn't I as a parent become familiar with this and then teach it? Isn't that part of the responsibility of passing that information along?
>> Yes, of course. But I believe there's still a gap between different generations. For example, like my parents, actually I'm the one to teach them to use the computer.
>> Jim Prendergast: You're the help desk in the house.
>> Kimberly Sanchez: That's something else we talk about. Kids are going to be ahead of their parents on the technology, no doubt. But parents have life wisdom and experience to pass on. The notion of this doesn't feel right, too good to be true, it probably is. Those kinds of lessons that you may say, you may not know the technology but you have the other lessons that are valuable for your kids to learn.
>> I am from Germany. We have experienced that, yes, parents as well as teachers can play an important role. But we still have a huge group of young people whose parents don't know anything about the internet who are still maybe they are just not fit to do that, not only because of knowledge, but because maybe they are not interested or they're living in disadvantaged social relationships so they have problems to keep up with their children.
But then social workers can play an important role. Social workers care for families and children who live in disadvantaged environments. They are not trusted by the young people as well. So for groups, this is very successful approach.
>> Jim Prendergast: One comment, 4-H in the United States, a large organization, has mentors, young people teaching older people how to use technology. If the parents don't know, maybe the kids can step up and teach them something.
>> Can as well.
>> Hi, I'm Micah. I don't think that parents should know just as much about technology as children do. It's a matter of being curious about your child's on-line life and discussing it and talking about it and what I see in my practice is that I talk a lot with children and teenagers about on-line sexual abuse. And what I see a lot of children I talk to tell me they never talk about their on-line role with their parents.
So what I see is that I think parents should be more curious and ask more questions about what your child is doing and not about like moderating their ownline lives but be curious and ask questions so you have a safe base as a child to go to your parents and ask questions if ever something is going wrong.
>> Going back to how to create that change and awareness in digital citizenship, in Australia, we have an ace smart Australia, where everybody is smart, safe on-line. NGOs have an important role to engender those behaviors. I think more so than government and Civil Society.
There's a real gap for NGOs to step into the face. At our foundation, we have a series of cultural change programs to embed those behaviors in settings where children and young people interact with technology. In 2000 schools across Australia, they participate in the ace smart schools program which is basically a road map for creating a cyber safe school. In every public library across Australia, libraries go through a similar process taking all of the necessary actions to make sure they're protecting their users and the libraries are cybersafe.
We're about to launch a similar mini home audit for parents to create an e-smart home. And finally, we're creating a digital license, like when you're young and you learn how to write and you get a pen license. This is to play smartly and safely on the internet when children work through a series of eight modules with the appropriate knowledge and information they need to be safe on-line. And once they've completed the modules, they get awarded a digital license.
Now, in isolation, each of those initiatives would probably be not valuable. But we see the value is that every setting where children and young people are interacting with technology, they're getting the same messages reinforced. Smart, safe, responsibility. In school, libraries, in the home where they're using their own mobiles. So having that connected and consistent message, we think, is really important.
Similarly, if we think back to, you know, 10 or 15 years ago, messages about wearing seat belts in cars or stopping smoking, we've adopted those principles of community behavioral change where you have those consistent multi-layered interventions that are through advertising and media but supported by infrastructure and legal and policy frameworks to reinforce the behaviors. We don't get any change unless we have a consistent approach like that.
>> Jim, be the policeman. When do we have to wrap up?
>> Jim Prendergast: We have a session that starts at 9:45. Do you need more than five minutes for a transition. Is anybody leading that session? We'll go to somebody starts yelling at us.
On the internet, it's common sense. We could get hurt by a stranger that you don't know. It's the same thing. It's the same for posting threats on the internet like I'm going to burn down my school. You wouldn't do it in real life, why would you do it on the internet. Parents can teach their kids in the same kind of lessons, it's the same common sense that goes on in the real world that's on the internet world. It isn't that much different.
