The Internet Policy Observatory is currently working with research partners on the following projects:

Towards Greater Transparency in Content Moderation: This project seeks to identify discrete priorities for enhanced transparency in the content moderation practices of social media platforms and other internet intermediaries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has partnered with researchers, Sarah Myers West (University of Southern California) and Nicolas Suzor, Andrew Quodling (Queensland University) to collaborate on a project utilizing an existing dataset generated through the EFF’s monitoring efforts to better understand social media users’ experiences with the content moderation policies of various platforms. EFF’s has been collecting user reports on account suspension and content removal on social media platforms for two years, and there are currently a total of 610 reports from users in over 26 countries in 3 languages. These reports include information about the type and nature of content takedowns as well as users’ perceptions of the experience and impact it has on their lives. Researchers plan to use this dataset to draft a report on content regulation online, current policy, and recommendations for policymakers and companies. With an understanding that much of the policymaking that occurs on social media content regulation takes place at the company level, the EFF seeks to use this research to advocate for better content regulation and takedown polices and build these arguments from the user experience perspective. To read more about this project, please see blog posts about the project here and here.

A New Digital Trade Agenda: Good or Bad for Digital Rights?: In recent years, e-commerce has become an umbrella concept for many issues that matter in public policies, especially in the Global South, particularly on access, affordability, privacy, taxes to hardware, cyber- crime regulation, copyright restrictions. The WTO e-commerce agenda is inevitably complex: it includes far-reaching provisions on the cross- border delivery of services affecting privacy, data protection, consumer protection, cybersecurity and net neutrality, and new Internet-related IP rights in a digital context. They raise significant concerns for the Internet, its global infrastructure, and the right of governments to develop policies and laws that best preserve the free and open internet.

In this project, Burcu Kilic (Public Citizen) and Renata Avila are studying how e-commerce and Free Trade Agreements affect digital rights. This report will focus on the impact of the global digital trade agenda on developing countries with the intention that the research will be used to prepare civil society organizations in the global south for the WTO discussions that are taking place in December 2017. The final report will map the threats and opportunities for digital rights organizations within the WTO’s e-commerce discussions and attempt to define a positive agenda and policy recommendations. Dynamic, easy to understand two-pagers will be produced from the report and will used to raise awareness, interest, and knowledge amongst digital rights CSOs to prepare them for the Ministerial Conference in Argentina.

Decriminalization of Expression Online in Cambodia and Thailand: Throughout Asia and the world, people have taken to social media and online platforms to express themselves in ways that were not possible through traditional offline mediums. States have realized the empowering impact of free expression online and have, in some cases, tried to impose greater regulation. Offline regulations, typically in penal legislation, are being applied to online spaces in addition to internet- specific legislation. Legitimate expression on the internet is increasingly being redefined as cybercrime. In some cases, states like Thailand have more severe punishments and penalties for expression online than for expression offline. In other cases, states like Cambodia are in the process of drafting new legislation that seeks to regulate many aspects of the internet including expression online. The Association for Progressive Communication (APC), the Digital Asia Hub, and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) are conducting a study, mapping the legal ecosystem as it relates to freedom of expression and the criminalization of speech in six Asian states: India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. The partners plan to launch this report as a Global Information Society Watch Special Edition and are currently working with researchers across the region to research national laws in each of the five countries, regional trends, and comparing these national and regional legal trends with international standards. The methodology of the Arab Digital Rights Dataset, another IPO project, has been adopted for researching laws in each of these countries.

The Open Arab Digital Rights Dataset is a project with Social Media Exchange meant to illuminate trends in digital rights legal regimes in the MENA region. The legislation dataset is currently being developed to comprise laws and other legal instruments that have been applied or could potentially be applied to restrict digital rights. With this open dataset, the project seeks to empower activists, journalists, civil society, human rights defenders, lawyers, judges, and others to hold all governments accountable to protect and preserve human and civil rights in a digital age. Read more about the project here.

