2016 Jakarta World Forum for Media Development
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Wednesday, September 21 • 16:00 - 17:00
How to fight Internet shutdowns: A simulation game

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Internet shutdowns pose a terrifying and real threat worldwide. They have become early warning mechanisms for human rights violations during the most critical moment of democracies -- elections. They harm the ability of people to seek, receive, and impart information, key tenets of the right to freedom of expression. Journalists can’t report their stories and, worse, become subject to state violence under a media blackout.

Largely ordered by government ICT ministries, internet shutdowns are defined as an intentional disruption of internet or electronic communications -- such as SMS, Skype, YouTube, Periscope, email, WhatsApp, Viber, or even mobile money -- rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information.

At other times, application-specific shutdowns are ordered by public officials – judges, for instance – in order to impose sanctions on a specific company, unaware of the disproportionality of such a measure. Shutdowns render the exciting new technologies of journalism and media ineffective.

Over the past few months, governments in Chad, Uganda, and Congo-Brazzaville have shut down the internet during elections. But it’s not just an African problem. In 2015 alone, Access Now recorded 15 shutdowns in a variety of contexts and situations, from the Pacific Ocean to Pakistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 2016 stands to eclipse that record with 16 shutdowns already recorded. Shutdowns harm innovation, stymie local economies (banks alone lost an estimated $22.6 million during an April shutdown in Kashmir, India), and block the use of emergency services.

In the first short section of this session, we’ll share key strategic lessons from our global #KeepitOn campaign to fight shutdowns. I'll explain to media organizations, officials, and activists about how they can fight internet shutdowns, including: working with telcos to resist government orders, how to speak about shutdowns in human rights language, pressuring government figures, effective circumvention tools and VPNs, capturing data about shutdowns, and storytelling for change. I'll also share key indicators that we have tracked over time.

The second, main part of the session will be wholly interactive and focus on a shutdown simulation that invites participants to respond to the shutdown. In this section, we'll run a simulation of a real internet shutdown through an interactive role play. By breaking into groups and simulating shutdowns, we’ll reveal the major actors that influence a typical shutdown, and show what tools people can use to push back to turn the internet back on so that the information can keep flowing. Importantly, we'll show how they can coordinate their efforts and record them to prevent future human rights abuses.

By the time the full session is over, we'll have built a core group of media workers and journalists who can take action against internet shutdowns around the world. They'll have access to the latest tools, strategies, and research to end internet shutdowns. We'll also invite people to join our #KeepitOn campaign to encourage grassroots collaboration and activism across borders.

avatar for Deji Olukotun

Deji Olukotun

Senior Global Advocacy Manager, Access Now
Deji Olukotun is the Senior Global Advocacy Manager for Access Now. As a member of the advocacy team, he manages Access Now's global campaigns to fight internet shutdowns, foster an open internet, protect digital privacy, and ensure that our fundamental rights are respected online... Read More →

Wednesday September 21, 2016 16:00 - 17:00 PDT

Attendees (6)