About the Summer Institute
The Citizen Lab Summer Institute on Monitoring Internet Openness and Rights is a series of intensive research workshops hosted annually at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.
The workshops bring together a diverse group of experts from traditionally disparate disciplines who are focused on studying technologies and policies that can threaten, or promote, freedom of speech, freedom of association, privacy of communications and online activities, anonymity of online action, and security of digital behaviours.
Defining Information Controls
Information controls can be broadly understood as techniques, practices, regulations or policies that strongly influence the availability of electronic information for social, political, ethical, or economic ends. Controls can be developed by public or private bodies, deployed at varying aspects of digital networks, and are variably apparent to users of Internet-connected systems. Technically, these controls can include filtering, distributed denial of service attacks, electronic surveillance, malware, or other computer-based means of denying, shaping and monitoring information. We will also consider tools and methods for bypassing or undermining information controls such as Internet filtering circumvention, anonymization, and encryption, which in aggregate empower individuals to exercise their human rights online.
At a policy level, information controls can include laws, social understandings of ‘inappropriate’ content, media licensing, content removal, defamation policies, slander laws, secretive sharing of data between public and private bodies, or strategic lawsuit actions. There has been a marked increase in the use of such controls over the past fifteen years. To counter the harmful uses of these controls new policies have developed, including international agreements on internet governance principles, encryption measures for communication security and user anonymity, export controls and targeted sanctions, and regulations protecting privacy and other rights.
Studying the technical operation of information controls and the political and social context behind them is an inherently multidisciplinary exercise. However, currently there is no established discipline that incorporates both technical and contextual research approaches because expertise is scattered across a range of disparate fields. The goal of the Summer Institute is to address this gap and form a multidisciplinary community around the study of information controls.