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Who controls the internet?

Where we draw the line between protecting and limiting freedom

Growth has outpaced governance, and opportunities to come together online are increasingly being undone by threats of division, such as the spread of hate speech and harassment, to political falsehoods and 'deepfakes'. What can we do to regulate this?

It’s hard to imagine life without the internet today, and this year marks its 30th anniversary. From our smartphones to big data, we are irreversibly dependent on the digital innovations of the past few decades.

As the online world increasingly spills into the real world, urgent questions are being asked about the need to regulate the world’s digital platforms. How do we govern and enforce internet controls? Where is the cyber frontier, and how is it being weaponised? What big data and privacy issues we should be thinking about? And why has it taken us so long to catch up?

This event was co-presented with the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC). Every year SSEAC hosts the ASEAN Forum, which this year is taking place on 16 August, and explores the theme of ‘ASEAN and the Digital Revolution’.

It was held on Thursday 15 August, 2019 at the University of Sydney. 

The speakers

At the International Cyber Policy Centre, Bart works on cyber capacity-building programs and the foreign policy and international aspects of the cyber world. Before joining ASPI, Bart was a Training and Research Fellow at the Netherlands Clingendael Institute, where he headed up the international security and cyber policy training program. He has led several projects across the world in cooperation with the Global Conference on Cyber Space 2015, the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, Internet Governance Forum 2016, the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Economic Affairs, NATO and the European Commission.

Between 2005 and 2009, Bart worked with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence on cross-departmental cooperation in the framework of the Comprehensive Approach to working in conflict and fragile states. Subsequently, he was seconded by the Foreign Ministry to work for the NATO and EU missions in Afghanistan, where he advised the NATO Regional Commander on governance and rule of law aspects of the stabilisation campaign. With EUPOL he worked with the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Afghan National Police on their professionalisation effort.

Aim’s research interests centre on the relationships between digital media, political participation and political regimes in Southeast Asia. She is particularly interested in the role of social media in shaping state-society relations and inducing political and social change. Together with Dr Fiona Martin, Aim was recently awarded funding by Facebook to help the social media giant understand how better to regulate hate speech online in the Asia-Pacific region.

Aim is the co-founder of the Sydney Cyber Security Network and has served as the Expert Contributor for Varieties of Democracy and the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index, which measure degrees and types of democracy. Her other scholarly works examine popular movements against democracy in democratising states, particularly in Thailand. Prior to her academic career she worked for the World Bank, a Toronto-based investment bank, governments of Thailand and the Czech Republic and the New York State Democrat Party. Aim is also a regular commentator on Southeast Asian politics for the ABC, SBS, CBC, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, CNBC and Sky News.

Damien’s research focuses on social media impacts on politics and diplomacy. He is a regular contributor to think tanks, including the Lowy Institute and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and has consulted for several multinational companies and NGOs, including Google, Facebook and Amnesty International, as well as to several governments.

He has lived and worked in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. He has developed the Facebooking diplomacy database and is currently developing a Twitter diplomacy database with the Digital Media Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology, where he is a Visiting Fellow.

Michele is Professor of Southeast Asian Studies and Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Her research focuses primarily on Southeast Asian labour movements, labour migration and trade union aid. She has also published on the gig economy and digital rights.

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