The Youth IGF Project 2013 kicked off with a three day residential camp in London last week. Five young people from across the UK came together to prepare for the workshop they will be chairing at the Internet Governance Forum about online anonymity.
The IGF is a UN mandated conference, bringing together people from various stakeholder groups to discuss the future of the internet. Young people are a key stakeholder group, but until the Youth IGF Project was founded by Childnet in 2009 they had not been included in these debates.
Last year at the IGF, the youth team chaired a workshop on social media, young people and freedom of expression. The team had several discussions about the practical differences between offline and online communication, and the ability to be anonymous online was identified as a key difference - and something the team wanted to explore further this year.
At the residential camp, the team developed the agenda for their workshop and designed a survey that they will promote globally. Last year, over 800 young people in 40 countries across 6 continents responded to the survey, and we’re looking forward to seeing some more interesting results from this year's survey.
A topical issue
Online anonymity has been in the news a lot over the last few weeks, after the anonymous Q&A site, Ask.fm, faced criticism after a teenager committed suicide amid allegations that she was being bullied on the site.
Twitter faced demands to improve its reporting mechanisms and protection of women, after key female campaigners, politicians and journalists were abused by anonymous users.
At the residential camp last week, the youth team discussed the positives and negatives of online anonymity – that it can facilitate freedom of expression and allow people to express views that they may be too scared, embarrassed or shy to say; but also that it can mean people do not feel accountable to their actions and may be mean or do illegal things.
The global survey and youth-chaired workshop at the IGF in October will explore the perspectives of young people, the internet industry and human rights advocates on the challenges and benefits of online anonymity, and it will discuss how we could encourage good behaviours among anonymous users. It will explore whether there is a place for anonymity online – whether it should be protected as part of our right to freedom of expression – and how the challenges posed by anonymity can be moderated.
Find out more about the project at www.youthigfproject.com
The survey will be launched on 19 August. Please share this with your networks and help us promote this to young people across the world as widely as possible.