Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression
Sarina Hotel, Dhaka, Bangladesh
The Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression seeks to address the question of how freedom of expression on the Internet is best protected by taking as its starting point two of the biggest challenges for freedom of expression online in South Asia today: hate speech online on the one hand, and cyber security and surveillance on the other.
Web 2.0 and the social media have changed the way we communicate, organise, ‘outrage’, debate and effect change. Marginalised groups are making themselves heard through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and various citizen journalism initiatives. It is increasingly difficult for policymakers, governments and businesses to ignore the social media buzz. While there is widespread, almost unanimous, agreement among all stakeholders that free speech needs to be protected, various issues like hate speech, cyber-terrorism, cyber-stalking, even rumor-mongering pose potential threats to such freedom as the law struggles to catch up with these. Similar issues have been flagged by netizens in other developing and developed nations. It is against the backdrop of these developments that a discussion on Internet and the Freedom of Expression becomes inevitable.
The first South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression took place in March 2011 in Delhi, and mapped the many challenges for free speech online in our region, as an input into the report on the Internet and freedom of expression of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue. The second South Asian Meeting, in Kathmandu in November 2011, assessed the extent to which policy and regulation in the South Asian countries complied with the recommendations Mr. La Rue made in his report.
This third meeting will now build on these earlier efforts by bringing together experts from civil society, business, the research community and other stakeholder groups to discuss two of the biggest shared challenges for freedom of expression online in South Asia today in detail: the rising visibility of hate speech on the one hand, and the impact of discourses regarding cybersecurity and surveillance on the other. Our starting point is that the challenges of hate speech and for cybersecurity in our region are real, and need to be addressed head-on. The meeting therefore seeks to investigate both the precise nature of these challenges and what Internet governance mechanisms we need to evolve to ensure that they can be addressed most effectively whilst upholding and strengthening the right to freedom of expression.
To ensure maximisation of outputs, meeting participation is by invitation only and restricted to about thirty five individuals whose past and current work, we believe, indicates a clear concern for the challenges that the Internet poses to freedom of expression as well as a particular expertise that is required to help us to go beyond these challenges. Delegates are invited from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
The two day event will close with a panel discussion that is open to the public in the late afternoon of 15 January 2013.
The official hashtag for the entire two-day event is #SAFoE. We will be live tweeting from the official Twitter account of the Internet Democracy Project: @iNetDemocracy