>> I'm from Hong Kong. I'm a student. I'm only 16 years old. I can only speak for the youth and kids. And I want to comment about whose responsibility is it to take care -- not take care, I mean -- deal with cybercrimes, and if we're going to speak of it, speak of cybercrimes being a moral issue which I totally agree with because I actually did an essay about cyberbullying and research, research and what I found is that it can be a moral issue. And I speak for the youth and children only, who do you spend their time most with?
Obviously their parents and teachers. So I feel education is very important. I think workshops should be implemented more, not only for the kids, but for parents also. Because although, yes, no matter how close the generation gap may be or how far it may be, kids are always going to know more about the internet than parents. That's just -- you know, ten years or five years from now, the generation below me is always going to know more.
And I actually want to comment on -- I want to comment on the principles and values because although, you know, human rights does not mean zero regulations, but at the same time, the principles and values of the internet is threatened when policy makers regulate and control the internet.
So actually I'm aware of like child -- like child on-line security commissions around the world, they're like it's spread across like 40 something countries like Canada and the UK, which basically monitors child situations, different corporations and listened to the children's voice.
In Hong Kong, there's no such thing. But there is a thing called family commission which the government thinks is enough. But again the government does not know everything about the internet. It's very open and it's also come from like the technical aspect of the internet. So yeah, that's -- and -- it was actually -- it was actually going to be a question.
>> Jim Prendergast: Speak right into it.
>> I'm Jaclyn Boucher, Kim's colleague from Microsoft in the United States. I was going to comment about behavioral change, something we advocate for at Microsoft. It's a difficult process to get people to change their behavior. But I'm asking what's going to drive people to action to do that. Because our experience has been -- unfortunately it's something bad happening to them. Their child has been cyberbullied or they've been affected with a worm or a virus or their identity has been stolen to get them to take the proactive measures to step out and do the right thing and educate themselves and others and their families. What's going to empower them and drive them do that?
>> Jim Prendergast: Now I'm caught with two microphones. Not a good place to be. Are the organizers of the second session in the room? No, not yet? All right.
>> Thanks, Jaclyn. That's a terrific and multi-layered question. I think in our research, you're absolutely right. That parents take action if someone they know, whether it's their child or a friend's child has been affected. That's why we think that the behavioral change and societal behavioral change approach is the only way to work. But you need to have policy and legislative frameworks that reinforce the messages.
So, for example, in Australia with sun screen, what happened was 20 years ago, no one worried about it. But what happened was children were not allowed to go at lunchtime and play if they didn't bring a hat. So there was a consequence. So parents had to buy hats for their kids because the kids would come home from school and say I'm not allowed outside, mom, buy me a hat. So we need to think about the parallels of that in the digital world. And I'm not sure what they are, but having the consequences or, I'm sorry, the policy frameworks around it.
>> It's very interesting about that. Because I think a lot of the notion of safety and fear mongering. A great deal of people telling us how dangerous the internet is. But if you think about everything else in the world -- driving, sports. I've never heard any responsible adult tell children they shouldn't play sports, but every year, someone dies in sports. People are literally killed. That doesn't happen on-line. There's a notion that somehow the internet has to be held to a higher standard of safety than the rest of the world. And I never quite understand that.
>> I really agree with the behavioral change and all of the tactics and strategies that you can build upon that and you can enforce the true policies but you can also like -- I mean, it starts, for example, with everyone that actually has an influence on anyone and that's actually everyone, it sounds weird, parents, teachers, etc. You can enforce them. You can have them lead by example and have them raise awareness, etc., by policy.
But where it starts is awareness. And I mean you can force people to actually teach morals but where it starts that you're actually inspiring and getting people motivated to teach these morals. So it starts with awareness. We're not yet in the states in any country that we can start enforcing certain morals on-line. And we still need to raise a lot of awareness. So the only thing I can say is when you're going to start any strategy or any -- any policy whether you're an NGO or a school, really embed awareness and people really understand why they need behavioral change.
>> Jim Prendergast: I'm assuming the organizers for the second session are here. Since you were brave enough to go first, I'll let you have the last comment.
>> Well, I just wanted to say I agree with what you said. And I think also if you want to empower youth, we can't just make up all of the rules and try to protect them as if they are ignored. We need to empower them and trust them and know they can do it because they can.
