Internet Legislation Atlas follow-up meeting with local partners  

Following the launch of Internet Legislation Atlas platform, IGMENA hosted a meeting with ILA local partners to review the initial phase of the project and plan the next phase. The meeting was convened in San Francisco on 28 March 2016 on the sideline of RightsCon conference where project partners also participated in a workshop to present ILA key research findings. A key part of the discussion of the one-day meeting focused on how ILA helps measure the applicability of human rights on the internet in the MENA region.

“The Internet Legislation Atlas is an important platform since it brings universal declarations and international conventions together with local laws and legislation”, explains Ali Bangi, Co-Director, ASL19. “Working on Iran research for ILA, I noticed while international conventions focus on protecting human rights, Iranian local legislation mostly limits and controls these rights. ILA has been successful in raising awareness about the gap between universal rights and local laws. Human rights advocates can use ILA as a resource to fill this gap and change local legislation to protect rather than limit human rights.”

During the meeting, the project partners accentuated some of the regional challenges addresses by ILA. The technical know-how is missing in the region which has a chilling effect on the engineering of the laws. The lack of awareness is, moreover, manifested not only among internet users but also civil society that is supposed to inform the public and hence there is a need to build the capacity of civil society members. Additionally, building the capacity of concerned stakeholders requires raising their awareness about local concerns and also proving them with abroad understanding of the regional issues and context. 

The meeting was also an opportunity to go through ILA platform and examine how it could be developed to further meet the needs of local communities. In this regard, the recommendations included adding more visualization, breaking down complex legal frameworks, translating the platform to local languages: Arabic and Farsi, and ensuring the laws are always up-to-date.

Later the discussion devled into whether local internet legislation in the MENA region protects internet users. The attendees agreed that human rights safeguards are threatened by the absence of the rule of law, the misinterpretation of laws by judges and courts as well as the lack of independence of the judiciary. In addition, the absence of checks and balances results in regulations that limit rather than protect human rights.

Thanks to ILA partners who participated in the meeting, IGMENA team gathered feedback on the platform and ideas on how to hold on addressing the needs of local communities.