Today, Thursday is the last day of the Internet Freedom Forum 2018, which has been on since Tuesday.
Since it began, the forum has pointed out, and addressed many issues affecting internet users in Africa.
With the aid of experts, the forum addressed issues of internet shutdown, cybercrime laws, fake news, among others.
How free is the internet space in Africa?
This session was moderated by Koliwe Majama, a Zimbabwean information and communications consultant.
The panelists include: Adeboye Adegoke from Paradigm Initiative; Aisha Jeridi, Executive director of Internet Without Borders; Julie Owono and Wokulira Sebaggala.
The session addressed detailed intelligence on ICT infrastructure and digital economy, policy and landscape, climate of freedom of expression online, surveillance, and intentional network disruptions.
IFF2018: Breakout sessions
10.50 am – Session on using research as a tool to determine if and how companies respect human rights.
The session is organised by Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) and moderated by Jessica Dheere, co-Founder and Executive Director of SMEX.
The discussion centred on the findings of the Ranking Digital Rights 2018 Corporate Accountabiliy Index, which ranks the world’s largest tech companies on their disclosed policies and practices as it affects users’ freedom of expression and privacy.
The aim of the discussion is to see how research can be used as a tool for encouraging companies to respect international hu man rights norms, and how the index methodology can be adapted by researchers and activists to produce regional and local rankings.
One of the panelists, Julie Onowo, explained that some technology companies and network providers do not respect human rights on the internet especially in terms of privacy.
When asked if there were changes in how the companies in her research handled user rights to privacy and terms and conditions, Ms Owono said there were improvements as Orange held a Master class on user privacy in Cote d’ivoire and there were engagements with Safaricom.
10.50 am – Digital Inclusion in Africa as the Most Important Right
This session was held simultaneously with the session on research.
It was facilitated by Paradigm Initiative.
The session focused on identifying barriers to greater digital inclusion.
It also recommended ways of overcoming these obstacles towards empowering Africans with the transformational power of ICTs.
12.06 am – Empowering Human Rights Defenders of Digital Era in Africa
This session was facilitated by Amnesty International.
The session addressed the different ways efficient empowerment of activists and freedom fighters in the digital space can be accomplished.
Gender, Open Data and AI: Intersecting for Digital Equality
This session was facilitated by the Web Foundation.
The sesson was highly interactive as the audience made most of the contributions in the discussion
The session was moderatedby Nnenna Nwakanma.
It centred on how open data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used (or misused) in the framework of digital opportunities and digital equality.
Issues discussed in the course of the session include: how AI is used by social media platforms, ecommerce platforms to determine social behaviour of users based on data collected from vast entty points, how if AI could be detrimental to humans, own data, and how users have to accept terms and conditions compulsorily to use an application.
Gender imbalance in the AI space was also discussed especially how women are largely excluded from that space.
A participant, Femi Longe said, “AI can be used for good but it is hard to determine where it would end.”
1.30 pm- Lunch
Participants discussed over lunch.
‘Detoxicating’ the Net: Addressing Hate Speech and Gender Based Violence Online.
This session had two panels; one on gender violence online and another on the dangers of hate speech.
The session was facilitated by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD).
The panelists for gender violence include Ado Haruna from CITAD, Salmat Abdulwaheed from CISLAC and Ene Ede a gender specialist and activist.
The issues discussed include: violence as a reason behind fears of being online as expressed by girls in the north, and the traditional and religious barriers on gender freedom in terms of expression.
‘Detoxicating’ the Net: Addressing Hate Speech and Gender Based Violence Online
Panel on Hate speech on Social media
The panel was moderated by Mariam Haruna from CITAD.
The panelists include: Tony Ojukwu from National Human Rights Commission, Bola Abimbola from Savanah Centre for Democracy, Advocacy and Development, and Hamza Ibrahim.
Mr Ibrahim said the people need to be enlightened on what hate/dangerous speech is ”as people are not even aware of the hate speech they share”.
Ms Abimbola defined hate speech as any speech that ”fosters prejudice, incitement, discrimination and any negativity against a group, a person or demography”.
On the difference between hate speech and free speech, Mr. Abimbola said: ”the government gave us freedom with duties and responsibilities but people tend to neglect the aspect of duties and responsibilities”.
4.04 pm- ‘How to Ruin Elections in Africa’
The session was facilitated by Paradigm Initiative.
Tolulope Balogun anchored this session.
The panelists included: Akua Gyekye from Facebook, Farida Nabourema a social activist and writer from Togo; Frederico Links, a Namibian journalist and Bisi from Nigeria.
The discussions centred on Africa’s reputation of having more of selections rather than elections in terms of putting in place governments.
Farida on the Togo experience said people don’t even trust the election process.
She gave an example of an election year where over a thousand people were killed and about 10,000 had to leave the country because they spoke out against the government.
She said “elections” is an abusive word in Togo. “We have selections and the government controls all institutions of the country”.
On the effect of the influence of international and regulatory bodies like the African Union and ECOWAS on Togo, she said she does not think they are doing enough. She also said the AU Human Rights Charter for example, protects the State more than it protects the people.
On how elections are ruined in Nigeria, Bisi said race, religion, and region instead of competence is what candidates ‘selection is based on.
He also spoke about false information that fly around just before the election as a factor that helps ruin Nigerian elections.
On the way forward and how not to ruin forthcoming elections, Mr Links said there is no guarantee as to how to successfully avoid devastation.
He also emphasised the need for a political consciousness among citizens.
Other solutions proferred by panelists against ruining forthcoming elections include:
1. Engage a fact-check tool or platform to check information from political platforms.
2. Citizens need to exercise their rights to vote by getting all the douments need for it.
3. More voter education and awareness through funny videos, etc..
4. Paying more attention to the election process i.e. not just the election day but what happens before and after the election.
5. Using technology to improve the electoral process.
5.40 pm – Closing Remarks
Gbenga Sesan, Founder, Paradigm Initiative, gave the closing remarks. He appreciated all partners of the forum and thanked everyone for attending.
He later announced the launch of the Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship in May.
He said the application period is from 5th to 30th May, 2018.
He also announced that from 2019, the name Internet Freedom Forum would change to Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum 2019: #DRIF19
The next event will take place in Lagos from the 23rd to 25th of April, 2019.
IFF2018 officially ends.