IGF 2021 – Day 3 – WS #169 Regulating digital platforms from and for the Global South

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> HENRIQUE FAULHABER: Good afternoon.  Good evening, for all.

My name is Henrique Faulhaber.  I will be moderating this session today.  I'm a representative of the private sector in Brazil Internet Steering Committee, the multistakeholder body working towards the development of the Internet in Brazil.  Thank you for joining this session which is titled Regulating Digital Platforms From and For The Global South.

As you are aware, the issue of platform regulation and related matters are hot topics within the global Internet policy agenda.  In fact, it is a multifaceted discussion with a variety of topics and mobilizes several debates.  This workshop was proposed in the context of broader work being made within the regulation.  As an outcome, the goal is to consolidate here regarding the digital platforms, taking into consideration the structural challenge of those from the Global South, particularly Brazil, towards sustainable digital development and welfare.

The ways and the potential recommendations that will be extract from here, it will feed the compilation of regulation proposals, that will be considered such as competition, content moderation, other.  This is to be made available for interested stakeholder, especially useful for our Global South conference that discusses their own regulations.

For this session, we seek to cover a set of issues, such as regulation, social, economic inclusion, public policy and regulation tools to mate gate negative effects of digital platforms and multistakeholderism within the debates.

The speakers for the session are Aneta Wiewiorowska‑Domagalska from the technical community.  She comes from Eastern European Regional Group.

We have Subhashish Badra, the Director of Open Knowledge and we have also Civil Society Renata Avila and also Mr. Emmanuel Vitus from the private sector, he's an executive director of African Group.  We have also our colleague from the technical community, Renata Avila, with the same objectives.  I invite all of the participants to complement this idea the first time that they speak in the session they want to highlight the information that they seem more relevant.

Without further delay, let's quick start the session.  The debate will be organized around three main policy questions that may guide participants' interventions and discussions.

First question, what are the main aspects to be taken into account when regulating digital platforms to promote social and economic inclusion.

Second question, are traditional antitrust measures and competition safeguards enough to address the structural digitization‑related sense of glass?

The third question, what is the role of multistakeholderism and governments from Global South countries in platform governance in order to boost digital economy and enable a more inclusive economic growth?

We'll start with an intervention by Dr. Aneta on a global discussion taking place in Europe as well as potential links with Global South concerns.

After that, the other speaker also have up to 10 minutes each to give their vision and to describe their local experience on these issues.

Following the initial intervention, we'll then have Q&A and a debate with the audience.  For that we'll be receiving questions from the channels of IGF and at the end I will do a brief wrap up of the session.

You may find all this information on the IGF website that contains all of the guidelines necessary for participation.

To request the floor in this session, please use the raise hand feature on the Zoom platform and you may also post your question on the chat, on the Q&A part and with everything use the hashtag for the session, platforms, regulation IGF 2021.  I believe you will have a great session.  Please, Aneta.  The floor is yours.




I'm trying to share screen but I'm disabled by the host at the moment.

Could I get the possibility to share a screen?

>> ALEXANDRE COSTA BARBOSA: Wait a few second.  I'm sure they'll allow you to do so.  Otherwise, I'll do it myself.

>> ANETA WIEWIOROWSKA-DOMAGALSKA: I'm now cohost and I will attempt one more time.  Yes.  It should work okay.  Thank you.

Thank you very much.  Welcome, everyone, whatever the time of the day which is nice to have these changes, to take this different perspective even on the time.  My name is Aneta Wiewiorowska‑Domagalska, I apologize for how I am to perform, it is due to the fact that I'm ill, not COVID, it is a cold.  That means I'm having problems just speaking and that also means that I'll be quick.  I'm afraid that at a certain moment I will just stop speaking at all and I would like it to be at the end of my presentation, not in the middle.

I'm Polish.  At the moment, I'm based in Germany where I'm doing my habilitation, finishing a book to get me to the status of professor.  What is my relation to platform regulation?  I have been one of the people responsible for a project that was conducted by the European Law Institute to prepare a set of rules, modern law for regulating online intermediary platforms which was I can say quite a success and impact on how ‑‑ on what the approach it within the European Union to regulating platforms.  This is the background that also gave me a possibility to act as an expert for example European Parliament in the area of platform regulation.

At the same time, even though I have quite large legislative background I was working in Poland during that, and I was negotiating the European Counsel, various private law instruments, and I must stress that I am a private lawyer and me being a private lawyer, that sets my perspective.  This is the end goal from which I look at a problem.  Of course, platforms are quite peculiar from this position.  What we are witnessing right now, what we are participating in is creation of a competing world and this world functions based on platform structure and it is parallel to the on-site world that we're used to.

Complexity of this new platform world should probably be reflected in the structure of the rules that apply, regulated or if one has a bit more ambitions, is a visionary, lunatic some may say, depending on the point of view that have person, to steer its development and what I understand from today's session is to just focus on how can we steer the development of platforms to promote social and economic inclusion.  This is about making law, political decisions, whatever you choose as a tool of social engineering.

Of course, since my mother ship is private law, this is a bit overwhelming.  Private law, has its clear limits.  Those limits disappear when you think about platforms because ‑‑ also platforms but there are many elements that impact this process, change what private law is.

Basically we're talking about using law as tool of social engineering, not a question of its limits.  I would like to present to you what is happening in the European Union and not only legislatively, but conceptually how the approach is being shaped towards online platforms.

First, I will talk about this process, how you see it very briefly, how market is replying to online platforms and the next step would be about talking about policy choices that arise on the basis of this changed market reality.  Then I'll present to you ‑‑ I'm sorry ‑‑ the legislative instruments that are already in place in the European Union and then only those in the legislative pipeline, they're being negotiated by the European bodies and then at the end of the day, and my presentation, some conclusions that I'm afraid are not too optimistic..