>> On that note, Thursday, 1630 at 4:30, a workshop on rights versus protection. We're going to explore the extent to protection of young people affects their rights. We're hoping as many young people as possible come. We urge you all to come, Thursday, 4:30, 1630. Not sure what room it's in. But there it is. It's 525. Thank you very much. Excellent session.
>> Thank you.
>> Hi, everyone. So welcome to Global Voices Flash Session. Today we're going to talk about threats to individuals who are expressing themselves on-line. We were given this session very last minute. So what we decided to do was just try to have a conversation with anybody who wanted to join us. I would love it if those who are towards the back want to come to the front. Just make it easier. We might not even need to use the mics?
So, pressure a couple of people. Monique is back there too. All right, well I guess I'll get started. A couple more people are trickling in. But we don't have a lot of time. So -- so just to give those of you who aren't familiar with us a little introduction, Global Voices is an international network of writers, bloggers, translators, we have contributors in 130 countries. There are 1300 of us. We write about all kinds of things on our site. And we use the internet as sort of the main bed of our sources.
So we are pulling conversations from twitter, Facebook, other social media platforms, quotes from bloggers, video photography and the kind of the special benefit that we feel like we bring as media network is that all of our authors are writing about the country that they're -- either that they're from or that they live in. And they generally know these on-line speakers and video activists, photographers, etc. They know these networks. They sort of can break down a controversy or an event in a specific place in a sort of detailed and context-conscious way that a foreign correspondent might not be able to.
So that's sort of what we feel is this added value that we bring to the internet media landscape. The other thing we do is translate. We have 100 -- 30 different sites in different languages. So you find our content in Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Malagasy, Korean, and other languages.
Hisham and I, we run the advocacy project which is a branch of the network that focuses on digital rights, challenges, and this -- we sort of started this project five years ago when many members of our community started to experience threats and challenges because of what they were doing on-line. And I think this is the thing that brings many people here to IGF, right? That bloggers not only were seeing -- having attacks and sort of channels on their sites and on line, but also experiencing legal threats, and extra judicial threats and harassment.
And we've been through many cases in our own community of people really facing threats on their lives, prison, you know, sort of the full range. And so we've actually -- we started also what you can see up here is the threatened voices project data base where we've collected through crowd sourcing and also through our own community cases of bloggers or what we started to call on-line speakers which we have a lot of different kinds of people that we cover who have been threatened in some way.
So that's kind of what I wanted to talk about today. And we're -- we are just coming out of having dealt with what Hisham and I in our somewhat new roles in this project is our first experience with trying to help one of our community members. An author of ours who lives in Bahrain, 26-year-old I.T. guy turned activist/journalist was arrested on July 31 and it's essentially for doing activism, criticizing the government for the kind of usual things. And his lawyer was arrested a week later. So he and essentially ford by him from defending him. So we were left in a situation where we had to figure out how are we going to help this person?
He's not a super well-known writer. And he doesn't have a huge network of contacts or allies that might be able to help him. So we started out by trying to move through back channels, work with government contacts to see if we could get help there. That didn't get us very far. So then sort of went the public route. Did twitter campaign, press release. Tried to interest other bigger media in covering this story.
We approached Dan Rather who had done a piece in Bahrain where Safi Mohammed had helped him and his crew while they were there and they actually ended up interviewing him because the story was super interesting. He tried to get Dan Rather's help. Not much help there. In the end, we did not get a whole lot of help from the people that we reached out to. Not from big media. Not from legal advocacy groups, and a feeling with media is that it wasn't a compelling enough story. Like this is Bahrain. This happened. So if there was something special, maybe, but wasn't enough. And then with our sort of legal expert advocate contacts, he said this is not a case that we think we could -- this wouldn't make bigger policy process for us. Sort of not quite worth the effort.
