FPI’s Demba Kandeh to Speak on ‘Newest Trends on Censorship, Surveillance and Activism’ at 2017 RightsCon

29 Mar

He will talk about The Gambia’s case of protests, internet shutdowns and the eventual change in power (Photo Credit: M.S.Joof/FPI/December 2012)

By Modou S. Joof

Front Page International’s editor-in-chief, Demba Kandeh, is among seven renowned speakers at the 2017 RightsCon to be held in the Belgian capital, Brussels from 29-31 March.

Kandeh will be teaming up with speakers from Freedom House, Paradigm Initiative, Facebook, and Digital Rights Foundation at the Crowne Plaza in Brussels where discussions will focus on the “newest trends in censorship, surveillance, and activism.”

“So much has happened in The Gambia over the past year. I will talk about the protests against the government, internet shutdowns in advance of the 2016 elections, and the eventual change in power,” Kandeh, a journalist and researcher told FPI on Tuesday.

He will also speak on which websites and apps were most censored and why? And what role did the internet and online activism play in the change in Gambia?

“I will also describe what needs to happen to ensure that repression, shutdowns, and internet censorship are not sustained under the new administration, and how net freedom and free expression activists groups like FPI can possibly be part of that,” Kandeh, also a contributor to Global Voices Online, said.

Organised by US-based Freedom House and hosted by Access Now, this session is framed around the key findings from Freedom House’s “Freedom on the Net 2016” report.

That report in which, FPI’s work has been cited on press freedom and free expression in The Gambia, systematically evaluates internet freedom globally.

According to Freedom House, notable developments from 2016 include unprecedented restrictions on messaging apps, dramatic increase in arrests of social media users, growing diversity of topics censored, and the use of security measures to suppress free speech and privacy.

“The report also identified growing activism on internet freedom and successful use of ICTs to promote positive change,” the agency said.

The 2017 RightsCon will also discuss what impact has the decline in internet freedom—including surveillance, censorship, and attacks—has had for user trust and ability to organize? And what can civil society learn from successful examples of activism from the past year and how can they be replicated?

Create tomorrow’s internet

The RightsCon summit series are where the world’s human rights experts, business leaders, technologists, engineers, investors, activists, and government representatives come together to share ideas, build strategies, showcase new technologies, and create tomorrow’s internet.

“It is an energizing reminder of the existence of a powerful global digital rights community that is determined to defend human rights and keep the internet open and free,” the organizers said.

Convened in locations that are power centers for the internet, RightsCon alternates each year between Silicon Valley and a globally rotating regional event.

FPI understands that the conference programming is shaped by the participants, with an explicit focus on driving to the outcomes they define.

“Our goal is to ensure that the RightsCon community affects real and positive change in the world. This year, we will have more than 250 community-led, groundbreaking sessions,” Freedom House said.

Hosting history

The first RightsCon took place in Silicon Valley in 2011, and the second, regionally focused conference in Rio in 2012. Both events were sold out, with more than 400 opinion leaders from across the sector and the world attending.

In 2014, we headed back to Silicon Valley, and for the first time, opened up conference programming to the experts: our participants. The product was a stellar program which featured 120 distinct sessions over a period of three days.

In 2015, we held RightsCon in Manila, showcasing the remarkable work being done in the region. You can check out highlights from the Southeast Asia conference here.

RightsCon Silicon Valley 2016 took place on Wednesday, March 30 to Friday, April 1, 2016 at Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco, hosting over 1100 participants from 500+ organizations and 84 countries.

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