First, platform economy, is different, the market is different., the market is different from the market that we had 200, years ago and our law is still based on this old structure of the market.  What is so peculiar of the market based on platforms.  I don't want to get in the discussion here, but I want to stress the European approach to this is, I guess this is very similar to it doesn't matter where you are, the conclusions are going to be similar in this regard. 

So online platforms act as gatekeepers and private regulators, so they basically organize market which later they dominate.  From our perspective, from my perspective as a person involved in creating modern rules on online platform.  And from private law perspective, one of the biggest challenges was that online platforms are more than just a party to a contract.  They set the rules they need ‑‑ they need to obey hopefully, but they cannot be put at the ‑‑ in the same approach or same position as other participants of the online markets.  Here is where private law falls short, this requires public law approach and then another characteristic with a strong impact on how the market is functioning, it is that market domination scaling, it is the survival strategy.  The purpose of the platform is to become large, that impacts how ‑‑ how it functions.

Next, use of data‑driven network effect which creates entry barriers for competition, all of these elements I'm listing, this sounds like competition law is used, but seriously, can competition law address it properly, that's the first question.

And economy of scale and scope.  Once you're a large platform, you enjoy strong economies not only of the scale, which is something that we are used to somehow but also economies of scope.  You can enter new markets and develop new products at the lower cost than entrance or even established player, which puts you in a completely different position as all other market participants.

Of course, economies of scale, economies of scope, they appear to be particularly strong when it comes to accumulation and use of the data relating to personal behavior.

You know, you are just organizing, using, adapting the market to your needs.  This leads us to innovation platforms having power over market, but not only on that, also society and democracy because whereas we ‑‑ private lawyers, we tend to look from the economic perspectives on how the markets are organized with platforms, this really is merged with all other aspects of functioning, data collect, used, impact on society.  This is, again, where private law falls short.

I'm sorry, I ‑‑ so what are the policy choices?  Some new, some old, some borrowed.  Actually they're not borrowed, they're more lent than borrowed because few think about new policy choices, we have new market structure which comes from infrastructure power of platforms.  You have new contract structure because you're used to bilateral contracts in chains and right now you have triangle as the leading form of construct.

Then you have data‑based economy which also combines private public problems.  You have artificial intelligence and expansion, that's in itself a huge problem when it comes to functioning of society and functioning of markets and then you have all sorts of societal, political impacts and, you know, pandemic and fake news and impact on elections worldwide.  That does not really need an explanation.

Thirdly, we have some old policy choices.  Abuse of power in contractual relations.  This is as old as the world is.  In Europe, the European Union particularly, this more has to do with abuse and power in business to business relation, platform to business relation, we have already quite strong consumer protection.  Data protection and our obsession, European obsession about data protection, it started even before platforms and then some borrowed, as I said lent.  This is about platforms becoming quasi states, becoming quasi regulator, overtaking the powers of the state to regulate sectors of market or markets and then you have at the same time increasingly reliance of states on platforms.  You can see ‑‑ in this example, where do you look to check how the local government is doing?  This is the news that Facebook provides to me.

If you think about, for example, tracking app, it turns out that it is Apple or Google who decides on what skill, what solution will be made for the tracking apps, not the government.  This is where the power ‑‑ it is where the decision is being made. 

Platforms as enforcers:  If you think about regulatory strategies, concerning content regulation that are imposed by platforms, suddenly it is the platform who imposes the policy, maybe state made, but state doesn't have to do anything with the way it is imposed.

Actually, it even further enhances power of the platform although regulatory policy was supposed to mitigate it.

How the situation looks like.  We already have several instruments that apply directly or indirectly to platform situation.  First general data protection regulation and, you know, this is a pride and joy of European Union, we really adore being the deal breakers when it comes to how the standard of data protection should look like.

Then we have regulation that deals exactly with platform to business problem.  As I said, abuse of power in terms of platform regulation, platform market, online platform market is more about how the business suffers because platform forces it into certain situations that may not be optimal from the‑point of view of the business.

This regulation focuses on transparency.  The transparency regarding the parameters, data mining, rankings, relative importance that are taken into consideration when establishing rankings, whether platforms engage in differentiated treatment, the extent of access to data, it is purely informational.  This regulation does not ban any practices or prescribe any conduct of platforms.  It provides a bit stronger protection to business users in other areas.  For example, the period of at least 15 days before the platform can implement changes to the terms and conditions, but just, you know, being informed we're going to do it.  Obliging platforms to set up internal complaint handling system possibility of mediation but this does not apply to small platforms.

It is just like at the beginning I would say.  Then we have commission guidelines on ranking, transparency, which complements the regulation and it aims to assist providers in applying their requirements and help optimize the manner in which the main parameter, the data mining rankings are in the divide. 

Then we have very specific regulation that addresses dissemination of terrorist content line and evidently it selves to counter the spread of extreme ideologists online.  Basically platforms have to remove terrorist comments referred by state authorities must be within an hour, it must be very swift.  Member States will be able to sanction non‑compliance and to decide on the level of penalties.  The size of the platform will be taken into consideration.  There's going to be a different approach towards small and big.  It is going to enter into force, apply as of June, 2022.

We have also code of conduct on countering hate speech online, just rules and community standards prohibiting hate speech and putting in place items to review content.

Then we have the directive on better importance.  And modernization of union consumer protection rules, so‑called OMNIBUS, this directive introduces already existing directives to enhance protection in terms of what's going on on the platform.  Those are changes for Commercial Practices Directive ‑‑ you had it on the slide ‑‑ and changes to Consumer Rights Directive.

It is important to stress what's important with the Consumer Rights Directive.  The platform operator has to mention whether the contractual partner of the consumer is a trader, because that would trigger consumer protection.  You know, at the end of the day, platforms enforce this protection on parties offering services done assumers.  In practice, I'm not really sure how much it will change because platforms already do that.

