The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in João Pessoa, Brazil, from 10 to 13 November 2015. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> Typically workshops start 10 or 15 minutes late, but we may not have that luxury because there is a European Commission workshop right after this, so they may insist exactly at 2:30 for us to leave this room which is understandable.
Okay. So some of you may know about what Internet Social Forum is. My name is Parminder from IT for Change, but here I'm talking as a representation of a larger coalition of a lot of (?) and a lot of people who are engaged with this Internet Social Forum. Some of you may have heard of this initiative, some of you may have not. Let me describe. It will take two minutes, and then a couple of us will speak about what they think about this initiative and why it's necessary. And then we will take questions. The questions we can do quickly before we're thrown out of this room.
We have the initial call which I distributed, but some of you have come later. They can pick up this call to the Internet Social Forum here, and there is also another manifesto kind of document which is out there. Plus we are circulating a sheet, so put your emails there if you're interested to be engaged with this initiative. Or write to ISF, InternetSocialForum.net. This ID -- if you write to this ID, you will get a response. So (?) I take IGF for an initiative. We have to talk in some kind of a constrained manner, talking to businesses and governments and all this stuff, and then it becomes a kind of a different animal talking to these powerful places in these constraints. So we do need a space which is civil society only, where we can radicalize ourselves, make agendas which are coming from public interest, which really look forward to the interest of the people and marginalized, and can do it in an unconstructed manner. And that's what Internet Social Forum is supposed to be. Then when we meet (?) agendas, we can come and see this is what it is.
We can also negotiate, but before negotiating with other big interest, we need to be able to speak about what our agendas are. So Internet Social Forum is supposed to be that kind of a space. But also a little more because we take Internet Social Forum, Internet Social Forum is a thematic Forum of the World Social Forum which I think all of you would know is the name global assembly of progressive forces against powers, excesses. You can go to the Social Forums website and see it. The Internet social Forum is a thematic social forum. This is civil society place only, civil society space, but also a progressive civil society. We are not putting up many barriers, but there is a Social Forum charter that says this is what we believe and anybody who goes by that charter is welcome to be in the Internet Social Forum.
Lastly, we are hoping to hold this forum next year, sometime toward the end of the year. There are two groups, one is in Turkey and the other is in India, and we'll decide in a month where will it be held. Lastly, we also want this particular space to have a dialect between progressive techies and social justice groups to perhaps ‑‑ I talked to a lot of them. Both have similar kind of interests in mind, but work differently, and bring them together to shape possibly a people's movement in this area which is usually likely everybody understands Internet is a very strong social force, but there is no people's group movement or some people's engagement with it, and that's what we're trying to shape through this Social Forum. Your solutions are welcome, and we welcome you to engage online as well.
Next we have ‑‑ comes from the Freedom Law Center in the U.S. and India who is also part of this initiative to tell us what she thinks of and why she thinks it's necessary. And then two other speakers will do the same
>> Thank you, Parminder. As Parminder said, I come from the Law for Freedom Law Center. My main job in the U.S. is to represent the leading free and open source movements that glues the Apache Software Foundation and everyone else who makes the infrastructure of the net with which the data miners run their businesses or any other one -- any other person runs the business on Internet. And the Governance Forum is great. There are many people I meet and learn, but I also see in India where we do the civil societies work through our organization called SFLC.in and work on issues of digital liberties. What we see in my work, because it is sometimes of the business side and sometimes the civil society side, comments are, of course, organized because the infrastructure is such. Every democratically elected government or non-democratically elected government, they have infrastructure. They do what they do. And they are (?) they meet at. They discuss, they have large armies of people at their disposal, and they discuss and then then they make policy. And then there is business. Business has a lot of resource, and then they fly to many meetings, they get together and come up with coalitions and talk among each other and to each other and at each other. But they present a very well‑prepared and unified way of thinking, even if their differences may be different at times. And when I'm negotiating all of these things, then I do see a lot of talk about multistakeholderism and ideas which look very good on paper, but in practice I don't understand them.
