SAFEnet Participates in 17th IGF in Addis Ababa

The two posters measuring about 0.5 square meters on the wall of the SAFEnet booth seemed to be a battlefield. Every visitor who comes will stick an emoji sticker according to their views. Some stick to the love emoji. Usually they are government staff. Then, other visitors then closed it with an angry emoji. They are usually residents or representatives of civil society organizations.

Thus, the two posters taped to the white wooden plank wall became the scene of an “emoji war”. During the five days of the 17th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Annual Meeting, the hundreds of emojis not only decorated the walls of the SAFEnet booth, but also showed how the Internet is also a contested field for various interests: government, civil society, businessmen, academics, human rights defenders, and others.

This is the reason why the IGF Annual Meeting is relevant when it comes to the Internet. IGF is a space where these various interests meet, discuss, and perhaps agree on an Internet governance that is more just, balanced, and respects human rights (HAM).

This year, SAFEnet again participated in the IGF which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 28 November 2022 – 2 December 2022. For five days, the SAFEnet team consisting of the Head of the Digital At-Risk Sub-Division (DARK) Ellen Kusuma, Head of the Freedom of Expression Division Nenden Sekar Arum, and SAFEnet Secretary Anton Muhajir fully follow IGF event. There are exhibitions at IGF Village, speakers, or just participants in several sessions.

Ellen Kusuma, for example, spoke about the issue of online gender-based violence (OGBV) for a session titled “Harass Me Not” organized by with speakers from the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP). In this session, SAFEnet shares about managing support services for victims of OGBV in Indonesia, along with its good practices and challenges.

This session can be watched again on YouTube.

SAFEnet also spoke at the Best Practice Forum session on Gender and Digital Rights. In this session, Ellen raised the issue of the digital forensic process in legal procedures which is prone to violating the privacy of victims, and encouraged stakeholders such as digital platforms and the technical community to be able to respond to this.

Apart from going through the two sessions, SAFEnet also introduced the institution and its programs through a booth at the IGF Village. SAFEnet displays organizational profiles, distributes publications in the form of annual reports and digital rights situation reports, as well as publications related to OGBV. SAFEnet also put up interactive posters as a simple survey inviting visitors to express their opinion regarding the condition of internet freedom in their country.

There are two posters for this survey with five different questions, namely:

    1. How is your country’s Internet freedom?
    2. Internet situation based on:
      ◦ Feel free to express yourself
      ◦ Is it inclusive?
      ◦ Do you feel safe?
      ◦ Women & children protected?

Visitors then answered the five questions with emojis consisting of smile, neutral, angry, crying, confused, happy, disappointed, and laughing.

Interestingly, the poster then becomes a kind of “battlefield” for sticking emoji according to the interests of each filler. The government usually puts on a happy face, while ordinary citizens put on a sad or angry face. This is especially the case for the country map of Ethiopia, the host of this year’s IGF. Apart from Ethiopia, visitors came from various other countries covering five continents, namely Asia, America, Europe, Africa and Australia – Pacific.

Through this interactive activity, SAFEnet not only invites visitors to participate, but also gets an overview of the situation of Internet freedom in various countries. This is because visitors don’t just put stickers on, but they also want to convey further what they feel verbally.

The theme of the 17th IGF Annual Meeting is Resilient Internet for a Safe, Sustainable and Common Future. This theme is divided into five sub-themes, namely Connecting All People and Safeguarding Human Rights; Avoiding Internet Fragmentation; Governing Data and Protecting Privacy; Enabling Safety, Security and Accountability; and Addressing Advanced Technologies, including AI. The theme brought together representatives from the government, civil society organizations, the private sector, academics and others to share experiences and views for better Internet governance.

In general, while participating in IGF 2022, SAFEnet has introduced the SAFEnet organization to a global audience through exhibition booths; campaigning the importance of Internet freedom as part of human rights to exhibition visitors; and exploring opportunities for collaboration with other organizations working on the same issues.