IGF 2020 WS #214 Should social networks be interopable?


Organizer 1: Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Serge Abiteboul, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Chatellier Regis , Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Constance Bommelaer, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

How can data portability and interoperability contribute to addressing the issue of digital competition and how can they improve freedom of choice for users? What initiatives exist and what can be done to improve them (ex: Data Transfer Project)? What can be the drawbacks of interoperability between digital platforms (especially social networks) regarding companies and users’ rights? - If appropriate, what would be the relevant level (which features?) and perimeter (which platforms?) for interoperability ? - Would it be better to apply interoperability on a case by case basis (on the basis of competition law for instance) or to elaborate a new ex ante regulation?Is making social network interoperable better for competition? How to articulate users'privacy expectation with network interoperability?

This workshop aims to assess interoperability as a tool for enhancing competition between digital platforms, especially social networks. Although it is generally presented as a way to fight against direct network effects, and improving freedom of choice for users, it may also have a negative impact on business models’ companies and rights’ consumers. The objective would be to determine the relevance and, if so, the appropriate level and perimeter of interoperability, regarding the global picture.


GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure


Regarding the competition issue between digital platforms, data sharing and interoperability may constitute new tools to reduce barriers to entry for competitors and to stimulate innovation. While the European Commission is working on the Digital Services Act, which may impose new ex ante obligations on the biggest platforms, an obligation of interoperability can be considered as a promising option. The workshop would take the social networks market as a case study to understand the potential effects of interoperability. This market is particularly relevant because it includes large actors which significantly benefit from the “network effect”. In the first half, we will present the importance of interoperability in social network: First we will present the case study and describe the different actors that we are including in this market. Then we would explain the effect of competition issues on end users (lack of freedom of choice, existence of filter bubbles,...) The second half will be dedicated to discussing concrete solutions to make social networks interoperable highlighting the advantages and drawbacks of each solution.

Expected Outcomes

The expected outcomes will be a report of the session that could be useful to all stakeholders but also to institutions (ex: European Commission) working on platform regulation. We hope that the conversation will enlighten the potentiality of interoperability to address some of the competition issues in the digital market and will help stakeholders to identify and avoid pitfalls.

Several preparation calls will be conducted with the speakers before the session in order to coordinate the interventions. Public will be invited to address questions to the speakers during at least one third of the session. The platform of the IGF will be used for online participation.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Digital competition should be a priority of the Internet Governance, regarding its direct impact on companies and users, but also due to its link with other fundamental topics (hate speeches online, privacy, overexposure to screens…)

Relevance to Theme: This session will give a transversal and synthetic approach of the link between platforms interoperability and competition / users’ freedom of choice.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.