What will we have?  This is a huge legislative debate that is part of really a wide debate on the digital future of Europe.  We have two legislative acts in the pipeline, Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, and they are interconnected, and the DSA looks to transparency, consumer protection, applying to all risk but differentiates between the rules that apply to them depending on the size.  The DMA targets the lack of competition in digital market, where platforms create entry barriers.  It targets specific huge or large online platforms.  You have the specifics on the slide.

The Digital Services Act is based on traditional European approach which is reliability exemption, platforms and other intermediaries are not liable for the user behavior unless they're aware of illegal acts and failed to remove them.  There is no general obligation to monitor ‑‑ actually, it is a prohibition.

There are measures to counter illegal groups in a Digital Services Act, the obligation on traceability, safeguards for users that they will have a possibility to challenge, content moderation decision, transparency measures, extra obligations for very large platforms.  This is may be interesting, the very large platforms which are ‑‑ there are criteriums in the act, which platforms are those, will have additional obligations to fulfill.  They are required to conduct annual risk assessment regarding negative effects of fundamental rights and international intentional manipulation of their services.  They will have to subject themselves to independent audits due to the transparency and due diligence efforts.  This may be something that's of interest for the Global South because it shows how European Union falls short when dealing with platforms because what it requires is essentially, hey, Google, please, let us know what systematic risks do you pose to the European?  Now Google is going to tell us how it exposes risks.  Yeah.

This is quite an interesting aspect.  When it comes to enforcement, it is going to be Member States and European Union which is European Commission.  The latest developments in this area, because they're being negotiated, those acts are being negotiated, is that the European Commission will have exclusive powers to enforce when it comes to online platforms and this is actually I think a good solution because the systematic risks cannot be handled at the national level, Member States, national states, they're simply too weak.

What it gives us ‑‑ sorry.  I forgot to mention, the Artificial Intelligence Act which is also very, very important has been put forward ‑‑ pushed in the legislative pipeline.  It is also being negotiated.

As I said, not very optimistic.  The platform is already functioning.  It is difficult to handle considering how strong the platforms are already. 

Then the complexity of the power struggle:  If you look at the DSA, the DMA, they combine everything, especially DSA.  In legal content, in goods, legal content, all treated the same.  Misinformation, hate speech, the defective goods or services that do not match the description, contractual description, this is really a mixture that's going to be very difficult to digest.  Specifically, European context, it is that, you know, on the one hand, you have 27 countries that cooperate together to face the challenges of the market organized by innovation platforms, by very, very strong players of a global dimension.  At the same time, European Union has negative competent consequence, they have to act in what's attributed to it, and what you can see already is that the regulation of online platforms is really complex, it is scattered, you will have difficulties to find what rules really apply.  You already have several instruments that apply and there is no consistency between the instruments.  Yeah.

You know, this is lawyer speaking.  Lawyer always sees problems.

Thank you very much.  I imagined and I stop now!

>> HENRIQUE FAULHABER: Thank you, Aneta, for a broad view of the situation of regulation in Europe.

Next, the next speaker, it will be from Guatemala, those speaking here, we're shorting time, so I ask you to stay in 10 minutes limit that we established.  Thank you!  The floor is yours.

>> RENATA AVILA: As I commented in the chat.  It will be a speedy nationalization, it is a pleasure and an honor to be a Brazilian actually.  I love the country very much.  One of the things that I love about Brazil the most, it is that Brazil ‑‑ I start the conversation with this ‑‑ was a visionary of an open web, was the ‑‑ was ‑‑ the country was visionary in establishing open rules for everybody in the Global South to participate.  You know, unfortunately, like in the first decade of the century something happened.  What happened, and is relevant for this conversation, it is the equivalent of what happened to trains and public transport when the car was invented, and there was the mobile phone, you know.  The mobile phone, having mobile phones, being a means of communication for Global South countries completely closed the opportunities for many, completely closed the opportunities of an open web where everybody could have a chance.

When we think from the Global South perspective ‑‑ when we compare the past, the first decade of the century, it was relatively, like, you know, low investment, decentralized the enterprise of open, online business and we contrast that today with the structure of the platforms pushing us into and it has changed.  Like having the digital environment where a platform and an app is the default way for everybody, for the global poor to connect and it has blocked the opportunities to flourish for the global poor themselves.

That's another interesting point they don't discuss enough, I don't think we're skiing at this point the possibility of platform future because actually it is the centralized structure, the structure of platforms that is the parting point of many of the problems we're facing today.

It will reflect, you know, the economic benefits and what we really see in the Global South, it is a structure that's socializing the cost and privatizing the profits and privatizing the profits in a very clever way because it is free writing in a system that really you can have the globalization and on the global rules that the jurisdictions were ‑‑ most of the dominant platforms come from, to basically evade taxes, not contributing to society and not obeying rules, like labor rules, environmental rules, and when we in the Global South, when I think of Guatemala, we're not the European, we're far away from it in having leverage, and the larger platforms don't have offices in the countries, like online in Brazil, it is tiny little markets and paying the high cost, giving away the possibilities of having a future of our own, there are many things to consider on when we think about platform regulation from our Global South perspective.

The first reality check, it is that we have enhanced ‑‑ we have our hands tied by free trade agreements that we often are pushed to sign.

If you think of Central America, the CAFTA, the updated version, it is coming to us, and it will ‑‑ we have to sign it ‑‑ it really impedes us from having regulation, that resembles the regulation of the European Union that we have listened to now.  As we have seen, for example, in recent, you know, attempt of changing the policies of WhatsApp, the leverage, it is very, very little, that we could have ‑‑ like with this abrupt changes of policy, we just have to sign in and say, yes, the reality, it is that we're small and micro enterprises, and the poorest people in our countries, depend absolutely in four, five platforms to conduct businesses to exist even.  When you think of sanction, a small country, Nicaragua comes to mind, you know, completely wiping out the small businesses that rely on Facebook for advertising, on Google Maps to exist in the telephone to be, to be able to find a small business in a rural area.

All of these things I'm presenting, it will look very different and we will try to regulate platforms in the Global South and regulation may be impossible.

In my ‑‑ it may be necessary to think of a post platform architecture for online that goes a little bit back to the way we had, but rescues elements of the web we want to think of a more distributed digital future where the global partners, small country, remote players can again have a say, have a business that's functional, serving people, without being swallowed by the giants and that are divided and it is interoperable again.  That's the dream I have.

It is something possible for us to recover autonomy and sovereignty ‑‑ digital sovereignty from the Global South Global South perspective.

>> HENRIQUE FAULHABER: Thank you, Renata.  Excellent.  You bring me to the discussion here, for the Global South, and specific to Latin America, and I hope to have questions in the audience, on the debate phase about that.

Next you have Mr. Subhashish Badra.  Please, the floor is yours.

>> SUBHASHISH BADRA: Thank you so much.

I'll try to share my screen.  At the same time, I am suffering from a cold in case I just need to switch off my video to sneeze, please excuse me.

So I think for many reasons India becomes an interesting case of platform perspectives, sure, it is Global South and at the same time with China, they have turned out a lot of platforms, it is a big market, one in four on WhatsApp are in India, that gives us an amount of leverage that's leading to an interesting to put it mildly kind of dynamic here.  I want to in this presentation walk the audience through some of that.

Just to start with, right, I think that the context in which this is playing out in India, it is like many Global South countries, it is one of rapid Internet adoption, half a billion people in India, these are dated number, half a billion access the Internet and it has grown rapidly in the past four, five years.  Most of the people are on smartphones, many people go from the computer, broadband, it is all on mobile Internet.  From them, very often, the Internet means just WhatsApp and Facebook.  That's an interesting dynamic.  Thirdly, Indians consume the most amount of data on their mobile phones, which is significantly higher than the U.S. and Europe.  This is 9.8 a few years back, the latest number is 14GB a month.  Because of the falling rates in data, Indians, they are the largest consumers in the world on a per capita basis.

Over a half billion people are expected to come online between 2017 and 2022, it means these are people that are on the Internet for the first time.  This is first generation Internet user, they have not been accustomed to the Internet for long, all of that.  This is all leading to a fundamental ‑‑ we like to say data is changing India.  I think that the ‑‑ India you imagined ten years ago, it is not the same anymore there.

Are more start‑up activity, there is social political dynamic that's completely changed, and I think, you know, when you look at platforms, it is important to realize and to remember that these platforms, they happen in a society and there is a very complex relationship and fundamentally these platforms are changing the society that they inhabit.  As I'm going through this earlier, just to say, the kind of folks that are now coming online in India in the last five years, they're people that are government, factory worker, domestic help, security guards and these are peoples whose lives are extremely dependent on and affected by the platforms as they are brought on.  So the top level, middle income, they have probably had Internet for a decade or two decades.  This class of people are coming online for the first time.

So with all of that said, and we have referred to some of this, this is how I look at digital platforms, there are four defining features and it separates them from ‑‑ we have had a big pharma before, big tobacco, big oil, we have had dominant private sector companies but not mixed digital platforms, that's very different, it is the data‑centric model.  If you think of data as an embodiment of the human, because my data is about me, so because of this, there's an intense link between the platforms and me as an individual, which wasn't true of earlier companies.  Network, and we have talked about this in detail, and then there is an infrastructure and a lot of the economy these days is not built on top of this platforms, so unlike in our big pharma, big oil, which was operating in a silo from the rest of the economy, big tech and digital platforms, they're embedded in the rest of the economy.  Most importantly, they play a very important civic function.  Never before have private companies been moderators of a Constitutionally guaranteed right in any country.  The importance of this moment can't be understated.  When you look at these four characteristics of the digital platforms, something that's very unique in India, it is that we are not only talking about the Facebooks and Amazons of the world.  There is something interesting going on in yanked, that the government is out to build digital platforms and somewhat unique in the world and I'm going to walk through that, but at the same time, while China, others are building their own platforms, in India, also there is the emergence of the domestic, large platforms which are going to compete with the global platforms or work with global platforms in many ways and we'll work through that as well.

First thing first, right.  I think one aspect of digital platforms in India, it is just the traditional big tech companies that we're all familiar with.

Again, just the scale of this, this is important to grasp.

When we talk about digital payments in India, one of massive success over the past many year, Google is the most dominant platform in digital payments in India, 300 million users of Google pay with the largest market share.  India is an Android market, completely dominated by Google, Amazon has very large share in eCommerce, in the eCommerce sector, the users of WhatsApp, Facebook, very, very large numbers and the average Indian spends an hour on Facebook every day.

So these big tech global, mostly U.S. platforms are deeply embedded in the Indian lives.  At the same time, we see a tendency for domestic, for companies to actually start playing the game that big tech platforms have, that's why integrating different layers of the value chain.

In India for example, there is a very large company, Reliance Jio, owned by the richest man in India, probably the richest man in Asia.  His company has entered into many partnerships with different players in a way that's building top to down, building its presence in the value chain, and this is really to be as dominant, embedded as everyone's lives in the way that global platforms are.  Google and Facebook poured millions in this company with the intention to come up with partnership, come up with common platforms, devices, et cetera.  There is something interesting going on here with respect to the presence of domestic platforms.

What's most interesting in India, is that the government itself comes in, say, you know, we're going to build that platform out.  India's digital ID story, many people are very familiar with.  Beyond the digital ID story, we have had payments infrastructure that's built by a quasi-government entity and that payment infrastructure has basically destroyed the monopoly of credit card businesses and creating a different platform dynamic that's an intention to actually open up financial sector data to quasi-government data exchange there.

Are talks about building an eCommerce platform which will reduce the monopoly power of eCommerce players in India.  A lot of things that are interesting with the government stepping in, sector after sector saying  that the platform layer should be ruled by the government and owned by society and that it is only the application that should be built by the private sector.