There's a feeling that Bahrain is a lost cause. So I guess the question that we want to pose to all of you is what do we do about all of this? Because it feels like there is in the policy expert advocacy community, there's this -- everybody is working around human rights. That's what everybody talks about, when they talk about what they do. And yet, there are all of these individual cases. All of the human beings who aren't quite -- like how do we reach these cases? How do we help these people more? And what can global voices kind of do to work with expert communities and with other communities to try to change this dynamic? I want to just hand it over to hisham, my great dear colleague here to say just a little bit more and we'll open it up for a discussion.
>> Thank you, I'm going to be very short and I -- I want to share with you our struggles in terms of being, you know, we've been in that space for a long time now. Go voices started in 205 -- 2005 as an idea in a workshop. The idea is to take media that speaks for internet users from their perspective. And it slowly evolved to become also a democracy group that is struggling to raise awareness and shed some light on those little stories of unknown people who are being harassed and arrested and killed in some places because of content. Because of content, they created it on-line.
So I guess we are here at the IGF. We had a lot of questions. And in a couple of answers as well. But it's more about how to build and sustain a network of users because the feeling is that the -- the so-called battle for a free internet looks more and more like a lost battle. You have a lot of stakeholders and it's very asymmetrical. Corporations are very powerful, very rich. Convention tools, liberation technology. Doesn't work all the time. More people are being exposed. Surveillance is Rife. And we believe that engagement as we discussed yesterday is -- can be useful. Engagement with governance and corporations, etc. But there's also a need for a community of practice.
And a coalition between those users. As far as activists, as far as users, I mean the feeling is that the interests are sketchy. The discourse is not intelligible. Most of the time you have competing groups struggling to articulate a strong argument in the face of the community of -- of corporations and even the technical community who have the power and also the expertise to articulate very intelligible and powerful arguments. We think that a project like threaten voices is one answer among many.
We've met recently in Morocco with a would-be coalition of fright groups, usual suspects, CPJ, amnesty and others. And the idea is to document those cases where internet user rights are threatened or violated and maybe also take them to the next level where we can use that data to advocate for internet user rights. So we probably are going to open the floor to you guys and see what all -- we would love to hear our experiences. And whether you think you can help us in that struggle where in the most part it's really difficult to convey into action.
>> Floor is open. Or stories. I mean it would be curious to hear from a couple of serious policies from advocates in the room. I would be curious to hear from you guys like what do you think about this? Do you have a time when you were trained to pick your more specific path in this field and kind of wonder like should I -- should I focus on trying to change policy that will affect a whole lot of people? Or what if I just focused on individual cases? And if that was a decision that you made at some point. It would be interesting to hear about. Are there -- I don't know --
>> Hello. I'm part of the delegation. I work in Mexico. And Brewhouse is supporting us in Mexico. How we can train citizens using social media to report crime and corruption in Mexico. We're working on two layers, one is to impact policy on a national level, how to improve the government to protect. And I am working on the ground training reporters and citizens from all over the country.
So we have the two -- the two trucks working together at the same time in Mexico. My question to you is I have questions from Mexico from America on your web site, but the information seems to be not updated. You don't have all of the cases and my question is how -- how we can make the most important cases to appear on the website. How to make connections in order to have more visibility on important cases in Mexico in Central America and other countries.
>> That's a great question. One of the challenges of the threaten voices platform is that it's crowd sourced and that it has a lot of technical problems, the site. And we have ended up with a sort of not great data set. Mexico is a place where we could have probably five or six times the cases that we do if it were fully updated.
Part of the challenge is that we have our authors in Mexico have stopped writing about Mexico. And it is left and have sort of stopped touching these issues because they're scared. And this has left us actually with bad data. So one of the things that we're -- that we are working to do is actually develop some formal partnerships and get funding for the site. It's never had any funding. It's kind of been -- it's been a great idea but a project that ultimately like you said it does not have -- we don't have everything that we need. And we sort of need help from everybody. But it would be great to talk afterwards actually about how we can work together on that. Thank you.
>> I come from a journalistic background. So this looks familiar and the potential for arrest or threat and so forth. But I would imagine that the internet gives us a new huge opportunity which is the potential of remaining anonymous and if that could be of leverage perhaps by expanding the tools that allow your contributors to extensively try to as much as possible remain ape non-mouse. And this is a challenge, I understand.
