Summary Report: Digital Citizen Summit, 2017 (September 21-22, 2017; New Delhi)

Digital Citizen Summit 2017

The second Digital Citizen Summit was organised on September 21-22, 2017 by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. SFLC.in was an associate partner of the summit.

The summit aimed at finding solutions to bridge the digital divide, ways to ensure access to information, and creating a platform for participants to raise awareness about internet rights, digital literacy, and digital security. The sessions organised during the summit covered the broad themes of access, digital literacy and empowerment, privacy and freedom of expression.

We organised two sessions at the summit and participated as speakers in two others.

Sessions Organised:

  • Session on Internet Shutdowns (September 22nd, 12:00-13:00): This session was co-organised by Digital Empowerment Foundation and SFLC.in. The speakers for the session included Vaishali Verma (Counsel, SFLC.in), Ritu Srivastava (General Manager, Research and Advocacy, Digital Empowerment Foundation) and Sarath MS (Technologist, SFLC.in) with Prasanth Sugathan (Legal Director, SFLC.in) moderating the session.

     

    The session began with Sarath presenting the Internet shutdown tracker maintained by SFLC.in. Highlighting the steep rise in the number of shutdowns since 2012, he added that India has already witnessed 55 shutdowns in 2017, 1.7 times more than in 2016.

    Vaishali Verma began with emphasizing the need for Internet in the present era of digital India. Highlighting the three month long Internet ban in Darjeeling, she shared the experiences of the people including students, businessmen, and the locals, giving an insight into the problems faced by them due to the embargo. She further discussed the new rules for Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services in case of public emergency and public safety, issued by the Department of Telecommunications, and its shortcomings. Lastly, she underlined the economic losses faced by the country due to the Internet shutdowns.

    Ms. Ritu Srivastava dealt with the nature and psychological impact of Internet shutdowns. She gave several instances where Internet shutdowns had profound psychological impact on people of all ages. Finally, discussing about the transparency in the orders imposing shutdowns, Ritu criticised the lack of prior notifications from Internet Service Providers to the users before severing Internet services.

  • Session on Secure Communications (September 22nd, 14:00-15:00)This session was led by Sarath in association with Sukhbir Singh (TOR Developer) and focused on best practices to ensure privacy, security and anonymity in our online activities. Sarath discussed the prevalent state of surveillance in the country and its effect on the freedom of people. He further discussed various tools and applications for mobile phone that allow encrypted communications. He demonstrated one of these applications which provide for secure and encrypted text communications.

     

    Sukhbir elaborated upon the need for secure and private browsing in the surveillance-ridden world. He explained the principle behind the working of TOR browser and its advantages against other methods including VPNs.

Sessions Participated in:

  • Don’t let it stand: How do women deal with online abuse? Curbing the freedom of expression for women in digital spaces (September 21st, 12:00-13:00): This session was co-organised by Internet Democracy Project and Feminism in India. The session focused on the online abuse faced by women and marginalised community, its effect on people, gaps in the existing support systems- both legal and platform-based, and non-legal strategies to combat gender-based online harassment. SFLC.in was represented by Prasanth Sugathan and Vaishali Verma in this session.

     

     

  • Regulating search engines: Competition, free speech and human rights (September 22nd, 14:00-15:00): This session was organised by Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University, Delhi. The panel discussed the regulation of search engines, listing of search results, matters relating to competition amongst search engines in front of Competition Commission of India and the pending litigations in Supreme Court. Prasanth Sugathan from SFLC.in moderated this session.