I do think it's always money and power. And government is power and business is money. And once the fat cats have made the deal and then at 4:00 they call civil society for tea and pictures so they can look good. So that's why I feel there is a need for the civil society itself to realize that how much power it has, the majority and there is power in numbers. And the cross section of people who are now being impacted, we seem to be talking all here with people who have invested time, resources, financial or otherwise into doing these issues for a very long time, but not really talking to the other grassroots level movements who have been doing these things in the offline space for a long period of time. The women's rights movement, the free and open source software guys, the climate change guys, it's about nuclear disarmament, and all these groups are now trying to use the change, the Internet, and various empowerment tools which it provides to organize themselves to exercise free speech and expression, the freedom to organize, but they feel left out from that debate, and they're equally or probably a more crucial part of all these questions.
This time around there is a lot of discussion about violence against women or online hate speech or intimidation, and this is not just restricted to people who work in this space. These are the other people who are using the tools and who now understand that there are so many different ways of getting democratized, and Internet enables it. And I think there is a requirement without the constraints of who we are, what we are, and how are we being perceived or what is the government going to think or the industries are going to think about or what.
It's like having your own space. Like me calling my friends to have a party and discuss, and feel free to talk to them about things which I don't understand and what they think. And just a space where all of us get together, bring skill sets, what we have, and also get other organizations and other sorts of people to become a part of it. I don't think we will ever win any battle unless we have the majority of people on our side.
And it's not just about battles or wars or any such human rights issues. It cannot be done without having the majority, the democracy, and the demos which make people in countries possible without them being empowered. In India we've learned a lot in the Save the Internet campaign which you all have watched about, neutrality, zero‑rating, free speech and expression campaign, which is mostly about people to be able to talk on platforms like Facebook and Google, and conversations about privacy and various other conversations coming up, and those ‑‑ and I feel the more the number of people join the conversation, the better our chances to become a success. It's all the movie stars, it's all the students, it's all the John Oliver’s and comics and housewives and all the businessmen. It's my father who has now become very empowered by using a tablet and has opinions. And also my little cousin who is 8, but is now learning to program in TiCon, and all these people coming together and talking to each other and those that don't even understand technology but be able to ask free questions.
For us to come together and discuss and feel free to reach out, and that's only civil society and we realize our own powers. I feel passionate to have a cross section of people getting together, talking about it, and then realizing what we can do, and then using the same power in various forums we go to and be able to be as well prepared as any business or any government is. And also have the right and trust in our heart, which we already do, so it's only about getting organized and having a space for us. And that's why I invite all of you to join the discussion and be there and be there in a very free way. Thank you
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: Thank you. We are already at half the time now, and, as she said, it's about people's power. And I would change the process now. I would ask you guys to either ask questions, if you want to know anything more about this process, or give comments on what kind of Internet Social Forum you want, you want to see, and how would you like to participate. So I'll just open it up. And I will ask the other two speakers to respond to those questions and not speak separately. In between we can again come back to the panel. So please come up with your questions or your suggestions and comments about this. And please do it quickly. This is not this shy Internet governance base, this is the activist social forum. Gather and speak, please.
>> AUDIENCE: You want to contribute? You want to ask a question? Please, go ahead.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, Becky Lentz from McGill University in Montreal. I was wondering, Parminder, you mentioned the two places you were thinking about scheduling, and I was wondering if there was a way to do something at the World Social Forum next August in Montreal. Sorry. I should add the Social Forum collective is including technology and autonomous media and social media as part of the programming, so it's quite exciting as a forum.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: Meanwhile the email ID and the website are here, so we don't lose the link, even if we quickly have to disappear from this place because we will be thrown out soon. Please note it down for keeping in touch, but please go ahead.
>> I think as we think of the questions to ask, I want to take half a minute and just give a bit of a view of why I think this is very important. Yes, we are meant to be in this place and meant to have balanced views when we come to this Forum which makes recommendation, so it means that we are meant to have negotiated positions when we come to this Forum so that all stakeholders come out with something. But then I want to pose a question. Fundamental human rights, things that are negotiable, so this is the question we want to ask, so as we even talk of this negotiated and balanced views of, you know, we have that question. Then we look at rights of expression and opinion, whether maybe a question of rights being enforced like copyright. Is it enforcement or censorship? Key questions. Then even as we talk about stakeholders and what is the norm and now have it embedded in law, I feel like it reaches the Supreme Court, and they have to define and point to a clear question as to whether the justices in that court to define who is the stakeholder. I'm yet to be educated to be given a definition of a multistakeholder which is concise and clear like a democracy is. These are some of the things I worry about as we continue in certain places and embed them into systems. So maybe we can carry on the conversation. Thank you.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: I'm told there was a question directed at me. I was going to ask someone that could participate. If there is a question, please, somebody repeat it. Did somebody ask something? I'm sorry.