But I would say that in many cases, countries like Bahrain would, you know, take all the -- I mean, will go to the very end in order to suppress opinions. And it might be too late if a person gets arrested. There's obviously one needs not to lose hope. However, those cases it could be even better to try to prevent the action itself to prevent it from happening.
The number that I would suggest is extensive, comprehensive guide for all of those contributors to learn the issues and anonymous software and protecting and encrypting data and ensuring that the devices are always stored in a safe place. And plus it's being encrypted and a number of other measures and also that would also be important for their sources because often times it could end up not only threatening themselves but also the sources you have met. It's a combination of things, I would imagine. Not easy. I know others are working on these things. It could be useful in thinking in a new direction.
>> Yeah, absolutely. Security is something that we're working on constantly and is actually difficult with our community because we work together and people really different ideas about what kinds of threats they might be facing. Like it's hard to -- like we were talking about last week, sometimes it's hard to know what kind of risks you're taking and that impacts the decisions people make about how they protect their information. But absolutely true that there's -- there's a lot that we can do in that area. Octavia?
>> I would be really interested in learning more about the methodology of the cases, what you put under, and why if there's a level of in the risk management that I think you were also talking a little bit about. Other cases you wouldn't put up there. Or are you more -- once you arrested, the case is public, it goes up, that's where the advocacy of it starts?
>> So as far as the methodology goes, we're actually -- methodology for the site was never really thought -- it was not kind of thought out in a long-term sense. And so -- so that's something that we're working to change. But in terms of what kinds of cases go up, there's -- there are some boundaries around who are the types of people that we report on and there's kind of blurry lines at the edges. But it is, I think sort of the core group is bloggers, on-line speakers who don't belong to a big media company or some big institution that one will support them and, two, will fall into a different category in terms of the kinds of expression they're doing. There are a lot of French cases we can talk about.
The other thing is how do we decide the information should be put on the site, like made public? That's the one thing we do have a pretty good community vetting process. So many of the cases out there are of people that we know or that our authors know. So that we've been able to work together and actually talk to a family member, talk to a person's attorney if they have one, and make sure that this is safe and okay to make this public.
So that's a -- I mean, that -- I think that's a strength of the project. There are human rights groups that have great intentions that will make information public when they don't know that that's safe or okay for the person they're writing about. We have -- we're aware of how dangerous that can be and what kinds of consequences that can lead to. But so that's one thing that's made -- probably made it harder to add some cases to the site, is that we can't as much as we think it would probably be good to put up there, we don't 100% know it's okay. So we will not. Amelia?
>> Hi. Talking from the policy side. So you were asking what the policy people -- how their policy people could be more engaged or kind of. And I think what can be useful is for people who are working on different countries and who are facing these threats to really tell or such as the policy people what to do because it's really hard many times for us. And to kind of make that -- make that link. I mean, we do have the people working in this country is complicated, but sometimes they have -- I don't know sometimes we have okay, these -- like policy international, the legislation passed and it's easier for us to do this. So I think maybe it's -- it could be useful if other people here can share what kind of things would be useful for them. That's --
>> Yeah, that's kind of what I have hoped that we could do. I mean, global voices were sort of a community of individuals that could probably give a lot of input, tell a lot of stories, two groups like APC or others that have a lot of knowledge and actually sort of power and leverage in policy making spaces that we don't but probably don't have as many stories or examples that we can provide. I mean, it's something, I don't know, that I would be interested in trying to see if there's actually, should we do a meeting or a forum or something to kind of get -- to get that started to kind of, I don't know, build -- because in a way, it's about building a stronger kind of tradition or norm of talking to each other. You know? So I hope we can do that.
>> Hello. I just am wondering how extensive the data collections that you have here? It looks very, very good. But I was just thinking if you already have looked into some of the systems that collect monitoring and documenting the violations in more details. And maybe you do this already in other purpose because maybe this purpose is just to get this information on-line. Or visible.
