How Can We Keep the Internet Open and Safe for All Voices?

‘How Can We Keep the Internet Open and Safe for All Voices?’ panel. Photo by Faaris Adam, used with permission.

‘Is there a way of thinking about the well-being of the Internet?’ asked Malavika Jayaramand, a privacy and technology law expert and moderator of the panel, ‘How Can We Keep the Internet Open and Safe for All Voices?’.

This question opened the debate on the current health of the Internet, with Jayaramand leading the discussion alongside the director of the Internet Democracy ProjectAnja Kovacs, UNESCO's Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger, and Facebook's representative, Snehashish Ghosh. 

Jayaramand was the first to bring up the issue of Internet shutdowns, explaining that 2017 brought with it at least 60 Internet shutdowns in India alone — a number that she feels will most likely continue to rise. How can this rise in Internet shutdowns be explained? According to Kovacs, there is a system of thought that is used to justify the implementation of Internet shutdowns. In this system of thought, when ‘national security’ or ‘public order’ is supposedly threatened, free speech is “legitimately” sacrificed. This order of thoughts gives leeway to Internet shutdowns. However, Anja is quick to point out the following:

As grave a situation as Internet shutdowns are, it is not the worst threat against the Internet's health. What’s worse is surveillance. Not only by governments, but also by corporations.

Nowadays, as our digital and physical bodies are merging — given that our bodies are increasingly becoming data — the obliged question becomes: how to protect our rights as strongly as we did before?

We need to put checks and balances in place. How is it even possible that we can sign away our right to privacy? What has happened to the world when there isn’t a tiny part of privacy that we can’t sign way?

In order for the Internet to be more open and healthier, a business model that moves away from “corporate surveillance” needs to be implemented.

For Berger and UNESCO, not all individuals and groups interested in contributing to the health of the Internet are able to compete under this existing business model, so a proposed solution is the continued fostering of the multistakeholder model for Internet governance. 

However, as the other panelists mentioned later on, as much as “multistakeholder-ism” is desirable, it is ultimately influenced by relationships of privilege and power:

In relation to these issues of power, Kovacs noted that businesses like Facebook have made it easier for users to access the Internet, but they also wield a huge amount of power.

If many of us have very little influence on changes to the Internet landscape, what can companies like Facebook do to help maintain the health of the Internet? To answer this question, Ghosh highlighted the work that Facebook has been doing to combat the so-called ‘fake news’ epidemic, a battle that Ghosh feels is part of Facebook's contribution to Internet health.

The floor opened to the following online discussions about consent and the use of data:

According to Kovacs’ final remarks, what is becoming even clearer is that we, as civil society, need to continue to fight back.

The Internet is ours and we need to reclaim it and spend time learning about data protection, privacy, encryption and share their knowledge with others.

Jump to the start of this panel in this LIVESTREAM recording on Youtube >>

<< View the full list of Summit videos

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.