>> AUDIENCE: I was just trying to understand the local question because I know that there is a very exciting opportunity, at least in North America with the World Social Forum coming to Montreal next August. And we talked about the possibility of there being some presence at the World Social Forum, and even though I know you have other venues or places for what you're thinking about, but I thought I would put it on the table for consideration.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: We would certainly have some kind of event at the World Social Forum as well. But the idea still is to organize the Internet Social Forum outside. You know to hold this kind of a forum, you need a large amounted of grassroots presence. Generally money is scarce and you have to have volunteers to do much of the work. We need to find a place where there is a huge number of people ready to take it up. Not that we have found it, but that's the concentration that will determine the final venue. At the World Social Forum we will have an Internet Social Forum activity, the shape we are still trying to figure out.
Question? Speak. Don't even ask.
>> AUDIENCE: Parminder, I was wondering if you could comment on the email that was circulated in response to this workshop. I don't quite understand it.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: What did you say?
>> AUDIENCE: In response to this workshop, an email was circulated that was critical. I didn't quite understand. There was someone new to the space, so if you could contextualize it.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: An email here? There were at least 20 emails in the last one year, I can give you the names of all of those. There is 6 minutes left and you want me to talk about that email -- would be a little difficult.
>> AUDIENCE: It's been a very exciting initiative. I was wondering, so we have a lot of forums to discuss things. This forum biases toward certain stakeholders and doing something larger, more democratic in the global south would be great, but I was wondering if besides yet just another talking shop, is there is any sort of concrete demands one could make? For example, currently, ICANN will have no oversight. What would you want? Is there any kind of actual program you could imagine that would come from the Internet Social Forum that would have social movements behind it?
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: You know, this finally is the idea of people who are oppressed, and anybody who is trying to represent them is to make actual real change. They're not interested in talk, but how these things happen is that you build up and an agenda and then a movement. And you know what to do and do it. And then come at it. Exactly those kind of things have to be done. But as I see it, there are a lot of people dealing with small spaces, dealing in a limited manner, but they don't combine their strength, and the overhanging thinking and set of ideas, even a manifesto. Yeah. You're right a People's Internet Manifesto is one of the things we thought we should get out of this thing. When I meet people, everyone thinks you need to do something about it. We need to do something about it. Something is missing. This Forum is very wide. We definitely know something is in that direction, a progressive direction, social change, and I see it as strong forces.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. Following up on this question, I'm wondering if the already plans are or at least a vision of how to articulate the Social Forum with all the gathering of settings and maybe more precisely what is exactly the objective, trying to channel more social or more activist vision of the Internet and the Internet Governance to the IGF or trying ‑‑ this is not mutually exclusive -- trying to channel all the issues related to Internet and the Internet Governance to the World Social Forum as a big gathering. So what would be ‑‑ what is the vision exactly?
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: Even a Social Forum, for example, there are thematic actions on water rights. Others are doing indigenous issues. All of those issues finally go to the relevant places where changes can be made, could be a national law, could be a UN body. So this place does not predefine the space where they would try to make change. It develops an agenda and it expects that it is to be built, and doing it, all the possible venues, and of course we want a lot of discussion takes place. So make our agenda, create our strength, and also do come to IGF for that.
>> AUDIENCE: If I may quickly add my thoughts on that. I believe there is a lacking of vision, objectives to ensure that the Internet is based on human rights. It's an Internet, a human rights Internet. It's a foundation, like it's the one that facilitates and empowers themes and makes sure it's idealized more than anything else. I think being that all the people are in this space of social movement of human rights, so that's really tied to the Internet. That's my belief.
