Access is an international organization that extends and defends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. In this Databite, Peter Micek and Deji Olukotun examine the increasing trend of Internet shutdowns worldwide, drawing upon key case studies from 2015. Sometimes called “network disruptions” or “disconnections,” shutdowns occur when telecommunications companies and Internet service providers block or throttle Internet applications, SMS, or phone traffic. Worryingly, shutdowns have already occurred four times this year, and more are expected. Deji and Peter discuss key advocacy and policy responses, recent trends at the UN, and challenges for data collection and documentation.
Deji Bryce Olukotun is a fellow with Future Tense. He is the Head of Social Impact at Sonos, where he leads the company’s grantmaking and social activations. He is an attorney with a background in social justice activism and a fiction writer. His novel After the Flare, a dystopian thriller set in the United States and Nigeria, won the 2018 Philip K. Dick Special Citation award. Brittle Paper called his first book Nigerians in Space “so much a novel of our time that it helps us track how far we’ve come from mid-century African novels.” He previously worked at the digital rights organization Access Now, where he drove campaigns on fighting internet shutdowns, cybersecurity, and online censorship. Before that, he fought for free expression and the defense of writers around the world at PEN America with support from the Ford Foundation. Olukotun graduated from Yale College, Stanford Law School, and the MA in creative writing at the University of Cape Town. His work has been featured in Electric Literature, Quartz, Vice, The Washington Post, The Guardian, National Public Radio, The Atlantic, and Guernica.
Peter Micek leads the Access Now policy team’s business and human rights work, advocating for a more rights-respecting telecom and tech sector. He also teaches a course at Columbia University on internet policy and governance. A lawyer by training, Peter completed a JD cum laude at the University of San Francisco School of Law, and in 2010 published “A Genealogy of Home Visits,” critiquing surveillance of at-risk communities. As a law student, Peter defended independent journalists and engaged in Freedom of Information litigation at First Amendment Project. For five years, in his native San Francisco, Peter led youth and ethnic media development at New America Media, and was Web Editor at KALW’s daily radio program Your Call. Peter studied political science and journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He is licensed by the state bars of California and New York, and has no cats.
Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.