The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2012
WS 96 - The Internet of Humans: Online Human Behaviour and IG Policy Impacts
If IG and ICT policy are to be effective, we must cultivate a keen understanding of the ever-evolving human behaviours that accompany an Internet of individuals and communities; a human internet that shapes global society in ever more pervasive ways. This workshop is an intersection between research on emerging sociological and psychological trends in Global Human behaviour on the Internet, and Internet Governance Policy and Practice.
Ms Anju Mangal (Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and member of Pacific ISOC Chapter (PICISOC) (Pacific, NGO)
Mr Pedro Less Andrade (Google, GRULAC)
Ms Olga Cavalli (Government of Argentina, Government, GRULAC)
Mr Alex Comninos (Association for Progressive Communications and Doctoral Candidate at Justus Liebig University Giessen)
Ms Nicola Douglas and Mr Matthew Jackman (Youth IGF Project Delegates)
Mr Tim Pilgrim, Youth Representative from the COMNET WireUP! Project (Confirmed)
Mr Tracy Hackshaw (GRULAC, ISOC)
Mr Trevor Phipps (GRULAC)
Ms Grace Githaiga (Africa)
Ms Deidre Williams (GRULAC)
Ms. Sheba Mohammid (DiploFoundation, ISOC, GRULAC, Confirmed)
This was an interactive workshop where panellists and the audience discussed some of the key contemporary issues surrounding human behaviour and the Internet.
Some of the themes raised include:
Human Behaviour and Virtual Spaces- Consideration needs to be given for how ICTs have changed our respective behaviours. Constant use of email and social media, impact on interpersonal communication skills (face to face). There needs to be more research into understanding the implications of these new social aspects of virtual behaviour and the policy implications.
Anonymity and Use of Real Identities- Anonymity is essential in many circumstances for freedom of association: for example activists under repressive regimes, LGBT communities in societies where they are persecuted, people discussing and seeking advice for personal and medical problems, and many others all need anonymity. In the offline world we have the right to form private associations and not to have our associations revealed, why should we be forced to reveal our identities and associations just because our activities are conducted online. If people are stripped of their anonymity online they may be afraid to express their true opinion. Anonymity also allows people to express their points of view without others judging it by where they came from (e.g. age, gender, level of education etc.). Anonymity provides an enabling environment for open and sincere debate online. Anonymity and Freedom of Expression online are desirable and from a human rights perspective must be protected, but we must be responsible and accountable. Use of real names online can be a useful factor in some situations but we need to be careful of what is posted online.
Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Expression-Two rights that are neglected online are freedom of assembly and freedom of association. These rights are threatened by surveillance, censorship and erosion of anonymity. In the offline world, we can be be ensured privacy in our associations, in the online world however these associations are often laid bare, for all to see. Corporations are setting norms whereby people are forced to use their real names online, this was not a norm during the beginning of the popular growth of the internet.
Privacy is an issue completely related to security: users’ concerns revolves around non-authorized access to their systems or devices, identity theft, hijacked of their accounts, access to their financial information and unauthorized use of payment instruments. Google underscored that keeping user information safe and available is one of their top priorities. It is important to ensure strong security and privacy protection by providing easy-to-use security and privacy tools to help users to protect themselves against spam, phishing and malware and to avoid unauthorized access to their accounts and personal information.
Accountability- Need for greater accountability by all stakeholders in what is shared online and generally how one behaves online. As well as the need for governments to understand the issues from a multi-disciplinary, multi stakeholder approach.
Youth- Research presented based on a survey of 800 youths on 6 different continents Key emerging research issues were Anonymity, Audience size, Emotions, Confidence and Reputation. Key findings included:
· Youth were more inclined to be open if they were anonymous; Anonymity provides security, protection and allows them to be more expressive.
· One drawback was that aspects of communication (body language) are lost, found it difficult to identify emotions even with the use of emoticons.
· Sometimes their own freedom of expression had to be curtailed out of concern for their reputation.
· The type of communication and the openness of it depends on the target audience.
Policy Impacts- There is a large population of users that see the internet as a source of information, but are unaware of the risks associated with the use of the internet. There is a need for greater awareness and capacity building in the area of privacy, security and ethics.
Legislation applied to “Real World” and Virtual spaces- The law should be balanced in dispensing justice related to speech online and in the physical world. Users’ behaviour alters traditional legal institutions: for example the raising need for users to have content available on demand, when, where and in the format they want is affecting traditional models of copyright and there is an increasing need that those models start to become more resilient to users’ new demands. Laws need to be in place address cyber crime, however as the same law for crimes applies online as do offline, often new legislation will not be needed, but rather online enforcement.
Research on Human Behaviour and the Internet- Some questions raised include what steps are being taken by Policymakers /regulators to understand the behaviours that are taking place on line and how do regulators determine what policies need to be implemented to address online behaviour?
There is a gap in research that focuses on the understanding the positive impacts of the internet and what it is contributing to our social world and there is a need to cultivate more of this research.
It was recommended that a variety of specialists need to collaborate to analyse this issue (i.e. experts on behaviour, sociologist, technologist in addition to lawyers).
Recommendations for a Way Forward- The session agreed that there is a need to have diversity in this kind of discussion and get experiences of different groups e.g. disabled, policymakers and ordinary end users. This will show the different perspectives of how we behave online and allow for the creation of more informed policies. There was a call for collaboration for the research to be expanded. The group recommends a research agenda targeted at understanding the online behaviour and needs of a range of stakeholders.