(No.94) Social media, young people and freedom of expression

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Status: 
Accepted
Workshop Theme: 
Security, Openness and Privacy
Theme Question: 

What measures can be taken to ensure freedom of expression, access to knowledge and privacy, including for children?

Concise Description of Workshop: 

This workshop will seek to explore the relationship between social media, young people and freedom of expression.
It will consider the challenges to both service providers and young people alike and seek to engage the panelists in a debate about the challenges they face and to discuss the practicalities of resolving these.
It will draw on the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states “1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice. 2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.“ (Freedom of expression is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.) However, it will be mindful that popular services such as Facebook and YouTube have user rules which cover what a user can and can’t do – for example, Facebook has a statement of rights and responsibilities and YouTube has community guidelines. Services commonly apply age based restrictions to membership of their platforms, and often have specific policies that apply to users under 18.
The session would begin by considering what freedom of expression means to different service providers, before considering what freedom of expression means to young people. The session would include youth panelists from the UK Youth IGF Project, eNACSO, the Nordic Youth IGF and Hong Kong’s Net Mission Ambassadors. The session would hear directly from these youth participants. The results of a survey written and conducted by young people on this topic in preparation for this session would also be presented, enabling the youth delegates to share the voice of their peers and other young people globally. (The survey will be distributed through a large number of networks including the youth dynamic coalition, to young people in, but not limited to, Sweden, the UK, Brazil, Hong Kong and across Africa.)
The session would also offer the youth panelists the opportunity to pose their questions to the industry panelists as part of a chaired debate, giving them the chance to engage on this topic. The session would function as a moderated discussion based around a series of practical questions with the opportunity for questions and discussion from the floor.
The proposed structure is as follows:
1. Understanding freedom of expression from a service provider perspective
Questions to include:
a. Is the principle of freedom of expression important to your service?
b. How do you think that your service offers the opportunity to give users freedom of expression?
c. What are the challenges to you in enabling people to have freedom of expression on your service?
d. What are the legal pressures that you as intermediaries face with regard to freedom of expression?
e. What changes would you like to see to enable people to have access to more information and to participate better?
2. Understanding freedom of expression from a youth perspective
Questions to include:
a. What does freedom of expression online mean to you?
b. From a youth perspective, what are the challenges to protect freedom of expression?
c. What limits your freedom of expression?
d. Do you think these limits are right?
e. How do they impact upon your experiences online?
3. The challenge to civil society participants – how do we and how should we educate users about freedom of expression?
a. Is freedom of expression taught in schools?
b. Net etiquette is taught in schools – to guide users in their behaviour towards each other – but does it help them understand laws surrounding freedom of expression?
c. Are the legal consequences of saying exactly what you want online understood by users?
d. How does this differ country by country?
e. What is the experience of young people from country to country?
f. Is there a global element to how free online citizens are able to freely express what they want?
g. How can we educate users so that they understand the legal issues surrounding free speech online? What role can service providers play? (drawing on recent recommendations from the Council of Europe – to raise users’ awareness, by means of clear and understandable language, of the possible challenges to their human rights and the ways to avoid having a negative impact on other people’s rights when using these services; and provide clear information about the kinds of content or content-sharing or conduct that may be contrary to applicable legal provisions.)
h. Does age impact freedom of expression?
i. Does the requirement on social media to protect children impact on their rights to freedom of expression?
4. Discussion/Debate
Questions to include:
a. What are the roles and responsibilities of users of social media services as they relate to openness, privacy and security?
b. How is this working in practice?
c. How does this fit with user experiences?
d. What is the user’s role in addressing when someone else’s freedom of expression goes too far?
e. Who arbitrates when someone else’s freedom of expression is in conflict with the rights or reputations of others?
f. How can a community response to this be developed?
g. Is community flagging effective?
h. What is the best way of responding to freedom of expression challenges on social media?
5. Where do we go from here?

