Meeting Report from the IGF 2013

The Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media on the Internet (‘Dynamic Coalition’) ran two events at the 2013 Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia: its formal annual meeting which took place on Day 0, Monday 21 October from 1600 to 1800; and then an ad hoc (but no less valuable) session during on Thursday 24 October.

The first, formal, meeting on Monday was well-attended, with around 50 people present in the audience and a fairly equal gender split as well as audience members from various parts of the world and different stakeholder groups. There were three presentations: Andrew Puddephat (Global Partners Digital) who spoke about challenges and opportunities for the democratisation of free expression brought about by the Internet and an assessment of the current climate; Xianhong Hu (UNESCO) who spoke about UNESCO’s work in promoting online freedoms; and Sarah Clarke (PEN International) who spoke about the impact of global surveillance on writers and journalists. Their presentations were followed by a comments and general discussion from the audience. Many thanks to the speakers for their contributions and to the audience for their participation. This meeting was also live tweeted using the hashtag #DCexp2013.

The second meeting on Thursday was less well-attended but what was lacked in numbers was made up for in substance. The meeting concerned the recent European Court of Human Rights decision in Delfi v Estonia regarding online intermediary liability for defamatory comments posted by users. We were honoured to have the attorney representing Delfi, Karmen Turk (who is also a coordinator of this coalition), with us and her discussants were Michael Harris from Index on Censorship, and John Kampfner, adviser on free expression to Google among other activities. There was a lively and engaging discussion from the floor as well. Apologies to anyone who tried to remotely participate, due to circumstances beyond our control it did not work properly for that event.

A smaller group engaged in discussion subsequent to the Thursday meeting regarding next steps for the Coalition. This consisted of acknowledging the progress that the coalition has made by relaunching itself through organising these events since it did not organise any events at IGF 2012, and we discussed what could be done to increase momentum, particularly via the mailing list between IGFs.

The Dynamic Coalition was pleased to welcome some new members this year including the Centre for Communications Governance at National Law University (Delhi), Electronic Frontiers Australia, PEN International and the Software Freedom Law Centre India (SFLC-IN).

The Dynamic Coalition’s current coordinators are Angela Daly, Karmen Turk and Ben Wagner.

A Twitter account was recently set up for the Dynamic Coalition, @DC_expression, to increase its profile. The website remains and mailing list is

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Guest speakers for the 2013 meeting

We are pleased to announce that we will have three guest speakers making presentations at the 2013 Dynamic Coalition meeting at the IGF in Bali.


The speakers are:

Xianhong Hu, UNESCO

Andrew Puddephatt, Global Partners Digital

Sarah Clarke, PEN International

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Call for Expressions of Interest for the 2013 IGF meeting – ‘Global Perspectives on Online Free Expression’

The Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media on the  nternet will be meeting at the 2013 Internet Governance Forum on Monday 21 October (Day 0 of the proceedings) from 1600 to 1800 in room Uluwatu 5 at the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.

The call is now open for expressions of interest from stakeholders for participation in the event. The format will be a few (maximum 3) presentations on the theme ‘Global Perspectives on Online Free Expression’ followed by general discussion and debate involving all participants.

For those unable to make the event and/or who want to contribute something of greater substance, we are also planning to issue a written report soon after the meeting in Bali containing details of the meeting itself as well as written contributions on aspects of the theme of the meeting from different stakeholders.

Please contact the organiser, Angela Daly if you:
1. want to participate generally in the meeting on 20 Oct;
2. want to participate by giving a short presentation at the meeting on 20 Oct;
3. want to contribute a written piece on ‘global perspectives on online free expression’ to the report which will be issued soon after the meeting,
or with any other questions.
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2013 meeting in Bali

Rest assured that we are planning the 2013 meeting of the Dynamic Coalition at this year’s IGF in Bali. Watch this space for more details in the very near future.