Mapping Internet Governance Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean: This project, a partnership between CETYS at Universidad de San Andrés and The Brazilian Network Information Centre (, consists of the mapping of national Internet governance initiatives in the LAC region to provide information on the evolution and status of the Internet governance agenda within different countries and from a comparative perspective within the region. Due to the lack of systematized information regarding national Internet governance initiatives in the region, the project seeks to promote a comprehensive approach to the issue, based on the existing evidence and literature on the subject. The project will map the topics covered in the agendas of different national IGFs, the ways in which the initiatives are governed and structured, and the ways in which these initiatives are funded and sustained by governments and other actors. The report will then provide an impact analysis of these initiatives on the development of internet policy in each country or region. Beyond the report, this mapping will be visualized and the information hosted on an interactive website, allowing researchers and practitioners from around the world to use the data and findings.

The Role of Digital Media and Internet Policy in Generating Deliberative Debate in Cuba: This project is a collaboration between a team of researchers and journalists to examine the effects of alternative digital media on the promotion of debate in Cuba. As part of this partnership, the project team are studying the digital ecosystem in Cuba and the ways in which populist discourses on the island are influencing internet policymaking and the development of digital media, the potential for the internet to foster deliberative debate on the island, and the conditions for the flourishing of Cuban independent media online. The report will also feature a section on the role of Cuban academia in mediating the policy demands of independent journalism onlin. This report will be submitted for academic publication and the results of the report will be presented at workshops at Journalism studies departments and academic institutions in Cuba.

The Last Line of Defense? How to Raise the Next Generation of Digital-Aware Citizens: Through this project, Efrat Daskal and Anya Orlova seek to explore the diverse strategies that digital rights advocates employ as they aim to involve various publics in different country contexts in their causes. The researchers will conduct interviews on the activities of 14 digital rights organizations operating in 11 countries (France, Germany, UK, India, Pakistan, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Russia, and Lebanon) between 2012 and 2017. They will engage in a comparison of these organizations through an analysis of the organizations’ online content along with interviews with organizational representatives aimed at understanding how these organizations envision their publics. The results of this research will contribute to an academic paper, an online database on best practices for digital rights advocacy work, and a best practices report to circulate to digital rights advocates and improve their future advocacy. To see read a blog post by Efrat Daskal, click here.

Content Regulation on and by Platforms: Internet Governance vis-a-visa the Platformization of the Web: For this project, the Centre for Internet and Society and Dataactive are examining the ways in which the “privatization” of online content regulation has shifted internet policymaking and decision-making towards online platforms and whether current internet governance frameworks are capable of dealing with the challenges related to this platformization of the internet. The research paper will seek to map the evolution of online content regulation by governments, governance processes, and social media platforms, understand the effects of these developments and their ramifications for internet governance organizations, and to create policy-ready recommendations on online content regulation.

Self-censorship of Internet Users in Kyrgyzstan: This project aims to study self-censorship by social media users in Kyrgyzstan. The goal of this study is to contribute to a small body of scholarship about Central Asia related to self-censorship on social media within an authoritarian context. The study will review how likely Kyrgyz social media users are willing to express themselves when they believe their opinions are in the minority? What sanctions do social media users expect when expressing their true opinions? How does audience composition and audience relationship matter in willingness to self-censor?

Filter Bubbles and the Political Debate on Twitter in Poland: For this project, the Panoptykon Foundation in Poland is working with researchers Pawel Popiel (UPenn) and Emad Khazraee (Kent State) and investigating the role of social media platforms in constructing political dialogue in Poland. This project aims to investigate the most influential actors in the Political debate on Polish twitter and determine the key elements and figures involved in this political discourse, as well as the way they shape political debate. Beyond producing an academic paper, this project seeks to use the findings from the study to engage in significant debate and advocacy at the national level in Poland and regional level at the EU.

The Role of Internet Service Providers in Information Controls: A Mixed Method Approach for Eastern Africa Region: This project seeks to develop comparative information controls research focused on the role of Internet service providers in three countries across the Eastern African region. The research hopes to achieve two main goals: gather credible evidence of information controls on Internet networks across the two countries and two, work with a public interest advocacy organization on business and human rights in the digital space.

