Free flow of information and social networks: a role for democracy and social participation

UNESCO

Workshop 85, IGF in Nairobi 2011

News release "UNESCO triggered debates on social networks for democracy at 6th IGF in Nairobi this week"

The outcome of this workshop feeded into the UNESCO supported main session "Security, Privacy and Openness".

The workshop discussed the important role of social networks in promoting democracy and social participation, and explored how to strengthen this role by fostering free flow of information on Internet.

In recent social movements, social networks have become mass communication tools and vehicles for mobilization. Social appropriation of the Internet is becoming a significant part of democratization processes.

Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are being widely used by activists and citizens to relay information that is not always accessible through traditional Media, and to also bypass censorship.

It seems that the emergence of new technologies has formed a new arena for public debate. The phenomenon also presents a new and innovative way to allocate talent, unite aspirations, spur immediate and mass mobilization, and effect change on a grand scale. Strengthening the link between the Internet and social participation seems a more and more essential condition to ensure the vitality of democracy.
There is a need to reflect further on this phenomenon.

This workshop aimed to examine the important role of social networks in promoting democracy and social participation, and explored how to strengthen this role by fostering free flow of information on Internet. 

Furthermore, the workshop triggered debate on a series of burning issues including:

  • How to reinforce the democratic participation via the social networks?
  • How to strengthen the democratic processes that have occurred in the cyberspace after the crisis and make the transition a participatory process?”
  • How to best protect freedom of expression and free flow of information without compromising other human rights?

The list of speakers

  • Mr Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
  • Mr Amr Gharbeia, Technology and Freedoms Programme Officer, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  • Ms Grace Githaiga, Associate, Kenya ICT Action Network (Kictanet), Kenya
  • Prof Ang Peng Hwa, Chairman of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), Singapore
  • Amb David A. Gross , Partner at Wiley Rein and the Chair of USCIB’s ICT Committee, the U.S
  • Ms Alessandra Pierucci, Directorate General of Human rights and Legal Affairs, the Council of Europe

Moderator:
Mr Jānis Kārkliņš
Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO

Contact

Ms Xianhong Hu
Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development (FEM)
UNESCO
x.hu(at)unesco.org

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