A seminar on Internet Governance in Thessaloniki to let youth discuss about digital rights

, by Meletis Ananias

A seminar on Internet Governance in Thessaloniki to let youth discuss about digital rights
Credits: JEF-Thessaloniki.

A report from the Internet Governance seminar organised by JEF Thessaloniki in collaboration with JEF Europe.

On the 27th of November, 2021, JEF Thessaloniki made its comeback after a period of inactivity. As part of the 2021 Work Plan on Internet Governance, the team of JEF Thessaloniki organized a seminar on this theme at the University of Macedonia.

The aim of the seminar was to bring together local youth, introduce them to Internet Governance, explain why it is an important issue which concerns us all, and to seek out possible solutions. The participants would also get additional input for the issue from an on-site expert and a policy maker.

The on-site expert in this case was Stelios Kavvadias of the Executive Committee of IGF Greece (Internet Governance Forum Greece), which serves as one of the most reliable organizations when it comes to Internet Governance in the country. After an introduction to Internet Governance by JEFers, the participants got to hear more about the subject by Mr. Kavvadias, who accepted questions from the audience.

The work of JEF, however, cannot be limited to simple speeches. Thus, various activities on the subject took place. Within those activities, there was a game about explaining AI bias, called the “10 Thousand Points” game. Players took part in a parody of a “survey” that classified them according to their likes and dislikes, from significant details such as their educational background, to more insignificant things, such as their preference for one given food over another. Participants facing this social experiment for the first time were expectedly taken aback and possibly even unsettled by the game. However, participants came to appreciate it after it was explained that this game was nothing short of a depiction of how Artificial Intelligence software may classify users according to its own bias.

Participants were also introduced to the website hownormalami.eu, which provides its users with a complete view of the potential that Artificial Intelligence has to find out details about each individual user just by looking at their face. This aforementioned website uses Artificial Intelligence based on the data of the general public, in order to determine the user’s age, sex and even some psychological data, among other things.

The final activity was a moving debate, in which participants as well as the on-site expert could express their views on issues such as Internet Governance, and the proper use of Artificial Intelligence in various aspects such as politics, law enforcement and advertising.

In the last part of the seminar, there was a video conference call with Eva Kaili, MEP, who spoke about the issues surrounding the web from a policy maker’s perspective, providing everyone present with more reasons as to why Internet Governance must concern us all. She provided further insight on the playing field that the internet has become, and the latest developments in European legislation and initiatives in order to ensure that everyone shall have a proper share of the internet, from the biggest corporation, to every civilian out there. Amongst the issues mentioned was the ‘right to disconnect’, a matter which was also brought up during sessions in Helsinki. The ‘right to disconnect’ means the right that employees have to log off virtual workspaces, or activities related to work, and go on with their day once the working hours are over. This right is to be defended in order to ensure that employers don’t use remote working as an opportunity to invade the lives of each and every one of their employees by constantly pressuring them to work even beyond the time defined by their contract for no extra benefits.

After a reflection session, the participants were found to have a quite positive view of the initiative, with some of them even requesting information on how to join JEF. Therefore, JEF Thessaloniki is confident in its future, and would like to thank everyone who provided us with assistance, as this is very important for the new chapter of our local branch. We have some very ambitious projects for 2022, and we believe that this seminar was more than a good start. Through this article, JEF Thessaloniki would finally like to thank the University of Macedonia for offering the space for the event completely free of charge, and we would like to cooperate again in the near future.

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