IGF 2020 NRIs Collaborative Session: Digital rights and impact on democracy

Friday, 6th November, 2020 (18:50 UTC) - Friday, 6th November, 2020 (19:50 UTC)
Room 1
About this Session

NRIs Collaborative Session: Digital rights and impact on democracy

Theme: Trust, Inclusion

Sub-theme: TBC

Policy Questions: 

  • What are the contemporary challenges for our societies regarding digital rights?
  • What are some of the local good practices on your NRIs’ priority digital rights?
  • How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect digital rights concepts?

Relevance to Theme and Internet Governance: 

Digitalisation of services is developing rapidly and people are becoming more and more dependent on the use of ICTs and digital services. The COVID-19 pandemic has supported this argument by forcing societies to transition physical means of education, work and communication to online environments. We have faced the necessity to overnight connect to the network and more importantly be skilful and knowledgeable to use the ICTs. Some decision-makers became self-aware of the necessity of being online and are considering marking access to the Internet as a legal right. Further, the ICTs are also impacting the right to free speech, the right to be informed, they add to the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation and challenge traditional concepts of privacy. All these challenges differ across countries and regions, despite the transnational nature of the Internet’s reach and scope. 


This session will focus on understanding what are the priorities and good practices on local levels related to digital rights and related impacts on democatic processes.  It will specifically look at the examples coming from the Cameroon IGF, Ecuador IGF, France IGF, Italy IGF, Lebanon IGF, Mauritius IGF and Nigeria IGF.

The Nigerian IGF will share as an example of current practice in the country, the draft concept of the Bill on Digital rights that called for multiple discussions on its possible consequences on the freedom of expression, especially in social media. The Italian IGF will also share practices of the Italian community reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the domain of a timely reach out to all citizens, protection and ownership for collected data. This input will be complemented by the Lebanon IGF input regarding the newly introduced law on access to information and related national action plan.

Format of the Session: 

60-minutes interactive roundtable discussion with introductory remarks and open floor for questions and answers.


18:50-18:55 UTC

Moderators introduce the topic, organizers and speakers

18:55-19:25 ‎UTC

(up to 5 min each speaker)

The growing global Internet penetration and digitalisation processes intersect more intensively with delivery of public services, ways how we receive information and participate in public discourse. What are the contemporary challenges for our societies regarding digital rights? Looking into concrete cases from Mauritius IGF and Italy IGF.

  • Mauritius IGF: Mr. Mahendranath Busgopaul
  • Italy IGF: Mr. Andrea Beccalli

Did the Internet affect our right-related legislation? Experience from France IGF and Nigeria IGF

  • France IGF: Ms. Jennyfer Chrétien, Executive Director of Renaissance Numérique.
  • Nigeria IGF: Mr. Gbenga Sesan


Reflections to the COVID-19’s impact on our digital rights and freedoms. Did it exacerbate some digital policy issues and which ones? Did it prompt any good actions?

  • France IGF: Ms, Jennyfer Chrétien
  • Italy IGF: Mr. Andrea Beccalli
  • Mauritius IGF: Mr. Mahendranath Busgopaul
  • Mr. Gbenga Sesan

19:25-19:40 UTC

Open discussion with participants.

19:40-19:45 UTC

(up to 1 min each speaker)

Advancing our digital rights: concluding action-oriented pledges from the involved NRIs

  • Nigeria IGF: Mr. Gbenga Sesan
  • France IGF: Ms Jennyfer Chrétien
  • Mauritius IGF: Mr. Mahendranath Busgopaul
  • Italy IGF: Mr. Andrea Beccalli

19:45-19:50 UTC

Conclusion by the moderator and final key discussed concepts presented by a rapporteur

Expected Outcomes:

Understanding specific challenges and examples of good practices on local levels.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The moderator will follow the agreed set of policy and will allow for introductory, case study remarks by the NRIs speakers. This will be followed by engaging other present participants into developing an interactive discussion.

Online participation: 

A dedicated online moderator will be placed next to the onsite moderator. All participants will be using the online speaking queue to be treated equally in their requests for interventions. All input presentations will be made available at the IGF website and links will be shared via the online tool.