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Nairobi Meeting Agenda

Internet Governance Forum 2011 in Nairobi

Freedom of Expression Online Dynamic Coalition

Wednesday (28.9) from 16:30 – 18:00 – UNON Nairobi – Workshop Room 1 – (Conference Room #2)

Meeting Agenda

  1. Short introductory round for old and new coalition members
  2. Important recent developments in Free Expression (FoE) Online
    1. Lessons for Internet FoE from the Arab Spring
    2. La Rue Report and Bildt declaration
    3. Joint declaration of four rapporteurs on online freedom of speech
  3. Guest speakers: Developing multistakeholder dialog on key FOE issues
    1. Lee Hibbart, Council of Europe: Erosion of FoE on the Internet
    2. Antti Peltomaki (tbc), DG INFSO: The EC position on ICANN
    3. Johan Hallenborg, Swedish Foreign Ministry: La Rue Report
    4. Michael Rotert, German Internet Associationn (eco)
  4. Developing the coalition agenda on important FoE issues
    1. Protecting HRDs defending FoE
    2. Protecting IP retricting FoE
    3. Liability laws limiting FoE
    4. Exploring Children’s rights to FoE
  5. Next steps of the coalition until the IGF 2012
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FoE Online Dynamic Coalition Progress Report: April 2011

FoE Online Dynamic Coalition Progress Report:  April 2011

Vilnius 2010
Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media Dynamic Coalition  (FoE DC) meeting at the 2010 IGF in Vilnius was extremely active and vibrant. A wide variety of new and existing coalition members presented their work on issues connected to freedom of expression. The meeting provided a space to bring debates forward on online free expression and to bring together stakeholders from a wide variety of different sectors and different continents, with civil society, government representatives, academics, corporations and international organisations engaged in the debate. As a result the list of coalition members had to be updated several times to include all of the new members and organisations, the final result of which are the coalition members listed here:

Separately an extended report of dynamic coalition meeting 2010 can be found here:

After the Vilnius IGF 2010
During 2008 and 2009 the Coalition went through an extended phase of restructuring in which various different coalition members were extremely active but relatively limited amounts of collaboration happened within the coalition itself. This changed in 2010 and was particularly noticeable after the Dynamic Coalition Meeting in Vilnius. Immediately after the meeting regular coalition meetings were organised and coalition members began working together on various joint projects related to Freedom of Expression.

Joint Statements
During the autumn the Coalition also authored, co-authored or contributed to several joint coalition statements. These statements were made in response to requests for comment at an international level where there coalition wishes to respond as a whole group rather than as individual members or organisations.

Comments on the ICANN Proposed Final Version of the Applicant Guidebook: and

Several coalition submissions to EU Consultation on on the future of electronic commerce:

Organisational Dimensions
Following the IGF in Vilnius in 2010 Lisa Horner from Global Partners and Associates decided to focus her attention on the Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition. Since then Ben Wagner from European University Institute in Florence has coordinated the FoE DC with extensive support from a group of particularly active coalition members which includes:  Kim Pham from ExpressionTech, Dixie Hawtin from Global Partners and Associates, Karmen Turk from the University of Tartu, Roman Woznik from the Association of the German Internet Industry eco,  Walid Al-Saqaf from alkasir and Gry Hasselbalch from Denmark.

Towards the Nairobi IGF 2011
The coalition requests confirmation of a slot in the program for the dynamic coalition meeting at the IGF 2011 in Nairobi. As the FoE Coalition is becoming increasingly dynamic the meeting in Nairobi constitutes an important step towards consolidating existing activity within the coalition as well as gain new members and moments for further collaboration in 2011.

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Comments on the ICANN Proposed Final Version of the Applicant Guidebook

The FoE Dynamic Coalition has just published comments on the Proposed Final Applicant Guidebook for new gTLDs. The statement which was drafted by Milton Mueller and reads as follows:

Comments on the ICANN Proposed Final Version of the Applicant Guidebook

As the multistakeholder Dynamic Coalition for Freedom of Expression , developed from the Internet Governance Forum, we wish to comment on Section 3.4.3 of the Proposed Final Version of the Applicant Guidebook.

Domain names are a form of expression on the Internet and have been recognized as such by various court jurisdictions.[1] Moreover, censorship or suspension of domain names is often triggered by the content on websites, therefore we anticipate a risk that objections to new top level domains may often be motivated by an attempt to suppress or restrict certain forms of controversial or diverse expression.

Freedom of expression is well recognized as a fundamental human right. The leading instruments are the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCRP). Article 19 of the UDHR, which is considered customary international laws and applies to all countries states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Under international standards as set by the UN Human Rights Committee, any limitations on freedom of expression must satisfy that the interference is provided in law and is clear and accessible, the interference must pursue a legitimate aim as set out under Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, and the restrictions must be necessary and proportionate.[2]

Objecting to a TLD string on the grounds of its meaning, or the content that one expects to be associated with the domain, constitutes a form of prior restraint on expression. Because the scope of ICANN’s jurisdiction over the domain name system is global, ICANN’s TLD objection processes constitute a precedent-setting form of global content regulation. Given a well-recognized international right to freedom of expression, the criteria used to suppress TLDs must be very narrowly circumscribed and the authority must be used sparingly. Only those TLD strings that clearly violate well-established international laws should be blocked under this provision.