Organiser(s) Name: 

Lucinda Fell – Childnet International

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

Patrick Ryan, Google (Private Sector, WEOG, Confirmed)
Richard Allan, Facebook (Private Sector, WEOG, Confirmed)
Ellen Blackler, Walt Disney (Private Sector, WEOG, Confirmed)
Council of Europe Delegate (WEOG, Confirmed) 
Matthew Jackman, Youth Delegate, Member of the UK Youth IGF Project (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Jack Passmore, Youth Delegate, Member of the UK Youth IGF Project  (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Rebecca Cawthorne, Youth Delegate, Member of the UK Youth IGF Project   (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Nicola Douglas, Youth Delegate, Member of the UK Youth IGF Project (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Bianco Ho, NetMission (Civil Society, Asia Pacific, Confirmed)
Members of the NetMission Youth Delegation (Civil Society, Asia Pacific, Confirmed)
Members of the Nordic Youth IGF Delegation (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Victor Neufeld, eNACSO youth participant (Denmark) confirmed
Anna Fogh Gransoe, eNACSO youth participant (Denmark), confirmed
Dixie Hawtin, Global Partners and Associates (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Janice Richardson, Insafe Network (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Ken Corish, South West Grid for Learning and UK Safer Internet Centre (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Philippa Green, Childnet International and UK Safer Internet Centre (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
Larry Magid, ConnectSafely.org (Civil Society, WEOG, Confirmed)
 
 

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Hannah Broadbent – Childnet International
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
About half of the 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
Please include any comments or recommendations you have on how to improve the inclusion of issues related to gender equality and: 

 
Info for Gender report:
Gender – 9 male, 9 female
Youth – 9 youth, 9 adults
5 women (Pippa, Ellen, Bianca, Dixie, Janice), 4 girls (Becca, Nicola, Nathalie, Anna)
4 men (John, Richard, Ken, Larry), 5 boys (Jack, Matt, Victor, Wayne, Elmo)
 

Report
Reported by: 
Lucinda Fell
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

Workshop 94 write up
 
Social media, young people and freedom of expression.
 
This workshop was convened as the issue of Social media, young people and freedom of expression is particularly pertinent to the experience of young people.
Background:
Question 4 of Security, Openness and Privacy taken from the programme for the 2012 meeting, sought to question what measures could be taken to ensure freedom of expression, access to knowledge and privacy, including for children.  It specifically asked  what are the 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, alongside considering the roles and responsibilities of user as they relate to openness, privacy and security.
 
At Childnet, we know from our work in schools in the UK that children and young people are very often among the first adopters of technology and internet services.  Social networking services are a key example of this. The Ofcom UK children’s media literacy report highlighted that younger children are increasingly using social networking sites. (http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/media-literacy/media-lit11/childrens.pdf) Indeed, the percentage of 5-7 year olds using social networking sites in the UK increased from 7% in 2009 to 23% in 2010. This is largely driven by sites like Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters rather than age-restricted sites like Facebook. However, Facebook remains enormously popular.  96% of 8-15s with an active social networking site profile use Facebook, and there are a significant number of underage users accessing sites like Facebook which have a minimum user age of 13.  In the UK, it seems that starting secondary school at the age of 11 is a key trigger for underage social networking:  28% of 9-10s have an SNS profile compared to 59% of 11-12s.( Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., Görzig, A., and Ólafsson, K. (2011). Risks and safety on the internet: the UK report. LSE, London: EU Kids Online. Summary available at  bit.ly/M7J4Qy)
 
As part of workshop 76 (http://bit.ly/WhMfbg) which Childnet chaired at the IGF 2011, the youth panellists were asked whether being online gave them a voice, and if so, how.  Their responses included the fact that being online gave them as young people a platform to share their opinions with people who they wouldn’t usually be able to communicate with and the ability to publish their own opinions.  The point was also raised that being online itself doesn’t give a person a voice, rather it would give them the opportunity to use their voice, and for a vast number of users who already use their voices, in terms of stating their thoughts and opinions offline, the internet would merely facilitate in a greater way their desire to speak out on matters causing them concern. The internet provides the means for these people, to contact others who are concerned about similar issues, via chat rooms, comment facilities and social networking.  It was additionally recognised that the internet also gives a voice to those who are otherwise unable to exercise it including victims of abuse and oppression, those who are house bound due to illness and those who don’t feel confident talking about their opinions to others face to face. For these groups the internet may provide a haven where, perhaps for the first time, they too can discuss their opinions, or seek help from others in similar positions.
 
