SAFEnet at RightsCon 2021 Online

For the last decade, RightsCon has served as a forum for activists, civil society, and international stakeholders to gather around critical issues, questions, and possibilities that lay at the intersection of technology and human rights. 

RightsCon 2021 is taking place online from June 7th to 11th. This year, we continue to build on our history of participating in this space as a speaker, facilitator, and attendees. 


June 9, 2021
8:45am – 9:45am

Online freedom under attack: weaponizing misinformation, disinformation, and “fake news” for censorship in Southeast Asia

Rising digital dictatorship in Southeast Asia has led to a crackdown against netizens in the digital space. As a way to silence dissenting voices, coordinated efforts have been used to attack netizens using false information and narratives. Legislations in countries of Southeast Asia are also being weaponized to punish netizens with false accusations of spreading disinformation, misinformation or ‘fake news’, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. With freedom on the internet under attack in this manner, join leading grassroot voices working on the ground in Southeast Asia as they highlight the ‘chilling’ effect of disinformation in ASEAN’s digital space, the contribution of governments and the private sector to this censorship, while providing solutions to restore democracy online in the RightsCon Session on Online Freedom under attack: Weaponizing misinformation, disinformation and ‘fake news’ for censorship in Southeast.

Host institution: ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship; ALTSEAN-Burma; Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR); Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM); Manushya Foundation; PEN International; Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet); Access Now


Debbie Stothard
Founder & Coordinator, ALTSEAN Burma

Emilie Pradichit
Founder and Executive Director, Manushya Foundation

Sopheap Chak
Executive Director, Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)

Damar Juniarto
Executive Director, SAFEnet

Dr Ma Thida
Prominent Woman Human Rights Defender from Myanmar & Board Member, PEN International

Dhevy Sivaprakasam
Asia Pacific Policy Counsel, Access Now

Blandina Lintang Setianti
Researcher, ELSAM


June 10, 2021
6:15pm – 7:15pm

The impact of strategic litigation on internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns have dramatically increased over the past five years. Since 2016, the #KeepItOn coalition — more than 220 organizations from 99 countries around the world — has been fighting internet shutdowns with all kinds of creative approaches, including legal intervention. Shutdowns are justified by governments on the grounds of national security, most often in the context of elections or to repress demonstrations. Through TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s pro bono connection service, organizations fighting against internet shutdowns are provided with free legal assistance through the facilitation of legal research. As of December 2019, Access Now had recorded 19 legal challenges in 12 countries and noticed victories are also increasing, with a majority of victories being based on procedural grounds. However, some strategic litigation tactics have proven successful because of legal creativity that aims to ascertain internet shutdowns are a violation of fundamental rights.

The overall objective of this session will be to showcase either underreported or very recent strategic litigation work. When applicable, these legal tactics could be replicated in different regions, especially when regional human rights instruments protect the right to internet access and other applicable rights. We particularly welcome hearing about best practices from neighboring countries. We want to hear from participants and speakers who have participated in such work, especially from solo practitioners and local civil society organizations who are always at the forefront of this fight.

Host institution: Access Now; Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF); Thomson Reuters Foundation

Toby Mendel
Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy

Mercy Sumbi
Lawyer, Bloggers Association of Kenya

Damar Juniarto
Executive Director, SAFEnet

Vrinda Bhandari
Of Counsel, Internet Freedom Foundation

Fiona Li
Programme Officer, APAC, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Nanditha Komaravolu
Legal Officer, South Asia, Thomson Reuters Foundation