Co-Organizers and delegated speakers:

  1. Cameroon IGF
  2. Ecuador IGF
  3. France IGF
  4. Italy IGF
  5. Lebanon IGF
  6. Mauritius IGF
  7. Nigeria IGF

Moderator and rapporteur: Ms. Anja Gengo, IGF Secretariat

Connection to SDGs:

ANNEX: Substantive inputs from the co-organizers:

France IGF

Digital rights and impact on democracy

Democracy has been challenged by the digitalization of society bringing free speech, privacy and other fundamental rights to the test. France had adopted a number of legislation concerning digital rights online e.g. the Digital Republic act (in French Projet de loi pour une République numérique) and EU legislation such as the GDPR, the NIS directive or the ePrivacy directive. In the wake of the GDPR, the main objective is to restore trust in the digital space and enhance rights for individuals from the right to be forgotten, the right disconnect, improving the secrecy of correspondence or data portability.  Considering digital rights and the impact on democracy also raises the question of governance models and transparency raising issue of digital sovereignty (dala localization, regulating online platforms, content regulation, cybersecurity aspects).

Mauritius IGF

1. Importance of digital rights with focus on Internet Governance. Digital rights are important as they provide the opportunity for every citizen to get access to information coming from technology. Regardless of the negative aspects of information coming from this new source, this is useful in terms of recognising its access. Internet governance process allows the citizen to become aware of the digital rights and come up with conclusions pertaining to other rights including the human rights.

2. Digital rights and impact on democracy. We believe that democracy relates to the principle that each and every citizen have a say in the related governance procedures. Internet Governance needs to rope in the majority of stakeholders, hence taking forward the digital rights. However some stakeholders are still left behind. From Mauritius IGF's experience, it has been well pronounced that citizens from several walks of life have been ‘barred’ to get involved in the IGF process.

3. Way forward. Mauritius IGF has embarked on a research study to look into the barriers preventing stakeholders to get involved into the Internet Governance processes. The recommendations of the research will be shared during the session and we are looking forward to start positive discussions thereafter. 

Italy IGF

TITLE: “Platforms based on Human Rights Regulations. What actions can be put in place? Italian and European Initiatives ….[1]

COVID 19 crisis showed very clearly. Modern states are not anymore able to reach all their citizens without passing through intermediaries, even in times of crisis. The use of traditional media (as it happened in the past) is not enough anymore and the use of social media obliges governments to pass through foreign platforms to reach its own citizens. There are more European on g-mail then on any other national mail service. If a state is not anymore able to reach his citizens, could be still considered “sovereign” ? The next step, always showed by COVID19 crisis, will be the suspension of “privacy rights” of the citizens in the name of the “right to health and life”. What will happen (once that the crisis is over) with these data and information, especially if in the meantime these data have gone outside the concerned country ?


All recent elections in many countries (Italy included) have seen a predominance of social media and instant media on traditional media in the political discourse. The use of fake news as a propaganda tool became routinely and -as effect- produces division and polarization in society. This brings to society where fact-based discussions, are leaving the place to emotionally driven discussion, sometime with no rational ground. Are these changes affecting (or will affect) the tenure of democracy ?

 ACTIONS: Legislation or co-regulation? In Italy AGCOM has issued the “Regolamento recante disposizioni in materia di rispetto della dignità umana e del principio di non discriminazione e di contrasto all'hate speech”, the Revenge Porn law. In Europe  (….)? In the world? Italian Internet Bill of Rights should also  be strengthened to consider new challenges.

[1] These topics were discussed at IGF Italia 2019  (here the links to the audio file) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsAQCGLpvg0&list=PLyenCw9IGRKWzCKLku5XRFgO7lxFmTpeH&index=36&t=0s and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRx3OPUfU0M&feature=youtu.be and they will be discussed again at the next IGF Italia 2020.

1. Key Policy Questions and Expectations

Policy Questions:

  • TBC
2. Summary of Issues Discussed


3. Policy Recommendations or Suggestions for the Way Forward


4. Other Initiatives Addressing the Session Issues


5. Making Progress for Tackled Issues


6. Estimated Participation


7. Reflection to Gender Issues


8. Session Outputs