Workshop:
 
At the IGF 2012, the Youth IGF Project’s workshop, further explored the relationship between social media, young people and freedom of expression.  This workshop set out to consider what freedom of expression means to young people before considering and the what limitations they find themselves under, be it from the rules/community guidelines set by the service providers, social norms or the rules of schools where many young people access the internet.
 
The workshop was planned and delivered by four young people.  They decided that their focus would be on the measures that can be taken to ensure freedom of expression and privacy for children and young people, particularly on social media sites. At the beginning of the workshop they clarified that as four teenagers from the UK “We feel it's important to expression at beginning that we will on the whole be talking about our experiences and those of our direct peers.”  In preparation for the workshop, the Youth IGF Project team designed and developed a survey to find out from young people across the world how they felt about freedom of expression and social media.
 
The online survey was open between 12 September and 12 October and was disseminated internationally through youth networks. The survey was only available in English. 874 young people aged 11-18 from across 40 countries completed the survey. Closed questions were used to aggregate answers for statistical purposes. Open questions were posed to allow respondents to express themselves and elaborate on the answers provided.
 
The four co-chairs of the workshop, Rebecca Cawthorne, Nicola Douglas, Matthew Jackman and Jack Passmore  were joined by a range other panellists.
 
Youth panellists :
 
     ·    Victor Neufeld, eNACSO, Denmark
·    Anna Gransoe, eNACSO, Denmark
·    Wayne Choi, Net Y Ambassador, Hong Kong
·    Natalie Chong, Net Y Ambassador, Hong Kong
·    Elmo Kusima, Nordic Youth IGF Delegate, Finland  
     
Industry panellists:
 
·    Richard Alan, Facebook
·    Ellen Blackler, Walt Disney
·    John Kampfner, on behalf of Google and YouTube.
           
Civil Society panellists:
 
·    Ken Corish, UK Safer Internet Centre, UK
·    Philippa Green, Childnet and U.K. Safer Internet Center,
·    Dixie Hawtin, Global Partners and Associates,
·    Bianca Ho, Net Mission, Hong King
·    Larry Magid, Connect Safely, USA
·    Janice Richardson, Insafe Network, Brussels
 
The discussion began with a consideration of different understandings of freedom of expression and reflected a consensus from the co-chairs that they felt their freedom of expression ended where someone else's freedom starts, and that there were limitations to what they would freely expression online and also offline.
 
The results from the global survey were integrated throughout the session and informed the conversations that were used.  At the outset, the co-chairs clarified that 96% of those asked said they used social networks.
 
The youth panellists were asked what limits their freedom of expression online.  Responses included the fact that audience size changes how young people express themselves, particularly a consideration of who is viewing their posts and how this could impact their reputation.   Peer Censorship was also raised as a limit to young people freely expressing themselves online, but it was also mentioned that peer censorship can be an effective way for young people to maintain a healthy involvement in freedom of expression.  More negatively, verbal attacks and cyberbullying were also mentioned as limits to young people freely expressing themselves online.
 
The panellists considered whether they acted differently online and offline.  Drawing on the results of the global youth survey, the co-chair revealed that of those who responded to the survey 45% percent said that they didn’t act differently online, but 41% said they were more careful about what they say on line, with one in five agreeing that they were more confident online.  One of the survey results stated “Everybody acts differently on line” (18 year old male, Sweden) and the co-chair cited this as an example that everyone looking for something different out of the Internet.  The co-chair revealed that 41% of respondents to the survey said that they were more likely to say what they want on line if they were anonymous, and questioned whether the Internet changing the way people including young people think, making us more vocal in society and changing persona?       
 
The responses revealed that many young people do act differently online to how they do online. “For me I think I act differently online. Actually, no one can see my face and track with me face to face on the Internet so we don't have direct contact such as eye contact or direct discuss in the Internet …. so I think the online platform without any direct contact with me [lets me] act differently on line.”
 
