Beyond the Net Community Projects Internet Governance

They are young and passionate. They will rule the future Internet.

Beyond the Net Journal: Youth Observatory #1 Episode

 “The voices of young people are not heard when it comes to Internet policy” said Carlos Guerrero, project manager of the Youth Observatory. “We are the generation that has been using the Internet since we were children, and we are the ones who will be using it for the next 50 years. Our voice matters.”

The Youth Observatory is a nonprofit organization founded in September 2015, and supported as a Special Interest Group (SIG) by the Internet Society’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme since 2016. It is formed mostly of young people between 18 and 25 years from different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The main objective of the Observatory is to generate interest among the young people about core issues related to Internet governance.

Currently the project team is working to create an Open Call for Papers, written by young people, about knowledge dissemination and research in cyber security and digital rights management. We are grateful to Carlos Guerrero for answering few questions to gain a deeper understanding of this interesting project.

How many people have been trained so far?
We have trained more than 100 young people about Internet governance and related topics during YouthLACIGF, an event held in San José, Costa Rica (26 July 2016) and during our guided courses.

What is the impact of the project on the community?
We are empowering young people by providing them the tools to engage with different local operations. Moreover, our members are working in different Internet governance initiatives in their own countries and other related projects. The main focus of the project is to enrich the current Internet ecosystem with new participants and ideas, and to act as a kickstarter for young people who want to get engaged.

What has changed for the community since the project started?

  • The increase of active participation of young people in Internet governance spaces, not just as “youth talking about youth issues” but addressing serious subjects such as policy, digital economy, cybersecurity, and regulation.
  • The creation of a global community inside the Internet ecosystem, where young people can share experiences, knowledge and support in a friendly and relaxed environment.

Give us one reason why others should apply to “Beyond the Net”
Our generation is more connected than any previous generation in the world. This means that now there are fewer barriers to communication and travel, and in sharing our ideas with others. This means we can make big changes just by doing small things. “Beyond The Net” gave us the tools to turn our ideas into action.

How has the funding contributed to your project so far
The funding has allowed us to achieve these objectives:

  • Creation of a youth organization inside the Internet ecosystem.
  • Creation of IG spaces of dialogue and exchange of knowledge between young people around the world (YouthLACIGF).
  • Improvement in the ability to run capacity building programmes on IG.

Which are the activities planned for 2017.

We are working to make an Open Call for Papers, written by young people, on Internet-related issues (analysis, essays, etc). This initiative will culminate in a book of articles promoting our work on different topics. We are working to make our organization global, which will also translate to deploying capacity-building programmes in other regions, like Africa or Asia, in partnership with other organizations.

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We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Call for Application
Find our more about the programme 

Improving Technical Security

Security Go: Young People Paving the Way to Better Online Security

At the Internet Society’s Student Pizza Night during IETF 96, I asked several students from Europe, Asia, and North America how they would respond to the same question:

How do we make young Internet users more secure?

Every student I asked said that security for young Internet users is a problem. The majority thought that both poor security practices and a general ignorance of the risks contribute to the problem. Pokémon Go was used as an example. Millions of younger users may be playing games without considering the security and privacy implications they may have. In this specific case, the developer, Niantic, gathers data from its users and may give it to third parties. Although it has since been removed in a patch, the Pokémon Go app also demanded full access to some users’ Google accounts.

While a few students supported better education about security for young users, most argued for a technical solution. They suggested that strong end-to-end encryption should be automatic on apps and services. By taking away the effort or knowledge needed to use security tools, most students thought that a greater number of young people would be better protected. This is particularly important for the youngest of users who may not yet know how to put good security practices in place.

Some students felt that improved education would help young people learn security and privacy skills. Many others disagreed. They said that few young people will apply difficult to use security tools, regardless of education. Indifference was also cited as a problem. This reminded me of a friend who said, only half-jokingly, that “in exchange for Pokémon? Niantic can read all my emails and my google searches if they want.

While I agree that technical solutions can help reduce the problem, I do not believe they are the only solution. It is important that we give people better tools to protect themselves and that they are automatically or easily implemented. There are some attacks, like phishing or social engineering, that may be difficult to address with technology. Education and awareness campaigns, particularly those developed with input from young people, are important for equipping youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to defend against these attacks.

Although the students I spoke with focused on either technical or educational solutions, there are many more ways to help young users be more secure online. It is important that youth think about their security online, talk about it with their friends, and are actively involved in creating new security solutions. [1]

In Pokémon Go, the closer you are to a Pokémon, the more likely you are to find and catch it. In life, the closer you are to a problem, the more likely you are to solve it.

Five Ways Young People Can Boost Their Online Security

1. Talk to your friends and family. How do they stay safe online?

2. Become active. Join the Youth Observatory – a group of young people around the world who are changing how we make Internet policy!

3. Check out your social media privacy settings and app permissions. Read US-CERT’s tips for Staying Safe on Social Networking Sites and Tripwire’s article on flashlight app permissions.

4. Learn about your online life! There are some great tutorials that can help like the Internet Society’s Digital Footprint.

5. Tell decision makers your voice counts when it comes to discussions around the future of the Net. Use the hashtag #dreamInternet and let people know your solutions for helping young people be more secure online.


