Meet our Connaught Scholars

Ron Deibert

Summer Institute Award

Four Questions for…Ron Deibert

Ron Deibert, (OOnt, PhD, University of British Columbia) is Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary research and development hothouse working at the intersection of the Internet, global security, and human rights. He is a co-founder and a principal investigator of the OpenNet Initiative and Information Warfare Monitor (2003-2012) projects.

Tell us about your Connaught-funded research

Together with my colleagues Profs. Andrew Clement (iSchool, University of Toronto) and David Lie (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) we are convening a series of Summer Institutes called “Monitoring Internet openness and rights from a multidisciplinary perspective”. The objective of the Summer Institutes is to bridge disciplinary gaps and help form collaborations and scholarly communities around the study of information controls from technical (i.e., computer science, engineering, etc) and social (i.e., political science, law, sociology, etc) fields of study. We will convene a series of annual week-long workshops that will bring together faculty and students from across the University of Toronto, other leading research groups (from both technical and social science fields), and our extended research network of researchers, advocates, and practitioners from countries in the developing world.  This summer, from July 22 to 26, 2013, we held our first workshop in this series at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.

Why should we care about this topic?

Information controls can be broadly conceptualized as actions conducted in and and through information and communication technologies (ICTs) that seek to deny, disrupt, monitor, or manipulate information for political and economic ends.  These controls can be mandated by states or implemented by private actors. Information controls include a range of technical measures (e.g. Internet filtering, distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, electronic surveillance, targeted malware, etc.) and non-technical means (e.g. media regulation, licensing regimes, content removal, and broad use of defamation and slander laws). Over the past decade there has been a steady increase and spread of information controls across the globe in both democratic and authoritarian states.

The spread of information controls has a number of potentially negative impacts for the public interest. Privacy, civil liberties, and freedom of expression in both cultural and political spheres are often and increasingly threatened by state and corporate actors that have now developed potent means of controlling and monitoring digital information flows.

Information controls (such as censorship and surveillance) are processes that lack transparency, often taking place beyond the scrutiny of public debates, and which therefore increases the risk of abuses against civil and political rights. Hence, there is a pressing need to know more about how and why information controls take place, so that robust evidence can be generated, analysed, and inform policy discussions.

How will this work move knowledge and progress on this topic forward?

These Summer Institutes will enable us to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, mentor students and young researchers, and form a lasting community of scholars working on information controls.

How have Connaught funds helped you to conduct this research?

Funding resources provided by the Connaught Fund are essential for the unique opportunity to conduct an annual series on information controls.  Not only does it enhance the development of a multidisciplinary community in cyber research, this funding also allows the reach of our research to extend beyond and into supporting a new community of scholars, advocates, and practitioners. From spanning disciplinary boundaries and supporting new research, it takes us to the next step where we aim to achieve comprehensive and transformative impact.