But other concerns -- other way of helping these people also is having more detailed documentations of the event of -- of certain violation. And then this could be a communicated nationally through some legal aid organization to do some legal assistance to these cases. So you can do it both ways, have some cases visible and some cases that you can assist by taking the legal step at the national level or at the international level. But you probably have thought about this already.
>> I mean, one of the things we have front voices is sort of an offshoot of our main project site, the advocacy site. And there in Mohammed's case, you can find five or six articles on the site about him, about kind of what kind of work he was doing. What specifically happened that he could confirm. Which is difficult. And campaign letters, press releases, things like that. But it is -- we sort of have a lot of technical challenges and one of them is to link up. What organization did you say you work with and where are you located? Oh, okay, cool. All right.
>> Hi, my name is Azru from Azerbaijan. I have a similar question with the updates. I checked with the threatened voices Azerbaijan case and there's the updated information about one of the activists released a while ago. There's nothing about the very recent arrests of the youth activists and bloggers. So my question is, how do you make sure that the information is updated on an ongoing basis? I know for global voices, I used to write for “Global Voices” that there are regional editors that collect information. But even in GPS, the Azerbaijani page is not updated. One of the posts are from early 2013. What's -- how do you deal with that? What's the deal with that basically, thank s?
>> Yeah, I mean that's the challenge of a volunteer network, right? It's like we have -- there are a lot of countries in the world and it's -- we have these great teams in certain places that keep things incredibly well updated, Azerbaijan and central Asia in general, we have a few strong people. But people come and go and it's a -- it's a real challenge. One good thing about friend voices you can -- anybody can submit information.
So if you have it and you have sort of the time and the will, it would be wonderful if you can do that. And then actually another issue for us there is that we don't have -- maybe I can chat with you afterwards because as far as the verification process goes, I think with the countries where we don't have strong teams, we end up sort of super challenged in posting information because we don't feel confident in the network that we have in sort of -- insofar as the verification aspect of it.
So we might have information that we're kind of holding that we can't confirm. But yeah, we're aware of all of the things we haven't been able to do on this. Hopefully we'll get some funding and bigger institutional partners that can help us fill in all of these gaps and make the updates. Because that's sort of the people end up being under arrest for years because nobody wrote the updates.
>> If I may add quickly, it's a fundamental question that's been haunting us for quite a while, part of the answer is to get more money to be able to hire someone to take care of the website, 24/7. And this is really a challenge that speaks of the bigger picture which is that we are -- we don't have the resources to keep up with those -- all those overwhelming threats.
That against people, what we consider voices, our people who use the internet for civic engagement in the largest sense of the term. It could be political, it could be otherwise. And I think documenting those threats the first step before you, you know, you go beyond and do advocacy -- read advocacy work and transform that information to meaningful action. So money is good, but it's probably not enough. And I think that the ultimate response or the ultimate solution is all of us. This is not our property, actually. This is just a platform that we put out there hoping that people could come forward with it and use it. So you can own this thing. And you can hack it if you want. And if you think there are things --
>> In a good way.
>> Yeah. If you think there are things that don't make sense on that platform, we're very open. And this is the purpose of this workshop is to have your feedback and also have your support and you can probably join us in owning this thing. There was --
>> I'm from freedom house. This gets to the weeds, but the idea of refreshing the content and really going with the idea of crowdsourcing but not just working with digital activists. And people who consider themselves digital rights. But working with the prisoner's families. Reaching out to stakeholders who want that information updated and this might require less funding because they are acting on their own interests.
The family members are close friends wouldn't necessarily need that. So somehow coming up with the way where ownership is identified. And so when information becomes available, someone will be held accountable. I think this is -- you guys have recognized it, such an important element because it speaks to the sustainability and the kind of endearing success of projects like this.
And I think that, you know, it's not just obviously digital rates and netizens issues, it's political prisoners across the spectrum. That's something like cross pollination with traditional civil and political activists could also be successful.