>> AUDIENCE: I just want to say that I'm glad to see (inaudible) I'm part of a group from Brazil that discuss human rights, and one of the questions we face is just the need to share information and articulate actions with other movements in a meta level. So but I have to agree with the questions, with the procedure of the forum with the actions. So I don't know, I will submit it to my group, they may be able to contact. And we'd like to contribute, but we need to know effectively, what do you do, and the construction of an agenda in the future.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: The good news and bad news is one here, we don't have any money. So we can't take lead in that sense. And the good news is that nobody can therefore take the lead, and we're just going to build it among the people. And so it's an open thing. And you know the reason we went to the Social Forum is there is no doubt about the process and history. We are -- we have a history and process. If we have a doubt, look at what the World Social Forum and other thematic bodies have done. They have openness. And then the confusion about the process is, you know, (Inaudible). So if somebody can come and tell us, no, you are not doing it the way the World Social Forum does. Yeah. We are accountable for that. You join, you say, no, this is what we want to do. We want to be on the committee which is discussing things and we want to contribute this particular thing. Those things are really, really open. IGF you have to say two or three times really, really, really before we say open because otherwise it seems that everything is open. So this is really open, and we stand very accountable for that. So again, it's like 16 seconds left. I would probably take 1 more minute. I'm going to give it. But I'm afraid the link should not be lost with the people that have come with interest, I circulated a paper, but we may not be able to take the names. If you want to talk to us, please write down this address and try to send the email right now or today because otherwise it just falls off your whatever, notes or your mind. So please write it today and then come back to you immediately. Valentina?
>> Okay. I just want to say. There is a need for a space where civil society can plan and think and strategize and that's to be safe. I think that we hesitate because, as you say, there is a lot of work. There is a lot of resource, and we have very much a disperse -- then the platform that can probably help us to talk will be a platform that also monitor it. But I'm afraid, you know, it's strange that we lose it and are scared to do something new. The Internet will run. The companies will make decisions. But there is a conversation that we have to have. And at the grassroots level maybe everyone in a local level. People know what they need or what they want. It is not true that people do not understand technology. If someone would want to make it complicated is just a strategy for this. And I think it's really important to see what the Internet Social Forum can mean to each and every one. It's a difficult challenge. There is also many social forums, and so many, I think, it's really important to do cross‑movement building. Organizations are more realizing, putting on the agenda and constructing an Internet information society strictly connected of the --I think each of us should refer to his or her own movement back home and try to see how we can start to build some link, but we need the conversation in a safe space that is not constantly hindered by all the others that have a stronger voice.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: Really quickly, I think that's the point. And the good thing about the Internet is that the Internet is a cross‑cutting matter area that intersects with practically every area, and all these areas, the gender, women's rights movement, right to information movement. Everybody's getting interested in this area, so we should draw our inspiration and resources and ideas from these and see how they can be put together into this Internet Social Forum kind of a space. As I said the challenge is huge, but we have taken it upon ourselves that we will do it. If it has meaning, it will succeed. If it isn't, it won't. But the idea is to have it next year, and we ask you all to cooperate and give us ideas now and come and attend it later on.
>> AUDIENCE: My name is (inaudible). My opinion is the Internet Social Forum is necessary. I believe it's necessary for people on the Internet because it's necessary to take an organization of civil society. I think in a civil society organization in social movement network and the public could be engaging in (inaudible) a new Internet governance model because for me, in my opinion, in this day, the Internet governance, the people must see that the governance on the Internet now is more political of Internet than Internet governance. I think it's necessary to organize one forum, a real forum for the civil society. And this day have a more representative person of the organization like Facebook or Google than members of the real civil society.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: Thank you. So we are just done. Some of us will be available for the next 15 or 20 minutes just outside the door if somebody wants to talk to us or knows something about the initiative. Otherwise, please do write to us, and don't be too disheartened because as I said, there is no money. There is a commitment and we will have an Internet Social Forum next year, and you will learn about it soon. We expect to hear from you as well. Thank you so much for coming over here.
>> Our apologies for limited time. We know there are issues, but we are over time.
>> PARMINDER JEET SINGH: We got half an hour. Anybody who wants to say anything in just like one minute? Anybody wants to put in a word? A question? No? Everybody is happy? So, okay. Thanks.
(Session ended 1444)