Political Communication Strategies of Privacy Advocates Post-Snowden: For this project, Till Waescher will be researching the political communication strategies of privacy advocates to reflect on advocacy framing and build best practices on communicating about privacy rights. To read the first post in this series, click here.

Zero Rating and the Net Neutrality Law in Chile: Marco Correa, a Chilean lawyer, will be researching the way in which courts, regulators, and policymakers have interpreted net neutrality legislation in Chile.


Past projects include:

Global Network Interference Detection over the RIPE Atlas Network

Collin Anderson, with support from the IPO, worked with a team to develop a new methodology for monitoring blocking and censorship events across the world utilizing the widely-deployed RIPE Atlas platform. The resulting paper, published in the Free and Open Communications on the Internet 2014 Workshop, utilizes the methodology to investigate blocking events in Turkey and Russia, providing evidence of cooperation between various private and government actors to block content. The team has also launched a web platform to provide an open source version of their code. Click here to read the full paper.

Internet Regulations in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan: Internet Policy Development in Central Asia

In the past few years, Internet infrastructure and legislation in Central Asian countries has been developing rapidly. However, Central Asian countries still face multiple challenges with Internet development, including digital inequality, civil society development, independence of local media, and a changing regulatory environment. Today Central Asia is at a crossroad in developing its own norms and policies of Internet regulation, balancing between local political, cultural and economic interests, the effects of Russian Internet legislation and International standards of Internet policies. Each of the Central Asian countries is now in the active process of formulating its own standards and Internet politics, while a universal concept or plan for Internet Governance and legislation has yet to be developed.

This study focuses on two Central Asian countries – Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, taking a closer look at their political and cultural contexts affecting the formulation of local Internet Governance approaches. This research aims to study the specifics of Internet legislation in these countries, analyzing the role that local government, the corporate sector, media and civil society has played in the formulation of local Internet policies. The research will also help to better understand the influence of International norms and Russian Internet legislation on Internet governance policies in Central Asia.

Internet Policy Formation in Latin America: Understanding the Links Between National, Regional and Global Dynamics

The IPO has partnered with the Center for Technology and Society at the University of San Andrés to write a comprehensive report on internet policy formation in Latin America. This report will examine the stakeholders, institutions, and mechanisms for policy coordination in internet policy structures in Latin America. It will also explore how institutional models from other countries (such as Brazil’s multistakeholder model) are being replicated across the region, how domestic debates are being articulated with relation to the conversations occurring globally (at the IGF, WSIS, ITU, ICANN), and the institutional architecture and legal conditions for internet policy in the region.


Blog Posts: 

Research Study on Government Ordered Network Disruption in Pakistan

The IPO is teaming with the Institute for Human Rights and Business and Bytes for All Pakistan to engage in research to study how government ordered network disruptions technically work in Pakistan. Researchers will be analyzing how Pakistani government bodies interact with private actors (Pakistan ISPs, mobile operators, and other stakeholders) in order to coordinate internet shutdowns in Pakistan. This study seeks to determine the following questions:

  • How does the public in Pakistan use the internet, how is this affected by socio-economic status and geography
  • What are the beliefs and opinions of the public about the internet in general, online content
  • What are the public’s beliefs and opinions about censorship, privacy, surveillance on the Internet? How knowledgeable is the public about internet policy issues on the national stage? How relevant are these issues to the everyday lives of the public?

The purpose of the study, the first of its kind, is to gather and present data on the impacts of mobile and internet shutdowns in Pakistan, and on human rights issues such as health, education, and work. The government in Pakistan has often required companies to shut down access to the internet or mobile communications in the interest of public safety and security. This study aims to assist the government and telecommunication companies in developing strategies that are consistent with commitments to protecting human rights and ensuring public safety and security without compromising access to communications. The telecommunications company Telenor Pakistan has agreed to be the subject of the case study, which will reflect on and examine the challenge for businesses when faced with network shutdown requests from governments.


Blog Posts:


The Geopolitics of Search: Baidu Goes Global

Sarah Logan, the Digital Technologies Research Fellow in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University has been commissioned by the IPO to conduct fieldwork in China and Vietnam focused on the expansion of the Chinese search engine, Baidu, into markets outside of China. This research will result in a final paper focusing on how Baidu’s search and social products outside of China frame the user’s experience in terms of political content, how Baidu cooperates with state censors outside China, the Internet-related norms that China attempts to export through Baidu, and a comparative look at Baidu’s operations in China and in Vietnam. To read Dr. Logan’s blog post describing this project, please click here.


Blog Posts:

Internet Governance in Latin America: Multi-Stakeholderism and Free Trade Agreements

Professor Celia Lerman and the Law School at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos, Aires Argentina are collaborating with the IPO on two separate research projects. In the first, the Torcuato Di Tella team will conduct a study on the “multi-stakeholder” model of internet governance as it is related to the theoretical foundations and historical development of deliberative democracy in Latin America. The resulting report will provide a critical overview of how deliberative democracy works out in practice in the Latin American context, and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this model in the context of national and global internet governance.

The second study will analyze the impact of free trade agreements on internet policy in Latin America. This project will attempt to understand how free trade agreements have dictated Intellectual Property protections in Latin American countries, the effects on local country-code domain name systems and dispute resolution mechanisms, and how FTAs might have resulted in policies that are inadequate for domestic legal systems. The study will also analyze how FTA agreements have affected the debate over internet governance in Latin America as well as the effects of the hybrid legal regimes that result from the importations of external IP law in the context of local legal cultures. This report will also provide the potential problems and possible solutions associated with this phenomenon.


Blog Post: 

Stakes are High: Essays on Brazil and the Future of the Global Internet

The NETmundial meeting in Brazil brought  together internet policy stakeholders from around the world, and may prove to be significant in terms of redefining global approaches to multistakeholderism in internet governance, in terms of governance of ICANN and in terms of establishing a set of standards for domestic internet regulation. Given what was at stake, IPO commissioned a set of papers that examine how different interest groups are preparing for the meeting, how governments are interacting, and how the issues in Brazil relate to larger global issues, including surveillance and privacy. In this commissioned volume of essays, Ellery Biddle (Center for Democracy and Technology) and Ronaldo Lemos (Center for Technology and Society at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas School of Law in Rio de Janeiro) will serve as the coordinators and editors of the volume in partnership with the IPO editorial team. Click here to read the volume.


Blog Posts:


Mapping Multistakeholderism in Internet Governance: Practical Implications for African Policymakers

Research ICT Africa is collaborating with the IPO team to map multistakeholderism in Internet Governance in Africa.  Through this project, Research ICT Africa will be conducting a survey among African internet policy stakeholders to explore the structures and processes for Internet governance. This survey will then be used to inform a policy paper that will present research findings as well as policy recommendations for African policymakers. This research will seek to answer the following questions:

  • What should a decentralised and open Internet governance process look like from an African perspective?
  • What are the critical, non-specific Internet governance factors that determine Internet governance outcomes?
  • What are the preconditions for the successful expansion of the Internet?
  • What ICT policies at a national, regional and continental level enable the Internet sector to flourish and expand in Africa?
  • How can we build enabling states that will create the conditions for an African private sector and civil society to grow?
  • What are the necessary conditions for the emergence of an African Internet industry that will eventually fully participate in and shape an African Internet governance agenda?

Click here to read more.


Mapping the Landscape of Internet Policymaking in India:

ITforChange, an NGO in India working on information society theory and practice, is working with the IPO to write a special report on the Internet policymaking landscape in India. This report will map the actors (state and nonstate) involved in internet policymaking in India, the mechanisms of coordination, the influence of the external policymaking environment on Indian Internet policy, the national perceptions of internet policy issues, the shifting dynamics surrounding major internet policy issues, and the future direction of India’s institutional internet policymaking landscape.


Blog Posts:


Monitoring Internet Policy in Myanmar

IPO is working with with Dr. Andrea Caldararo from the Centre for Media Freedom and Media Pluralism at the European University Institute to conduct research on the development of Internet policy in Myanmar, as the country moves out of isolation and begins a new era of reform. Dr. Caldararo will be conducting fieldwork in Myanmar in order to analyze the telecommunication reforms happening in Myanmar with particular attention paid to the development of Internet policy in the country and the role of outside private actors in this development. The research project will result in a final report, which will analyze the effects that these foreign-owned companies have on the development of telecommunications and Internet policy in the country, as well as the role of local actors, within the context of the changing political and regulatory environment in Myanmar. Read more about his research by clicking the links below.


Blog Posts:


What Balkanizes the Internet: Access Denied or Access Unwanted

Harsh Taneja and Angela Xiao Wu have been commissioned by the IPO to analyze the pattern of usage of the top 2000 web domains from 2008 to 2012 in order to examine the extent to which cultural preferences and factors such as language or geography affect the balkanization of the Internet through the creation of culturally defined Internet markets (as opposed to internet balkanization due to strategic internet filtering). Specifically, they will examine the shared audience traffic through network analysis in order to calculate the extent to which websites from different countries are isolated from the rest of the World Wide Web. They will attempt to explain these isolations by describing and analyzing the level of online filtering, cultural factors such as language and geography, as well as internet penetration levels in each country. They will then focus their examination on the cross-national comparisons between China, India, South Korea, and Japan.


Blog Posts:


The Socio-Economic Impact of Internet Policy in India (State of Uttar Pradesh) from a Local to Global Perspective

Pradeep Kumar Misra (M.J.P Rohilkhand University, India) is working with the IPO to enagage in research analyzing the ongoing policies, efforts, practices and strategies of the central and state government to promote internet access in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Uttar Pradesh (UP), with the highest number of internet connections in northern India but with an extremely low internet penetration rate of less than 2 percent, serves as a fitting case study to analyze existing local internet policies and practices in India.

Blog Post:


Chinese Internet Foreign Policy: A History and Mapping

 Leshuo Dong (Tsinghua University/American University) will be working with the IPO to publish a series of short analytical reports focusing on the history and development of Chinese foreign policy with regards to the Internet. Leshuo Dong will be reviewing the existing literature and legislation surrounding Chinese internet policy as well as conducting interviews with key Chinese officials, civil society organizations, and business representatives. These short reports will be posted on the IPO website and CGCS blog and will center on the following questions:

  • How has Chinese Internet Foreign Policy developed in the past 10-20 years?
  • What are the key discourses and frames that have been developed over this period?
  • What model has China developed for the governance of the Internet at an international level and how does it articulate this model in global debates?
  • Which Internet-related business practices, norms and concepts does China attempt to export?
  • Are these practices, norms and concepts exported uniformly across the world, or are there differences between different countries or regions?

Blog Post:


A Primer on the Multistakeholder Issue in Internet Governance

The term “multi-stakeholder” is probably one of the most important and, at the same time, least understood terms in internet governance. The term signifies what is a technical reality – that the internet was not created by governments, but by civil society and the private sector. It is also a term that has provided legitimacy to a host of different institutions currently engaged in internet governance. However, the legitimacy bestowed by the term is contingent on its exact meaning, and therefore the changes in the implied definition of the term can have serious consequences in how the internet is managed. Alexander Klimburg, Fellow and Senior Advisor at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, has drafted a white paper primer on the multistakeholder issue to provide a linguistic approach to better map existing “multistakeholder” definitions within the context of a specific internet governance framework – in this case, the Internet Governance Forum (lGF). This white paper examines the following questions:

  1. What is the level of detail that is used for describing the nature of the relationship between  the various internet stakeholders that have been identified?
  2. Are there any differences in the strategic or normative dimensions of the “multi-stakeholder” definitions used in the context of internet governance?
  3. Is the range of entities included as stakeholders implied by the definition, and, if so, is this range relatively wide or narrow when compared to other definitions.


Blog Posts: