IGF 2020 WS #324 One size fits all? Global norms as a threat to inclusion.

Thursday, 12th November, 2020 (09:00 UTC) - Thursday, 12th November, 2020 (10:30 UTC)
Room 2
About this Session
This session explores the ways that - in 2020, still - rules for internet are shaped in some parts of the world and brought to others. The panelists will discuss how cross-border application of rules and regulations for content and conduct online as well as the processes to shape the global standards and norms could impact access to information and digital inclusion.

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 4: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Agustina Del Campo, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Chinmayi Arun, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Alex Walden, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Frane Maroevic, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization


Break-out Group Discussions - Flexible Seating - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Public policy, community standards, and local content:
How can we ensure that communities around the world can develop their own set of norms instead of being governed by rules that have been shaped in developed countries only?

Jurisdiction and access to knowledge:
What is the role of extraterritorial jurisdiction over content for inclusion and access to knowledge in underserved regions?

In this session we will identify instances of cross-border application of rules and regulations for content and conduct online, along with any common characteristics among these standards or their authors. We will then build on these observations by discussing the consequences of both extraterritorial and locally propagated regulations on the internet. We will encourage participants to think about these questions not from a purely theoretical point of view, but with a view to how potential regulation of the internet could impact access to information and digital inclusion. We believe this will be a timely discussion given the increasing trend toward global internet norms.


GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities

The internet today seems boundless, an inexhaustible resource for speech, knowledge, and activity that continues to expand every day. This wild internet was once heralded by its pioneers as a great equalizer, which would let everyone, everywhere in the world have access to the same information, conversations, and opportunity. However, as more nations see potential for harm on the internet and consolidated platforms struggle to cope with the volume of content created by users, we are seeing an increase in rules and regulations created to try to pin the internet into a shape that is recognizable and manageable. Unfortunately, what is recognizable does not mean the same thing across nations, platforms, or communities, resulting in a race to export one singular vision of the internet which could potentially threaten inclusion online. For example, while a certain platform may ban speech which discriminates based on sexual orientation in its terms of service, a nation where that platform operates may pass a law banning the “promotion” of a homosexual lifestyle. Not only is there conflict between platforms’ terms of service and national laws -- a conflict which could possibly be settled by courts -- there is often conflict between the laws of multiple nations when it comes to what can and should be allowed on the internet. In practice, this can lead to a hierarchy of rules which must be followed online, with that hierarchy often being topped by large, wealthy countries, regions, or companies which have the capacity and interest in setting the tone of regulation for the internet. The internet is a tool which has great power to bring individuals and groups from across the globe together, but increasingly those meeting places are all beginning to look the same, meaning that many users do not see their identities or values reflected in the modern online world. On the other hand, national or local standards set by governments or vocal communities often fail to reflect the interests of all in those locations as well, and can be used to suppress access to information or critical speech. In this session, we will examine the various sources of globally applied standards on platforms, and discuss both the benefits and real-world consequences of local and global standards on various online communities.

Expected Outcomes

The report of the workshop will be published on the Wikimedia Foundation’s public policy blog and shared with policy networks such as the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network, GNI, and the Network of Centers.

Relevance to Internet Governance: This session is directly relevant to internet governance, as its main question is: who decides how the internet is governed? We will dig into the nuances of this question, looking at the many possible dichotomies involved in internet governance. We will look at the consequences of global standards set by private platforms, governments, or some combination of the two. We will also discuss the benefits of local standards compared to global standards. Finally, we will see where standards that have already been propagated originate from, paying special attention where the imposition of these rules and regulations come from traditionally wealthy, powerful nations.

Relevance to Theme: This session is relevant to inclusion because we plan to examine how inclusion can be fostered or hindered based on where rules and regulations originate and how far they extend. We will look at how extraterritorial jurisdiction can often export values to a global internet that are far from universal, and how having a one-size fits all internet can discourage inclusion. On the other hand, we will examine the potential consequences of attaching rules and regulations to a specific locale, particularly for underrepresented groups who may not adhere to the particular cultural norms and values where they are located, but could find important information and belonging online.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: We will use our social media channels and the Wikimedia Public Policy channels to encourage people to participate and raise the policy questions we want to discuss ahead of the event.


  • Intro and framing of the issues (10 minutes)
  • Assessing the state of play (40 minutes)
    1) What sort of standards have already been exported and by whom?
    2) What are the (potential) consequences of new standards and rules that are applied extraterritorially?
    3)  What is the role of GDPR-like constrictions and their impact in "standardization of standards"?
    4) What is the role of standards governance, and the impact on the process of deliberation and definition of standards?
    [Participants are invited to help answer these questions. Co-organizers collect findings and potential questions that arise from them.]
  • Discussing the findings (30 minutes)
    The experts discuss findings and questions.
  • Conclusion and wrap-up (10 minutes)