Anonymity was an important theme throughout the session. The question was posed in the global youth survey, “are you more likely to say what you want online if you are anonymous?”  The results revealed that of those who responded, 41 % felt they were more likely to say what they wanted if they were anonymous but 42% said they were not more likely to say what they want if anonymous.  Discussion between the youth panellists revealed that they agreed that anonymity gives power, but that this could be both negative and positive. It could be negative in the sense that people can offend more easily because they don't have to worry about what people will think about them, but positively, it could afford people a voice who previously would be victimized for their opinion.  One panellist state, “assuming anonymity contradicts the purpose of most social networks, the purpose being exposure, like sharing who you are to the world. And I also believe that to form a proper ground for debate, you need to know who it is you are talking to. In that way it also contradicts the purpose with debate, which is the two primary reasons I use the Internet.”  Another stated, “I'm going take a middle ground  … To be anonymous is important indeed because exclusion can make people feel less scared of exclusion because they can say what they want, and don't have to worry about what people say. Also I do totally agree that you need to stick with your opinions. If you say something, you should say it with who you are and really show who you are and don't be afraid of it as well. To an extent, being anonymous is very important on the Internet, especially in Finland where we have many forums, for example, which have mainly anonymous users. These forums have been growing in popularity in Finland especially.  The younger people can talk more freely without being scared of what elders think on these forums.”
 
The themes discussed in the first section of the session continued with the discussion with the industry panellists, who defined their understanding as service providers of freedom of expression similarly, “Freedom of express for us is being able to share things with people that you want to share them with.  It's as simple as that, obviously within constraints of the rulings for that platform, I think we'll get on to discuss that.” And “it is the right to express yourself, and it is the right to receive opinions from others including opinions and information that you do not like and that you find difficult as well.”
 
The discussions here included the parameters and means that different service providers set and provide for users, in addition to the need to ensure that users are aware of and properly informed about community guidelines, terms of services and how to use a service.  There is a role of service providers to help ensure that they are presenting these in an accessible way.
 
Continuing the discussions with the civil society panellists, the workshop considered the role of social media in education.  The audience heard that it was the experience of the panelists that currently there is a reluctance to embrace social media in education.  In the UK this was often due to concerns surrounding the financial, technical and cultural barriers.  There were also concerns for schools regarding their duty of care and social media was blocked in many schools.  The experience in the US was similar, but different across Europe, particularly in previously communist countries where there was a historical fear of blocking.
 
The session heard from that users need to be more self‑aware when expressing themselves on‑line and that especially among youth there needs to be education about how to be considerate and a discerning user when both expressing and receiving information.
 
In parallel with the youth panellists, who earlier agreed that there is a role for schools in educating young people about freedom of expression, alongside the need for social media education, there was agreement that schools have a role to play in this. “We need to teach children how to understand the subtleties, not to ban it and create a generation where everybody is so perfect they would never say anything that could never possibly offend anyone, but to help people understand how they can have freedom of express, and at the same time not offend or violate the rights of others as one of our youth panellists said.  I think schools have responsibility to do that and in order to do that they have to adopt social media.”
 
It was also agreed that all users need to be educated as to their rights and how their rights have meaning in practice, rather than being high level principles, and the importance self awareness was reiterated here.
The co-chairs of the session concluded that moving forwards, dialogue and conversation including all stakeholders is vitally important.  All stakeholders need support and all have an important role to play in ensuring that users are educated.  The survey showed that young people see that schools, parents and service providers all have a role to play in helping to educate young people, but the session revealed that it is important to ensure there is ongoing dialogue between service providers and their users, as well as highlighting the fact that teachers also need support in teaching young people both about social media and freedom of expression.
 

Conclusions and further comments: 

The Youth IGF Project team is keen to develop some of the themes highlighted in this discussion in further discussions at the IGF 2013.  They have identified speakers from other sessions who they have already spoken with and who we hope to work with next year.  We are open to being contacted by any other youth delegations who are keen to work with us.

Additional documents: