IGF 2020 WS #364 Pandemics: balancing free expression with public safety


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Jeff Collins, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Larry Magid, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Karuna Nain, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group


Break-out Group Discussions - Flexible Seating - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

- Governments, online platforms, civil society and other stakeholders as well as users are working to address the challenges of harmful content, contact and conduct online. Which are the policy approaches and responses to support effective and coordinated action? What can be done to model responsible behavior online? How can technology be used as part of the response to such challenges? - What are the responsibilities of the different stakeholders, in particular platforms and government agencies, around content governance? What actions are required to strike a balance between freedom of expression and safety? - How can stakeholders better understand the impact technology can have on freedom of expression and other human rights? How can concrete actions such as human rights impact assessments and multi-stakeholder consultations support policy responses to those challenges?

- Issues/challenges: how social media platforms can preserve freedom of expression while upholding public safety during a crisis - Opportunities: creating a better collaboration mechanism between social media platforms and other stakeholder groups which can be used before, during and after a crisis


GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals


Social media platforms have experienced a large boost in users during COVID-19. TikTok has been described as a relief from coronavirus blues, a way for teens to cope with the pandemic or a family bonding tool. At the same time, COVID-19 has highlighted some of the largest challenges faced by social media platforms today; how to tread the line between freedom of expression and public safety during a pandemic and how to do so in a way that is globally applicable yet locally relevant? This workshop seeks to highlight ways in which social media has been used as a tool for creative expression and relief during the pandemic while at the same time describing the challenges faced by social media platforms as one of the arbiters of public safety during this time. The objective of the session is to come up with a mechanism by which social media platforms can engage with each other and other stakeholder groups during times of crisis in order to better devise policies which preserve freedom of expression and uphold public safety. Agenda Introduction to the session by Moderator Larry Magid, President & CEO Connect Safely Part 1 (30 mins): Social Media Platforms & COVID-19 Video presentations Source of Joy: - Compilation of videos from social media platforms showcasing creative virtual classrooms featuring youth - Compilation of videos across social media platforms showcasing doctors and their creative health tips during COVID-19 Speaker presentations Freedom of Expression vs. Public Safety - Jeff Collins, Global Trust & Safety, TikTok: challenges faced when enforcing government laws about violating social distancing on the platform - Karuna Nain, Facebook: dangerous health trends on the platform and how FB dealt with that - Wafa Ben Hassine, Access Now: major freedom of expression violations witnessed during the crisis how those differed from context to context Part 2 (30 mins): How can social media companies work together and with civil society during times of crisis to address freedom of expression concerns? How can they do this before the crisis occurs? Breakout session - Room is split into 3 groups to discuss the following questions: - How can social media companies co-create policies that uphold freedom of expression while preserving public safety? What types of information should be shared by social media companies with each other and with civil society during the crisis? - How should social media companies interact with users during this time? What types of information must be shared? How can users be involved in creating policies during a crisis? - Is there a formal mechanism needed by which social media companies and other stakeholdergroups can engage with each other during times of crisis? What does that look like? Part 3 (30 mins): Presenting the solutions and conclusion Each group is assigned a lead who reports back to the larger group on their responses Session wraps up with questions from the audience and a list of actions that social media companies and other groups can take back to their respective companies/organizations and can report back on.

Expected Outcomes

1) Session attendees leave with a better understanding of key challenges and opportunities faced by social media platforms during times of crisis vis a vis preserving freedom of expression while safeguarding public safety 2) social media companies walk away with a better sense of types of collaboration (types of information to be shared, formal collaboration mechanism) needed between them and other stakeholders such as civil society and social media users 3) concrete actions that can be taken to improve collaboration which social media platforms can commit to

After the initial speaker presentation, the rest of the session will be divided into breakout groups discussing various topics/questions

Relevance to Internet Governance: This session will try to propose a formal mechanism of collaboration which will enable coordination across stakeholder groups during times of crisis

Relevance to Theme: This session will advance important considerations around the role that social media platforms play as one of the arbiters of freedom of expression during times of crisis. It will enhance ways in which multi-stakeholder collaboration can lead to increased transparency and collaboration between the public and private sector. This will ultimately better safety measures for users online and more trust in social media platforms today.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: TikTok Live, Facebook Live