The Internet Policy Observatory is currently working with research partners on the following 'Research for Impact' projects:

These projects were each funded as collaborative ventures between digital rights advocacy teams and researchers and were each designed to produce both an academic publication (submitted for peer review) as well as an advocacy-oriented white paper or policy brief drawing on the findings from the research.

In some cases for particular projects, the IPO matched a research mentor with an early career researcher to work together on developing the research methodology and analyzing findings for publication and scholarly submission.

 

 

Towards Greater Transparency in Content Moderation

This project sought 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), in partnership with researchers, Sarah Myers West (University of Southern California) and Nicolas Suzor, Andrew Quodling (Queensland University) collaborated 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 onlinecensorship.org 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.

With an understanding that much of the policymaking that occurs on social media content regulation takes place at the company level, the EFF sought 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 the project and the final  Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability of Content Moderation Practices, please click here.

 

Criminalization of Online Expression in Asia

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.

For this project, The Association for Progressive Communication (APC), the Digital Asia Hub, and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) conducted 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. To read more about the project and access the publication, Unshackling Expression, please click here.

 

The Spiral Of Silence on Social Media: Cultures of Self-Censorship Online & Offline 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 white paper draws on survey research on self-censorship practices of Kyrgyz citizens conducted between October and November, 2017. The report provides a historical account of Kyrgyzstan’s political and media systems and an overview of the findings as they relate to contemporary practices of silence and expression online and offline in the country. It then offers analysis of these findings and recommendations to the policy and advocacy communities working on issues related to democratization and freedom of expression in the Central Asian region. To learn more about the full project and to read the white paper, please click here.

 

The Open Arab Digital Rights Datasets

The open Arab Digital Rights Datasets, produced by Social Media Exchange in Lebanon, aim to illuminate trends in how Arab governments are limiting digital rights, such as free expression and privacy online.

The legislation dataset comprises laws and other legal instruments that have been applied or could potentially be applied to restrict digital rights. It is the first in three datasets envisioned. The others are:

  • A dataset of cases in which individuals have been detained, prosecuted, and sentenced or otherwise punished for exercising their digital rights
  • A dataset of campaigns or actions that have been taken, either proactively or reactively, to preserve and protect digital rights online

With these open datasets, 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. Following the development of the Arab regional database, there is a planned expansion to use the methodology to build corresponding databases for Latin America, Asia, and Africa. To learn more about the project and access the database, click 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 (NIC.br), 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.

To read more about the project and to access the report & online platform, please click here.

 

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 studied the digital ecosystem in Cuba and the ways in which populist discourses on the island influence 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. To learn more about the project, read the report, and view the accompanying series on Internet Policymaking in the the independent magazine Periodismo de Barrio, please click here.

 

Hungarian Internet Tax Protests and the Symbolic Dimension of Technology

For this project, Elisabetta Ferrari (Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania) conducted research investigating the narratives and tactics used by activists during the Hungarian Internet Tax Protests in 2014. The paper seeks to understand what kind of visions of the internet protesters were articulating and how these visions were constructed and strategically deployed by the movement. The paper describes how these discourses about the internet relate to movements in other countries. To read more about this project and to read a companion piece to the academic paper, click here.

 

Wisdom of the Crowd: Multistakeholder Perspectives on the Fake News Debate

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 resulting research paper maps the evolution of online content regulation by governments, governance processes, and social media platforms, analyzes the effects of these developments and their ramifications for internet governance organizations, and offers policy-ready recommendations on online content regulation.

To read more about the project and to access the white paper, please click here.

 

Zero Rating and the Net Neutrality Law in Chile

The Chilean net neutrality regulation is one of the first national legislative efforts to recognize the principle of preventing arbitrary discrimination of Internet traffic. One of the main challenges in interpreting and implementing this law within Chile has been the regular practice of zero-rating, in which certain telecommunications providers prioritize certain applications through free data. Although this practice was initially characterized as a breach of net neutrality by the regulatory body (the Subsecretariat of Telecommunications (Subtel)), zero-rating is still practiced by mobile telephone companies as part of their subscription offers. This white paper summarizes the research and findings of a larger academic project that seeks to analyze both the legal status of zero-rating in Chile and the evolution of the Subtel criteria, which has led to the proliferation of this practice in the country. To read more about the project and to access the white paper in both English and Spanish, please click 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 and Renata Avila researched how e-commerce and Free Trade Agreements affect digital rights. The accompanying report focuses on the impact of the global digital trade agenda on developing countries, mapping the threats and opportunities for digital rights organizations within the WTO’s e-commerce discussions and working to define a positive agenda and policy recommendations for future CSO engagement in trade negotiations. To read more about the projecy and to read the full report, please click here.

 

Filter Bubbles and the Political Debate on Twitter in Poland

For this project, the Panoptykon Foundation in Poland worked alongside researchers Pawel Popiel (UPenn) and Emad Khazraee to investigate the role of social media platforms in constructing political dialogue in Poland. This collaborative research sought to better understand the shape of political debate on Polish Twitter, the role of Bots and false amplifiers, and political polarization in these spaces. This research was conducted in September and October of 2017, with one million tweets collected and analyzed. Beyond producing an academic paper, this project used the findings from the study to produce a white paper to be used to engage in debate and advocacy at the national level in Poland and regional level at the EU. To read more about the project, click here.

 

The Last Line of Defense? How to Raise the Next Generation of Digital-Aware Citizens

Through this project, researchers 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. For this research, partners analyzed the websites of 14 civil society organizations from 12 different countries and 3 different continents. The results of the research describe: (1) the activities offered by the organizations soliciting public engagement, (2) the rationales that guide the organizations in their public-related work (3) the challenges in getting the public engaged and (4) the organizations’ best practices for engaging with the public. To learn more about this project and to read the white paper, click here.

 

Political Communication Strategies of Privacy Advocates Post-Snowden:

For years, privacy advocates had been speculating about a possible “Privacy Chernobyl” – a major scandal that would put the issue of surveillance on the global agenda and create a mass social movement against privacy intrusions committed by governments and corporations. In the summer of 2013, this speculation became reality. Edward Snowden’s leaked documents detailing the mass surveillance activities conducted by the National Security Agency and its international partners caused – to stick to the nuclear disaster analogy – a temporary meltdown of public trust by citizens around the world. The series is based on research by Till Waescher on the political communication tactics of the global privacy community for which he conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with activists from 14 countries. To see the full series, click here.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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