Section 3.4.3, currently titled “Limited Public Interest Objection,” allow various parties to object to the creation of a new top level domain because “the applied-for gTLD string is contrary to general principles of international law for morality and public order.”

We believe that the current version of the AG does not sufficiently respect legitimate free expression rights. We encourage ICANN’s board and staff to make appropriate modifications in the final applicant guidebook. We have the following concerns and propose a number of specific modifications.

1.    The title should be changed to “Objections based on general principles of international law.” The term “public interest” is too broad and ill-defined, and lacks any firm basis in international law. Labeling the class of objection “public interest” encourages parties to object to forms of expression that they dislike or disapprove of, regardless of their status under defined international law. We note that a cross-community working group that included governments (GAC), business/civil society domain name users and suppliers (GNSO) and internet users (ALAC) decisively rejected the term “public interest” as a label for this category of objection precisely for this reason. We ask ICANN staff to re-label this class of objection.

2.    We note that numerous governments objected to inclusion of the terms “morality and public order” as the basis for these objections. They noted, correctly, that there is no global standard for morality and public order, as different cultures and communities have radically different standards. Here again, established international legal agreements are the more appropriate standard to cite rather than “morality and public order.” We ask that the term “morality and public order” be stricken from the text. E.g., on p. 3-18 staff should replace “contrary to generally accepted legal norms relating to morality and public order that are recognized under principles of international law” with “contrary to generally accepted principles of international law.”

3.    The decision to censor a top level domain should not be outsourced to a private “dispute resolution service provider” as proposed in the Module 3 attachment. While we recognize the need for expert advice, we believe that there should be clear lines of accountability for any decision to suppress expression and that the ICANN board should make the decision directly. We are concerned about the long term implications of outsourcing such decisions to private DRSPs, who will tend to view dispute resolution as a revenue stream and thus develop an incentive to encourage and facilitate objections. We are also concerned about the lack of accountability inherent in the use of a revolving panel of experts selected by a subcontractor of ICANN. If the decisions are consistently wrong, what recourse do applicants or free speech advocates have?

4.    Should there be a DRSP, we believe that it is entirely inappropriate for the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to serve as the authority selecting experts for disputes involving basic human rights such as freedom of expression. The ICC’s International Centre for Expertise is a money-making service offered by a business advocacy group. It has no specific expertise or track record on freedom of expression issues. We object strongly to the prospect of the human right to communicate being adjudicated by this group. Various alternatives to the ICC were suggested during the cross-community working group deliberations.

5.    We are also deeply concerned about the “Independent Objector” proposal. The Independent Objector seems to allow objections to be made on an anonymous and unaccountable basis. We believe that the burden of proof should always be on objectors to prove that a proposed top level domain name is illegal; the default should be to allow diverse and even controversial forms of expression. The existence of an Independent Objector seems to encourage parties to make objections secretly and at no cost, which reverses the proper burden of proof.

[1]  In the U.S., see The Taubman Company v. Webfeats, et al. 319 F.3d 770 (6th Cir., February 7, 2003), which stated “The rooftops of our past have evolved into the internet domain names of our present.  We find that the domain name is a type of public expression, no different in scope than a billboard or a pulpit, and Mishkoff has a First Amendment right to express his opinion about Taubman, and as long as his speech is not commercially misleading, the Lanham Act cannot be summoned to prevent it.” In Canada, (January 2001), a British Columbia court stated that “when a Web site is used for expression in a labour relations dispute, as opposed to commercial competition, there is… a reasonable balance that must be struck between the legitimate protection of a party’s intellectual property and… [freedom] of expression.” See also Article 19’s analysis of the relationship between domain name regulations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

[2] Para.3 of General comment 10 on Article 19 of the ICCPR., Human Rights Committee, (Nineteenth session, 1983), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations, Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 11 (1994).

The Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media on the Internet, Internet Governance Forum.


– Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media on the Internet
– Internews International
– Article 19
– Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
– Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines)
– Milton Mueller, Syracuse University
– Ben Wagner, European University Institute
– Dixie Hawtin, Global Partners
– Walid Al-Saqaf,
– Rebecca MacKinnon, New America Foundation
– Lisa Horner, Global Partners
– Kim Pham, Co-Founder
– Wolfgang Benedek, University of Graz
– Karmen Turk, University of Tartu
– Pranesh Prakash, Centre for Internet and Society

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