I think there is a kind of interesting dynamic between the public, private sector that's playing out in digital platforms in India.

At the same time, while I think we're all very familiar with all of the downsides of platforms, I think it is important to understand in the Global South context digital platforms have a positive role to play to the extent that Amazon, other eCommerce players make it easier for businesses to reach beneficiaries, WhatsApp makes it easier for businesses to reach their beneficiary, they have had a positive impact.  They have innovate a lot on the languages and other technologies and that's really helped the wider communities obviously with big tech and watching out for its own benefits.  This is the information gateway, the information explosion we have seen India has happened because of these platforms and a lot of customized experiences and customized services they have provided, and then at the same time, sometimes in a Global South country like India, that's really low‑state capacity, and sometimes these platforms come and bridge that state capacity because they have access to data, access to capital, technology that government do not have. 

Even if you look at, for example, COVID.  When that broke out, there was a lot of industry applications of the data coming out of the platforms that could be used for policy‑making purposes.  At the same time, there is a negative aspect of all of the market power, we all know the competitive, anti-competitive behavior, we know the problems with disinformation, we know the problem was privacy violations, et cetera, I don't need to go over that.  To just make the point, that in the Global South the discussion is a lot more complex because they do have platforms that have positive impact on society.

India I think again from a regulatory perspective, that's basically the question that we're asking ourselves today, there is a personal data protection bill built on broadly GDPR framework with a wider exemption to governments that is in the advance stages.  India was the first country in the world to bring out and adopt net neutrality, putting a full stop to this and eCommerce, we have had for long the fact that foreign companies cannot have self‑bill on their platforms. 

An interesting regulatory innovation in India discussed is around non‑personal data.  All of the non‑personal data collected by platforms will be open data.  That's a proposal, the government set up a Committee, there is proposal this is how it will work and any company that is a certain size will have to make the non‑personal data it collects to believe other people. 

The geopolitical bans, India used that very often with Chinese apps but at the same time there is always a threat that is on social media and other things could be banned as well. 

An interesting thing that happened this year is intermediary liability rules, India mandated traceability, the first original of a WhatsApp message has to be ‑‑ WhatsApp has to collect and be able to identify them.  There is mandatory take down ever social media content, within 36 hours, voluntary verification of people through identity on digital platforms and all of that.  There is a lot of debate and discussion on what impact that's had on free speech.  Same time, good, forward looking measures as well, driven through offices and transparency report, a lot to unpack there.

Finally, as I had earlier alluded to, the Indian government is building out or promoting digital platforms in various sectors, one that's interesting to watch, one in eCommerce, open network for digital commerce, the idea is that eCommerce can be unbundled in a way, Amazon, in India, a flip card, doesn't have dominance to create the entire value chain and you modernize the value chain in a way that you break the monopolies.

I think in many ways India is doing a lot of innovative regulation, non‑personal data, digital infrastructure, et cetera, traceability, and I think that it is interesting to watch how this plays out.

Finally, I will end with this, we have to look at what context is playing out and many may be relevant for other Global South countries and there is an intervention, the government says platforms are not perform, let's accept in, there is a geopolitical war with China, a tension with the U.S., tech nationalism that Indian start‑ups and companies must own the data and there is active Civil Society because there is a lot of push back, strategic litigation going on, India has a sandbox trying new ideas with the public and the private sector and all of that playing out in the market which for big tech is the biggest market globally.  A lot of things that are interesting here.  I'm happy to dive into any of this.

Thank you.

>> HENRIQUE FAULHABER: Thank you, Subhashish Badra, for all of this information on India's situation.

And showing us how the big tech and the platforms are different from other situations and the economies.  Thank you very much.

The next speaker, it will be from Africa, Emanuel, from the private sector, Emmanuel Vitus.

>> EMMANUEL VITUS: Thank you very much.  Good morning to everyone.  My name is Emmanuel Vitus.  I'm a researcher in the National Convenor of the Togo IGF.  I'm going to talk about the evolutionizing of the digital platform on the African continent and how regulation today pose as real problem on the continent.  As you may be aware, the evolution of the digital platform has fronted governments across the continent to start regulating this platform beyond the existing traditional laws and this is because in recent years we have observed a number of challenges like cyberbullying, online gender violence and other forms of targeted innovation violence present in other parts of the world.  The violence across the continent, it has cut the Internet users, between the government to regulate those hubs and the social media platforms, between knowing the problem and launching a large crackdown on the user speech.

I will take it from two different perspective, first from the government perspective and the tech giant perspectives as well and propose a few recommendations as said so that those from the government and also from those private sector, online platform can also team up to bring a kind of multistakeholder approach of regulation.

From the government perspective, in Africa in recent years, most laws enacted by the government on the couldn't continent, online harm, violence, they end up targeting legitimate online speech instead.  I have actually looked at it broadly.  If you tabling, for example, the Nigeria Cybercrime Act or the Uganda Computer Misuse Act, the Kenya Computer and Cybercrime Act or the Malawi and Transaction and Cybersecurity Act, all of those acts are less than five years now, so every African government is trying to learn from each other, you know, how to regulate.  What we have noticed in those different acts, that those governments are actually enacting, it is that most of them are vaguely worded and they can be, you know, used to stifle dissidents, that's what we observe, especially countries where freedom of speech is not available, they're not democratic.  The leaders use those regulations to stifle dissidents instead of regulating it to help the economy. 

There is a measure on online speech, platforms, so we have seen that in most countries, like in Togo, countries like Cameroon, countries like Uganda, in countries like Congo, it has become a trend, in Ethiopia, Nigeria, almost every part of the continent they use it as the easiest way to regulate a platform, usually when it comes to elections or when it comes to public protest or when it comes to national exams, those are like the easiest way for the African government to regulate, you know, those platforms which we all agree are not the best.  Usually the governments don't look at things on the Western way, we look at it as a threat.  As I said, it goes with democracy because if you look at most of the countries that actually shut down the Internet as a regulation, you know, to protect the online platforms, usually they are not democratic countries, you notice that most rulers in the countries have staying power, more than two times, more than 15 years, so the Internet, it is seen as a threat, especially given the voices to, you know, the younger generation, the activists in the past, in Africa, for example, they used to go ‑‑ they used to protest, they used to show muscles and now it is not the same case, now everybody sits with you say online, you say whatever you want to say to the government, you have observed the trends since the Arab Spring in 2011, to date, every African government is facing the sale challenge.    The easiest way for them to regulate is either come up with those laws and the user, as I said, the laws are usually vague and very easy for the government to use it or misuse it as they want.  We have law, for example, in countries like Nigeria where the government, where the articles, for example, when they said if what you say is annoying to the government.  You know, who define, what is annoying.  That's some of the ways, for example, governments across the continent learn from each other and usually these people, they are ‑‑ they are publishing this online, et cetera, usually dissidents, they're not people, you know ‑‑ they actually are arrested for the opinion but they're arrested for their political party that they belong to.  It is a very big challenge and from the social media perspective, the social media perspective, they also face a very peculiar regulatory challenge in the African context because usually those social media, like if I take Facebook, WhatsApp, et cetera, they usually design one‑size‑fits‑all.  I mean, if it is okay for the U.S. market, it is okay for the African market.  That's how the regulation comes.

You know, we live in different parts of the world and in Africa usually let me give a basic example, Facebook for example, they fight hate speech in, Africa, you can't, people post this in local languages, Africa has 800 local languages and it is almost impossible for those platforms like Facebook, et cetera, to define algorithms to detect certain way, for example, to fight online speech.

It becomes very difficult and we notice that the one‑size‑fits‑all does not work really in the African context and we also notice in recent years, for example, if you take WhatsApp for example during the COVID pandemic it is becoming a platform on which, for example, the hate speech spread as quickly as possible because usually due to the digital literacy level of the continent people prefer sending audio messages to their beloved.  When they send the message, it is difficult, for example, for those digital platforms to try to regulate this content.  You see the spread of fake new, you see the spread of videos and content data, so difficult for our government to fight.  On the continent it becomes more and more difficult for those platforms.

Now, from this view, what can African government and the social media platform, what they can do to regulate the platforms?  We notice that more and more people are getting connected on the continent and we don't have local solutions.  By local solution, I mean we don't have local platforms.  Most of the platforms on the continent comes from the U.S.  Again, the necessity is they should now look at it from the African perspective, when it comes to regulation because when you look at it that way, usually what happens, it is the African governments, they give them the responsibility to do that and if they're not able to do it, what they do, it is they go the hard way. 

We have cases, for example, in Nigeria, right now where Twitter is banned now for months now in the countries.  We had areas where the government banned social media for a year, people don't have access to social media or we have countries like Uganda, Benin, where the government tries to put a tax just on social media and just that people pay before, you know, publishing content online aside from the Internet data they buy.  They should pay for social media tax, et cetera.  It becomes a challenge and it is an issue for the government and on the innovation platforms that team up to come up with, you know, compliance and laws that are in compliance with international Human Rights standards.  Usually as I said, the laws in Africa, they became in such a way that it is difficult for people, people have time to contribute.  Sometimes you wake up in the morning and the government has voted a new bill for social media and where you go into it, it doesn't actually respect any Human Rights‑based approach.

It is more or less an attempt for the government to just quickly solve the problem instead of looking at it in another term.

We also have the non‑participation of non‑state actors.  Usually it comes from the parliament, they're the policymakers, it comes from the governments usually.  It is difficult, for example, Civil Society, for private sector, by private sector, I mean for others to contribute to those laws, so it becomes more and more difficult so that the academics, they're there, the international Human Rights organizations are there, they're willing to contribute to the process, but the process, it is not usually open for a multistakeholder approach.  What I can say from my observation on the entire continent is, it will be difficult, you know, if African government continues to move on silo, to be very difficult.  They have to, you know, come up with regulations, data that is harmonized on the continent level, like, for example, if you take the European level with the GDPR, every, you know, country in the world now, complies when they're saying ‑‑ they see that data with Europe. 

In Africa, it is not the same, every government goes their own way, they're not powerful economically and it is difficult for them because some countries, on the continent, for example, if you take the annual GP, it is a call to what the social media platform makes in a month.  It is quite difficult to face those giants and fight them if we don't come out with, you know, a continental ‑‑ how do you call it?  A framework that is more inclusive to fight or regulate the platform.

I think I'll end it here and I'll be open, you know, to answer questions later.

Thank you.

>> HENRIQUE FAULHABER: Thank you, Emmanuel Vitus, for all of the information from the Africa situation.  We see how important it is, the problem of regulating platforms and different geographies.

Next we have the last speaker.  Please, try to stay in the 10‑minute mark, we're short of time and I believe you have much material to discuss today.

Thank you.

The floor is yours.

>> AGUSTINA ORDONEZ:  Thank you so much for the invitation and for having me here.

I'm going to speak about what to consider when regulating social media platforms and I will focus especially the Argentinian case.

So whether you need to be related, I think that's the main question, and the answer that I found, it is because we need to guarantee Human Rights, Freedom of Expression and privacy.  After that, we can ask, okay, so where should we start?  In which part?  So I think there are three main things that need to be regulated that is content moderation, personal data and the lack of investment that the companies have in the country where is they operate.

In Argentina, we have two main international treaty, one the American convention on Human Rights and the other one, it is the international governance on political and Civil Rights, the skeleton for this regulation.

Regarding content moderation, we don't have a specific law, but we have jurisprudence from a case from Maria Belen Rodriquez, a model who sued Google and Yahoo 20 years ago because they used her image for pornography and erotic means, and the courts said that even though the engineers were not and are not responsible for the content that people share, they are responsible when they become aware of the content and they do nothing about it.

Regarding personal data, we have three main laws, one, it is the protection of personal data, obvious data, and Argentina digital, or digital Argentina, what these three main laws have, it is that ‑‑ the important thing, it is all the personal data belongs to you.  What do we mean with personal data.  Personal data, it is anything that can be linked to your profile, to your identify.  So for example your ID of the computer, that is your personal data, your phone number is your personal data, your email is personal data, it is not only about your name or your age, it is anything that can be used to say, okay, you are this person and these law, they're protected by the personal data law and what they say, it is that the companies cannot use your personal data without your consent and nowadays, you have to agree like yesterday I was on a website and they say it appeared a message to share my personal data and if I say no, they cannot use it.  And that data belongs to me, I can go, ask them not to share it with other parties or ‑‑ I'm ‑‑ I'm waiting to know what they're doing with this personal data.  One of the most important things that we have, it is the privacy of traffic data associated so the thing is no one can access to your personal data, the only way someone can access is with a request of a judge.  That's for the privacy part.

One thing, this is not a law, it is a guide.  I think it is ‑‑ it is more like a principle.  I think it is important to have, it is the use of personal data for electronic purposes.

So they say that, okay, it is not a law.  They say that only personal data cannot be used for other purposes and this should apply also in electronic purposes.

Even though it is not an existing regulation, it means that personal data that is used for electronic purposes is still personal data and should be under the shame.

The local communities, so the investment, there is a lack of investment in the companies that they operate, usually they don't have an office, a staff, others to go, in Argentina, we don't have any taxation, specifically, for social media platforms, but what we have is taxes for streaming purpose bees.  It is like Netflix, Disney Plus, but the thing is, those are taxed by the user, not by the companies.

One more law to take into account, it is the consumer protection law that says that all the information that the companies give to us, it needs to be in our own language, it has to be simple, it has to be ‑‑ well, real.  And if not, we can go to the court and sue them if they don't do this.

So what can we learn from the Argentina case.

So in content moderation, I believe the most important thing, it is that to be aware or not ‑‑ we have ‑‑ we have been discussing this over this week, the importance of Freedom of Expression.  So just not tackle it, but the search engineer, the social media platforms, they are responsible for the content they have on their sites only when they become aware it is criminal content and they do nothing about it.  They don't remove it.

So they're not responsible for what people post, only in this case.  Another thing that's really important, it is that the removable of the content should be based on the home country's understanding and law where is it operates, not from where it is placed.  They say okay, this is not something that's against, I don't know, the law in the U.S. because that is where they have ‑‑ where they ‑‑ where they're based, maybe in our country it is.  It has to do with the regulation of the country where it operates.

Regarding personal data, so rights, personal data, everything that you share if someone else shares something, somebody else chats with you, he, she puts it on Facebook, tells your name, that's personal data, even though you're not sharing yourself because it can be linked to you.  In all social media platforms, you need to have the consent to use our personal data and what we have in Argentina, I think the ‑‑ the problem we have, it is with enforcement of all of these things.  Right.

So what we have, it is a registration for all of the companies and NGOs and even the government, we need to register if they have a personal database and they need to have a responsibility for that data.  If something happens with that data we know who to sue, who to go to, who to ‑‑ I don't know, to ask for our data the investment in local economy I believe the most important thing, it is that people ‑‑ I mean, people already pay taxes.  This company needs to start paying taxes as not more or less than other companies that operate in the country.  They should definitely have an office and a minimum staff so that we can go and we can ask things and we want something to be removed, for instance, in Argentina, we speak Spanish, if you want to say something, for example, to Facebook or Instagram, you will have to email them in English and that's barrier and obviously they should be ‑‑ the people should be able to reach them in their own country and in the case of litigation, this is really important, the application of the law should be in the country where it operates.  If it operates in Argentina, it goes to the application of the law of Argentina, not of the U.S.

So thank you.  I'm open to any questions.


Now you have some time for questions for the audience.

I believe the question was very good so we have little time to discuss those issues and we see how important it is to see how to regulate platforms in different ways regarding the Global South situation.

My first question, we have some questions of the room audience, but the first question is somehow the platform will involve the work and the effort from the platforms themselves and it is not easy to regulate the platforms without the cooperation of the platform..

We talk mostly on self‑regulation with regulation together coregulation, things like that.

I have ‑‑ I would like to have inputs from our speakers about the trend of the necessity of the state to govern the power of the platform.  How to do it together with the platforms in a self‑regulation, coregulation way.

Please, I put this question to all of the speakers so that if one of you could respond I will be very glad.

Thank you.

>> RENATA AVILA: I would like to start.  I strongly resonate with the idea of coregulation like in a country like the Global South.  We have seen what has happened in recent time was Facebook and with all of the companies, they're like brilliant oversight board, apparent ‑‑ strong PR signaling that they're doing something for the users and then you see the priorities is users in rich countries and serving the consumers in rich countries, when you see, you know, very sensitive, very dangerous issues such as igniting ‑‑ promoting a genocide in Myanmar, or like the social unrest confrontation among, like, ethnic groups, right now in Ethiopia, or the terrible management of elections in Honduras, completely neglected for later.  Companies like the main goal is profit, it is not serving people necessarily.

If we have a weak government it is ‑‑ the vulnerability and the possibilities of the companies scrapping their own regulation is high.

I believe instead of coregulation I think that what we need is a broader Global South country alliance, like a third block of countries agreeing on stronger regulation, stronger standards that are not necessarily inspired or dictated by G20 countries basically, but by the smaller players in the game.

>> HENRIQUE FAULHABER: Thank you, Renata.

