(No.112) Evaluating Internet Freedom Initiatives: What works?

Go to Report
Status: 
Accepted
Workshop Theme: 
Emerging Issues
Theme Question: 

Emerging Issues Question 1 and SOP Question 4
A Workshop on comparing Internet Freedom initiatives evidently addresses Emerging Issues Question 1: What are the implications of the use of new technical and political instruments on the free flow of information, access to information, and with respect for human rights?
It also evidently addresses SOP Question 4: What measures can be taken to ensure freedom of expression, access to knowledge and privacy, including for children? What are challenges to protect freedom of expression online and what measures can be taken to better empower citizen’s access to information and participation in digital age, “Net Etiquette” and the roles and responsibilities of users as they relate to openness, privacy security?

Concise Description of Workshop: 

Internet Freedom Initiatives (IFIs) have been sprouting up like mushrooms in North America and Europe in the last few years. Internet freedom has become a foreign policy priority for many Western states. Driven by a decline in online freedoms globally, several North American and European countries have implemented policies and funding schemes to promote Internet freedom and openness in countries around the world. Particularly since important speeches by Hillary Clinton announcing her Internet Freedom strategy in early 2010 and Neelie Kroes announcing the European No Disconnect Strategy in 2011, there has been increasing agreement among states that Internet Freedom Initiatives should play an important role in Foreign Policy.
While there is increasing agreement on the importance of these kinds of initiatives, there is little agreement on how these initiatives can be successful or even what constitutes success. There is also a profound lack academic scholarship or reliable statistical data on which to base such assertions.
The following workshop proposes to bring together Ministries of Foreign Affairs, International Organizations and the development community engaged in drafting, operating or funding Internet Freedom Initiatives from different parts of the world with NGOs and other civil society organizations who are operationalizating these initiatives on the ground.  The multi-stakeholder setting will be complemented by the academic and technical communities, to assist in assessing how IFIs could be successful and what political, social and technical factors need to be considered in the drafting, operational and funding process. These different elements will be brought together with experts from several different continents and stakeholder groups.
 
Agenda
1. Introductory round
2. What is happening: Existing internet freedom initiatives
3. How is the money being used on the ground?
4. How can companies do to contribute?
5. Where do we go from here?
6. Conclusions
 

Backgroung Paper: 
Organiser(s) Name: 

Ben Wagner, European University Institute (contact person, Ben.Wagner@eui.eu) - Andrea Glorioso & Camino Manjon, European Commission, DG INFSO - Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament - Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

- Linda Corugedo Steneberg, Director for Cooperation, DG CONNECT, European Commission
- Dan Bear, Deputy Assistant Secretary, DRL, U.S. State Department
- Sami Ben Gharbia, Nawaat (unable to attend)
- Dr. Madeline Carr, Aberystwyth University
- Sarah Logan, Australian National University
- Jillian York, Director International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament
- Loe Schout, Head of CIM Bureau, HIVOS

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Camino Manjon, European Commission, DG CONNECT
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
The majority of participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised
Report
Reported by: 
Ben Wagner, European University Institute
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

Report on WS 112 Evaluating Internet freedom initiatives: what works?
Workshop 112 on Evaluating Internet Freedom Initiatives brought together some of the key actors currently involved in internet freedom initiatives from around the world. The speakers on the panel were as follows:
- Linda Corugedo, Director for Cooperation, DG CONNECT, European Commission
- Dan Bear, Deputy Assistant Secretary, DRL, U.S. State Department
- Sami Ben Gharbia, Nawaat (unable to attend)
- Dr. Madeline Carr, Aberystwyth University
- Sarah Logan, Australian National University
- Jillian York, Director International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament
- Loe Schout, Head of CIM Bureau, HIVOS
Although sadly Sami Ben Gharbia had to cancel at the last minute, the workshop had invited speakers from four different regions around the world (North America, Europe, Middle East and North Africa and Oceania) and also brought together a multi-stake holder organising group consisting of European University Institute (Academia), the European Commission (Government) the European Parliament (Parliament) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Civil Society).
Speakers covered many of the key areas in this area, with the U.S. State Department and the European Commission providing a broader overview on their own work on developing Internet Freedom Initiatives. While the European commission emphasized the importance of linking different existing initiatives in this area, the U.S. State Department focussed on programming and emphasized that it had already spent around 100 million dollars on Internet freedom initiatives. These funds could be split into 4 categories: 1) funding technology development, 2) funding cyber-self defence, 3) funding broader research and development and 5) funding advocacy.
Based on several years of experience, the State department suggested that their programming follows the following principles: 1) enabling human rights online through new technologies 2) threat-driven solutions based on the diversity of local experiences 3) there is no silver bullet. He also suggested that there we several ‘lessons’ that could be learned from this process, particularly that 1) the technical is always political and saying ‘we’re from the government and here to help’ may not always be helpful 2) measurement of impact in this area is very hard but also very important.
After questions from the audience about active Internet freedom programs in Iran and how U.S. Internet Freedom Initiatives related to the U.S. response to Wikileaks, the second group of speakers from Civil Society gave their positions. Jillian York from the EFF focused on the frequent disconnect between programming and even academic work and the actual field which it is studying, as well as arguing for greater levels of coordination between individuals engaged in internet freedom initiatives.
This position was seconded by Loe Schout from HIVOS, who suggested that it should not be taken for granted that states support Internet freedom and indeed most states in the world do not support Internet freedom. He also spoke about the digital defenders partnership and how it’s work related to the Freedom Online Coalition. Finally Madelaine Carr and Sarah Logan concluded by taking a more academic perspective on the overall internet freedom agenda and how this was likely to affect international relations in years to come.

Conclusions and further comments: 

The overall workshop provided as many questions as answers and was a welcome basis for further debate. There was a general agreement on the importance of internet freedom and the need for the evaluation of internet freedom initiatives, but very little agreement in how this should be done. Indeed the different positions on the panel reflect differing cultural and organisational contexts, suggesting that the debate on appropriate internet freedom policy is likely to continue for some time.