2022:Submissions/Evolving Threats of State-Led Censorship and Response Strategies

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Session Notes (etherpad)


  • Language: English
  • Status: Live

Speaker(s)[edit source]

Başak Tosun
Emma Llansó
Leighanna Mixter (Moderator)
Rachel Judhistari

Abstract[edit source]

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In the last few years, we have witnessed people in positions of power engage in legislative and legal jiu-jitsu to shape the Internet. As winning elections depends on shaping opinions on the Internet; authorities understand that in order to let the forces that they have traditionally used to discipline opinion, they must gain control of the flow of information on the Internet completely. In response, we have witnessed platforms cave into the governmental \requests\ and resort to the slicing of the Internet through geo-blocking. As a result, the Internet that broke the territorial borders has transformed into a sliced pie where truth no longer matters, and the netizens are fed with emotions camouflaged as facts.
Wikimedia Foundations' defiance of such state diktats to censor has invited the ire of several governments, including the recent threats by the Russian Government for pages relating to the Russo-Ukraine war and demands from India and Pakistan to run their respective narratives about their border conflicts. During the session, we will delve into the unique challenges the Foundation is currently facing as the authorities backed by legislative mandates attempt to compel the movement to fall in line. We will discuss the Russian Government's demands, censorship in Indonesia, the recent resolution of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. v. Turkey [1], and the strategies the Foundation is adopting to respond to such threats.
[1] https://wikimediafoundation.org/news/2022/03/24/european-court-of-human-rights-case-dismissed/

Learning Outcomes[edit source]

After participating in this session, the audience members will gain a significant understanding of the innovative legislative and legal recourse the governments are resorting to drive the content online by circumventing their obligations under international human rights treaties. They will learn about the nature of the human rights that get threatened by such state actions and their long-term impact on breaking the Internet if not addressed efficiently. Further, participants will be able to empathise with the challenges the Foundation and platforms face while addressing these censorship attempts and how the Foundation balances the community interest and valid concerns by defining and distinguishing censorship attempts from legitimate requests for content removal or deletion.

Biography[edit source]

Basak pursued Political Science in Turkey and has been actively working in the Internet Services Sector for the last 16 years. Basak started contributing to Wikipedia in 2005 and is one of the founding members of the Wikimedia Community User Group (Turkey) and the Digital Knowledge Association. Since 2015, Basak has been organizing Wikipedia Education Programs in Turkish Educational Institutes. “Works hard to fill the gender gap in Wikipedia.”

Emma is the Director of the Center For Democracy’s Free Expression Project. She is one of the leading personalities in the technology law and policy ecosystem, working towards supporting Internet users’ Free Expression rights and robust intermediary liability protections globally. Emma was one of the leading members involved in the development of Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation. In addition to CDT, Emma also serves as the member of Freedom Online Coalition Advisory Network, Christchurch Call Advisory Network and Board of Global Network Initiative.

Leighanna Mixter

Leighanna serves as the Senior Legal Manager with the Wikimedia Foundation. She specializes in privacy and content moderation matters, including the Foundation’s Transparency Report, and contributing to the Foundation’s efforts to lift the block in Turkey.

Rachel Judhistari is the lead public specialist for Asia with the Wikimedia Foundation. Previously, she worked with a regional human rights organization (FORUM-ASIA) and coalition of members of parliament in South East Asia to advocate for protection of free speech. She is a trained psychologist and based in Indonesia.