Another question, we have a big buzz around big techs, whose corporations, monopolies, market concentration, and there is a common sense about the possibility of unburdening some of the countries.  How do we envision the appropriate way to regulate the platform to the size and work stream, considering that some of them, most of the users are allocated in the Global South, how do you see that discussion that was breaking the companies, how they're made to avoid to attack the problem.

If someone can comment?

>> SUBHASHISH BADRA: I can jump in to that one.

I think many people will agree, breaking up the platforms by themselves probably you have to be incredibly smart to actually pull that off and most likelihood, it will not work because you probably will do it somewhat imperfectly in a way that the smaller parts, they become larger because the structure of parameters of this, the network affects, the data‑centric model, rules, they're not going away.  As long as the platforms, they stay like that.

I do want to bring attention to something and I have been thinking about it for several years and you can see in the income approach, it is the platform and interoperability.  If so much is dependent on the network affects, what happens with those network affects.  Historically, for example, in payments, because even if you see in chi narcs there are these close systems, you talk to someone on the same platform, we can only chat with Facebook with someone on Facebook.  India made payments, built a payment system so different systems could pay to others, Google Pay could send money to someone whose on Walmart’s payment style.  That has made all of this extremely interoperable.  In payment, you don't have the harms of monopolies you see in other areas.  It is worth exploring and breaking up whether there is a possibility to make this interoperable.

Hypothetically, the reason I'm on WhatsApp, not just on Signal is because I have to be there, because my friends and family are there.  What if I could be on Signal and send a message to someone on WhatsApp?  I think that will really break the excessive power that the companies have, not so much, you know, just legally breaking them up.


I have people in chat, I will go to a question who is saying we see from the Facebook papers that besides the language problems, there is no issues on content moderation investments from America for instance.  How could you address in terms of regulation this problem mentioned about America with the Global South.  This situation arised for Africa very clearly as Emmanuel had said also.

Anyone can respond.

>> EMMANUEL VITUS: Today I think it is a matter of power.  Somebody earlier mentioned that where you take those platforms, like Facebook, Google, et cetera, do we coregulate with them or government can go with its power to regulate?  As you said, there is not transparency.  When any time government, you know, come out of a policy, they come out, signal we're doing our best, we're doing our best, we're working on our goal, it is we're work organization on a team, regulating, recruiting people to work on local languages, I mean, all of this drama, you know, the diplomatic talk, but we need real, you know, change.  We need to see the transparency to one level, for example, the commitment, you know, to regulate those platforms. 

In Nigeria, they banned Twitter because they have the markets.  They said we have to negotiate with the government, we cannot do without them, Nigeria has more than 200 million people, that's half of the population of half of Europe.  You have to sit down with these giants to have a conversation.  Nigeria banned Twitter because the president had his tweets banned, the president said you're a company like any other company, we're an institution.  You have to look at in a broader way, that's why earlier I said there is the approach, we don't need individuals or companies to regulate how do you call it, content on the continent.  We need to have good laws and strong institutions, you know, for the rule of law.

At the end of the day, it is not who is the winner of it, it is what the law says.  If the law is a multistakeholder law, I don't think Facebook, Twitter, an individual, they can ‑‑ they are all part of it.  It is important that we go on that direction and I'm thinking any time that the problem arise, we wait for either the government to come out of the law, the government always does it on its own way as, you know, sovereign states, they do it on their own way and if you're not lucky, you come to countries like Cameroon, Togo, where you have ‑‑ you know, you have the ten regime, they don't look at how do you call it, opportunity to regulate, they look at it as opportunity to suppress the citizens.  It is very important that we go the multistakeholder way in drafting law, it is only the laws applied in the longer term.  Also to conclude from what my colleague from Argentina said, it is difficult for example for someone today to go and sue somebody in the U.S. because the cost involved is a lot for an African.  It is very important that if those giants come to the continent the rule of law in those countries should be applied to them because today they hide behind, you know, the U.S. regulation saying that we're a U.S. company and we don't have to be accountable, you know, to any governments around the world.  If you have a problem, come to the U.S.

I think that's one problem that needed to be solved.  That's why I spoke earlier about, you know, harmonization of, you know, those frameworks on the continent because if we stand at one continent with more than, you know, 7 hundred million people it is more strong than, you know, individual countries who are less than 1 million people, that's why we stand.  We have to come out with a multistakeholder approach and also a regulation that's a continent driven regulation.

Thank you.

>> ALEXANDRE COSTA BARBOSA: Thank you, Emanuel.

We're really short of time.

We will finish in 3 minutes.

So I would like to first say thank you to all of the speakers for the excellent opportunity of discussion to this question of regulating platforms on IGF.

As I said before, there is a discussion being held with Brazil since the beginning of this year and we are very glad to have this opportunity to discuss with experts from other regions of the world about this important issue that all of the nations are confronting today.

I have some ‑‑ I'll pass the floor to Aneta to say a few points about the questions posed and to say again thank you for awful the audience and for the speakers.

Aneta, can you close the session?  I don't know about the procedure.  Maybe you can be out in 2 minutes!  Please!  Make the wrap up for me!


It was a pleasure for me to listen to the presentations that were totally eye opening and whereas the ‑‑ I think we share the same problems because the structure of the problem is the same.  The question is, how strong are we to answer them and it is quite heart breaking and I intentionally use emotional description to hear how free trade agreements prevent from imposing legitimate democratic answer to clearly abusive practices and I think that was the same thing in all of the presentation, that the answer to the changing of the global market is uniform approach.

One country will not be able to address the issues.  The congregation of countries might.  I'm often annoyed with the policy of the European because I found it to weak.

Yes, I find it too weak.

At least there is incentives and at least there is certain background that is strong and can be enforced.

That also shows that there is a space to achieving this.

I think what is happening in Europe, it is not enough.

It is just the beginning.

I would just like for me, it was a huge eye opener.  I'm really, really grateful for all of the extremely interesting views for all of the sides of the world.  I'm making it personal but it was incredibly interesting panel for me.

Thank you very much.