[1] The Internet Society Fellowship to the Internet Engineering Task Force enables technology professionals, advanced IT students, and other qualified professionals from emerging and developing economies to attend IETF meetings.

Image credit: University Life 30 CC BY 2.0

Community Projects

Calling All Young People: Join The Youth Observatory and Help Change How Internet Policy is Made

Late last year, some friends and I got together to form ISOC’s first Youth Special Interest Group (SIG) or, as we call it, the Youth Observatory.  Why? The voices of young people aren’t heard when it comes to Internet policy.

We’re the generation that’s been using the Internet since we were children, and we’re the one’s who will be using it for the next 50 years.

Our voice matters.

Today, having the first Youth Latin American and Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, which will take place in San José, Costa Rica on the eve of the larger Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre Internet Governance Forum. We’ll be speaking here too, but before we can talk about young Latin Americans’ vision for the Internet, we need as many young people from as many different backgrounds as we can — to help share the vision.

We ALL need a space where we can have a conversation about what they want the Internet to look like.

And we’re going to turn the idea of a meeting on its head. There will be no panelists. We don’t want this to be a conference where people sit and listen to experts.

We need you to BE A PART OF IT.  

I mean, if we wanted just to sit and listen to smart people, we could just as well stay home and watch videos in our pyjamas.

We want this to be a conference where young people working in various areas get to exchange ideas; where someone working for a telco in Cuba can sit down and talk with a Paraguayan privacy expert or Mexican app developer. We’re going to look at four broad topics: Infrastructure and Access, Internet and Human Rights, Security and Surveillance, and Youth and Governance. From there, we’ll come up with a few subtopics we’d like to explore. Then we’ll break out into a series of small groups to discuss those subtopics and report back. Those ideas and conversations are going to be at the core of what we present to the larger IGF.

We want these conversations to be as serious as the subject matter, but informal enough that everyone feels like they can take part.  We want to make an environment where there are no bad ideas, and where we consider everyone’s perspective.

It’s a crucial time for the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many countries are looking to create or revamp their laws on online data collection. In the Caribbean, there is a debate around the tradeoff between privacy and better Internet browsing experience provided by ad blockers. Our work at the Internet Society is to make sure that young people are represented in these discussions.

We think it is now or never

Our IGF is just part of that mission. We are working hard to change the world. It’s now or never

Join them or show your support and visit the Youth LACIGF website 
Join the Youth Observatory or show your support by using the tag #weareyouth on your social channels!
Community Projects Growing the Internet Human Rights Internet Governance Privacy

Youth aren’t the future. We’re the present.

It’s weird when you think about it. More than any other demographic, people under the age of 25 spend all our time online. We’re the first generation to grow up with the Internet, and we use it for everything; communication, recreation, work, art. And yet, when it comes to Internet governance, we’re almost entirely absent from the conversation.

That’s why myself and a few like-minded folks from across Latin America started the Youth Observatory. The Youth Observatory is a special interest group within ISOC meant to both make sure youth voices are heard in governance discussions and explain the importance of Internet governance to other young people.

When I was younger, I got this feeling that everything about privacy and security was aimed at other people’s problems. Everybody was talking to me as if I was 50 years-old, and I should care about my credit card. But my problems were much more like, who’s seen my pictures on Facebook. That’s where we’re trying to start the privacy conversation, not only for our 20-something peers but for the teens who are navigating adolescence in a continuously connected world.

We want to start the conversation with 15 year-olds by saying ‘Hey buddy, you know, you’re there on the Internet the whole day. Imagine yourself without WhatsApp. Imagine somebody from Facebook reading your messages to your girlfriend or your friends. And you cannot stop it; you don’t understand how the policy works.’ When you’re 15, you feel like having some independence and being alone. So it’s important to make them understand that you know, this privacy can be violated. Especially if we don’t get our opinions heard, and speak our minds on how this should be protected.

As my colleague Carlos Guerrero points out, it’s not just that young people need to know more about Internet governance. Internet Governance organizations also need to hear more from young people. 

“Youth voices are really important in this discussion because we have a different point of view of the things,” he says. “This point of view is new and is free of the past. That’s why we think that it’s really important to bring more youth voices to the discussion because we are bringing the new point of view of the things in the conversation.”

The Youth Observatory isn’t just about governance, though. It’s also about making sure people have the skills to deal with the problems they face in online in their day-to-day lives. In the case of young women, that means being able to fight back against harassment.

That’s why my colleague Angie Contreras also wants to make sure we focus on getting young women the informational skills to push back against digital violence.

“It’s the age of information on the Internet,” she says. “And specifically in social networks, and so it’s really important to increase informatic skills, not only for women but for all marginalized people that use the Internet and social networks, to make the Internet a place with no discrimination. To make it a place where people won’t be bullied.”

Right now, the Youth Observatory is only focused on Latin America. Language is a barrier, and just trying to get established in two languages, Spanish and Portuguese, is a challenge. Once we’re more established in the region, though, we’ll just jump and go global.

As Carlos so wisely put it, youth isn’t just the future. We’re the present. And we’re not just trying to make a better online tomorrow for young people; we’re trying to make a better today.

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