Workshopping the KeepitOn Advocacy Toolkit: enhancing ways for stakeholders to fight shutdowns around the world

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Workshopping the KeepitOn Advocacy Toolkit: enhancing ways for stakeholders to fight shutdowns around the world
Presenter(s) Gustaf Bjorksten, Anqi Li
Title(s) Chief Technologist, Design Lead
Organization(s) Access Now
Project(s)
Country(ies) Costa Rica, United States
Social media Twitter: accessnow; Instagram: accessnow
2017 theme Policy & Advocacy

The #KeepitOn campaign (accessnow.org/keepiton) features more than 100 organizations from nearly 50 countries around the world who are pushing back on the phenomenon of internet shutdowns -- intentional disruptions to the internet. Since the launch of the campaign in 2016, we've had major victories, such as statements from the UN Human Rights Council, Global Network Initiative, GSM Association, and even the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. Yet with more than 50 shutdowns in 2016 -- up from less than 20 in 2015 -- there is a wide gulf between high-level declarations and on-the-ground implementation. Governments continue to disrupt the internet over protests, school exams, civil unrest, and elections -- the most critical moment in a democracy.

Access Now has worked with members of the #KeepitOn coalition to identify needs among stakeholders to fight back. As a result, the coalition has suggested several tools that can strengthen the fight against internet shutdowns. These include backgrounders, model legislation, checklists for documentation, economic cost calculators, model advocacy letters, and circumvention techniques and principles. The multistakeholder nature of internet shutdowns demands a variety of solutions -- all of which will require feedback and refinement. Access Now will bring a beta form of the Tool Kit to the session.

The #KeepitOn Advocacy Toolkit has multiple components. The beginning of the workshop will entail an overview discussion of what's inside the toolkit (advocacy, policy, and technological tools). Then participants will be encouraged to break up to discuss and refine each "tool", making improvements on-the-fly or suggesting areas for improvement later on. The workshop will conclude by reconvening people to discuss next steps, with an aim to refine the toolkit before RightsCon in 2017. The goal of the workshop is to encourage maximum participation and constructive feedback to achieve real-world outcomes.

The goal of the workshop is to encourage maximum participation and constructive feedback to achieve real-world outcomes. If no one uses the #KeepitOn toolkit, it's useless. We want it to be as accessible, powerful, and effective as can be.


Format Workshop
Target Groups Journalists, Security Trainers, Front Line Activists
Length 1 hour
Skill Level Intermediate
Language English


Session Outputs

  • Feedback from the sessions participants on the #KeepItOn Advocacy Action toolkit that is currently under development within the campaign coalition. Commentaries and questions will be addressed in the first iteration of the #KeepItOn Advocacy Action toolkit at the #KeepItOn Summit at RightsCon from the 29th to the 31st of March in Brussels.

Internet Shutdowns around the world

The goal of #KeepItOn campaign is to fight Internet Shutdowns around the world. Internet disruptions by governments requests around the world prevent people on the ground from exercising their right to freedom of expression, violate human rights, and create negative economic impact to local economy.

  • Example : Recent shutdown in Cameroon since January 17 in the english-speaking region. #KeepItOn coalition member in Cameroon led the campaign to #BringBackOurInternet on social media. The coalition sent open letters to major telcos operating in the specific region, calling them to resume the network. UN expert also urged the government in Cameroon to stop shutting down the internet in the region. Currently the campaign is still ongoing.
  • Influence : There is not only the human right aspect but also the economic impact for local business and telcos / tech companies.

The campaign addresses actors on the issue and develops strategies for key actors and influencers to stop internet shutdowns worldwide. The coalition works at three levels : global with UN, regional (government, courts...) and tech. Conversation were engaged with telcos and tech companies to avoid internet shutdowns.

  • UN
  • regional mechanism, local governments, courts, etc.
  • Telecommunication companies, tech companies
  • Media
  • Public awareness

Toolkit

2 parts :

For generic audience (average people and media)

  • One page backgrounder
  • Checklist for documentation
  • Checklist for information sharing
  • Basic ecnonomic impact calculator
  • Visual content (Visual kit, informational graphics, data viz, etc)

For government, telcos and other actors (more policy oriented)

  • model of advocacy letters
  • Investor briefing
  • Principles for technical measuring
  • Model license agreement
  • Model legislation

Technical aspect

Measurement

2 different ways : centralized and distributed approach

  • distributed : using OONI, easy to deploy. Different to detect than censorship because we detect shutdown through the absence of data, so you need a large set of data to confirm an instance.
  • Centralized : manually analyze all data possible : media papers, VPN access. the objective is to detect absence of communication from a part of the network.

Mitigation

  • Standard circumvention tools can be used in some cases
  • Otherwise you need alternate infrastructure  : mesh networks, packet radio, long range wireless network...
  • There is a lot of work that need to be done to prepare the fight against a shutdown.

Questions and Comments

  • Access now has a public list of Internet shutdowns (2015~2016, still ongoing), but also a private more extensive database with detailed information about dates etc.
  • In Turkey, usually there was more Social media blackouts than full network shutdowns. some people bought modems on eBay and started old-style connections. It appears that the technology is so slow that it is not possible to use modern pages, it needs more than 1 minute to load a page on Twitter.
  • An additional datapoint is Wikimedia traffic information, there is a talk on Friday at 11pm about it.
  • UN is sending observers in some cases to observe elections, internet shutdowns and monitoring of Internet freedom should be part of these observations.
  • Partnership with Lush last year to have a petition running. The petition got more than 50 000 signatures and was delivered to the Freedom Online Coalition.
  • In Iraq, Algeria and Jordan, there is a shutdown every year during the official exam, most of the time from very early in the morning (4/5 am) to the middle of the afternoon. There may have other reasons to do that, including a real life test of shutdown capabilities. (A case in a district in 2015 in India during an exam).
  • One of the challenges for lawyers is that there is no evidence, because there is no information about what is happening. It is helpful to fight even after the shutdown happens to create a legal case that can be applied legally during next cases. (Next steps for impact litigation?)
  • Q: How to reach local groups who need critical tools and means? How to identify people who are seriously influenced by internet shutdowns but don't have the necessary channel to voice out for help? How to fight against the national narrative which is really strong?
  • Documentation and storytelling: how to document stories of local people when the communication is near to impossible? Ideas: maybe using the circumvention technology to create a documenting strategy?

Next Steps

Additional Notes

Relevant Resources

Contributors