>> The -- the -- based on what you say, I will actually advise you that I can tell you first that my experience on documentation that I cannot -- I cannot do it alone was together with a network in Yemen locally. The task is huge to do some -- we do more monitoring and the violation in general. But then based on this experience, I think you have to connect to the local -- to the local to use your system.
So your system could be a global platform, of course, as it is. But then the -- the inputs to the system distribute on the region and on the countries. The first thing. The second thing is not to be -- not to be with this information available for everyone. But for certain specific people in order to also encourage people that will be afraid for the information visible to everyone. And that they are protected and secured and in this way you can advocate for it to in the more targeted and focused way. And so this is just the feedback.
>> Thank you both for those specific notes. It would actually be great. I think we're -- almost -- oh, good, somebody --
>> Just to add -- maybe the issuance you mentioned is maybe a lot of -- the advocacy group are not aware of the initiative. People are advocating for the internet freedom or media groups of this website. It's also in the issue is the activities that will be how the news will be turned out to the advocacy group. (Lost audio) and just want to let -- unless you have a network with Indonesian in Malaysia. This is the example. That's how I think the platform to make the connection with different stakeholders to make this thing real.
>> Thanks. So I'm kind of embarrassed because I was going to say wouldn't it be so cool to do something with all of the people in this room around -- crystallizing around the threatened voices day but it feels last week. It kind of speaks to a different idea and that's this initiative had a lot of novelty and it got a lot of kind of attention when it launched and it's -- it's newness, its existence itself was kind of a self-sustaining advocacy initiative for a while.
Of course that fades away. So how do you plug to either new initiatives and become something of a -- like a shepherd for, you know, spotlighting new things and really becoming the authoritative voice on something to pay attention to. I think that's something you already do. But if you come up with some landing pages that will explain how anybody who wants to start up an advocacy initiative can come to you for that megaphone, that magnifying glass.
Either that gives you this seal of this is the cool thing that we found and everybody comes to you every day to see, well, you know, what's it telling me to go to today. That's one thing. And the other thing is to look at the big overarching global themes.
So the millennium development goal is coming up in 2015. How can -- I mean, these very, very important issues about development and about, you know, rights? Dealing with access? How can those be linked to these more kind of first generation rights? You know? Because you need the second generation rights, you need the third generation rights.
But at the end -- (lost audio) the violations of what you're highlighting, that can be another way that you can insert yourself into the debate. Then carry yourself beyond this kind of, you know, novel digital rights campaigning to a more authoritative voice on these fundamental rights that are going to crystallize in the global consciousness soon. Right now, I think it's really a lot of individuals who are more -- you know, really into the human rights first generations rights kind of thing. Yeah.
>> Firstly, I'm sorry for being late. In my head, it was still the 22nd. I each been part of the global voices for a few years now. To follow up on the question of partnerships with NGOs, I'm a blogger in Pakistan and I've been a part of NGOs in Pakistan that works on privacy and Civil Society. And partnerships are a great way to get the content out there. But I think it's always been this informal network. Like it feels said, you can actually really own it without having the branding or the bureaucracy of having partnerships. I'm with a organization that's working in Pakistan where it's a digital rights foundation, nearly all three have representation at the global voices networks community.
And we often write about our projects, the projects that the IRF might be working on. And we provide and we have the freedom to provide that, you know, that content. And I think that I mean I don't think that nip in this group that wants to provide or improve information that's already on the threatened voices website needs to worry about any kind of partnerships. It's a pretty open platform.
And as someone who's been a part of it for some time now, I think it's add simple as sending an e-mail to come onboard. And go ahead and improvise it. And the real beauty of the GBO or a GBA has been the fact that there's authentic reporting because there are people on the ground and working on the issues and reporting on it. That's the only way it keeps going and the only way to recruit. Now the recruiting speech shall end.
>> Thank you. I think it's actually about time for us to wrap up. But there have been a number of people who have said things that -- and I have said, let's talk afterwards. So why don't -- unless anybody else has a note or comment, I will invite you all to come up and maybe we'll get out -- I'm not sure if there's a next group coming in. And we'll continue the conversation without microphones. Thanks, everybody.
[ Applause ]
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