IGF 2021 DC-Sustainability Internet governance and news media sustainability

Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (14:05 UTC) - Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (15:35 UTC)
Conference Room 3

Dynamic Coalition on the Sustainability of Journalism and News Media

Round Table - Circle - 90 Min


Regulation, competition and innovation: How could regulatory and self-regulatory frameworks help foster more competitive Internet-related markets, a larger diversity of business models, and more innovation? How to enable equitable access to data, marketplaces or infrastructures for fostering competition and innovation on the Internet?
Content moderation and human rights compliance: How to ensure that government regulation, self-regulation and co-regulation approaches to content moderation are compliant with human rights frameworks, are transparent and accountable, and enable a safe, united and inclusive Internet?


Media sustainability has ricocheted to the forefront of the internet governance discussion and policy agendas around the world over the past year. This was especially true amid Australia’s proposed law to tax Big Tech to support journalism at the beginning of 2021, however it has been an ongoing topic of debate worldwide. There has been a robust discussion on the DC-Sustainability listserv and the broader public sphere, providing an opportunity for this coalition to inform the broader debate over how to ensure news media sustainability in the digital age. Shaped by the Dynamic Coalition on the Sustainability of Journalism and News Media (DC-Sustainability)’s 2021 annual report concept note and proposed chapter structure, this session will offer a forum for interactive discussion on the nexus of Internet governance and the economics of media sustainability. Following the proposed chapter structure of the 2021 report, the session will focus on the following topics: Licensing news online Taxation/subsidies Market dynamics Net neutrality and zero-rating Big Tech’s support to journalism Content Moderation and Impact on Sustainability The session will bring together all members of the DC to offer a diverse and international perspective on the above issues.

1) This session will be hybrid as many of the participants will likely be unable to travel to Poland due to COVID-19 travel restrictions that may still be in place. Thus, there will be equal ability to participate for those in Poland as well as through participating virtually. The on-site moderator will coordinate with the remote-moderator to ensure that anyone not present in the room is also given a chance to participate. The remote-moderator, alongside a member of the GFMD Secretariat, will monitor online questions and facilitate conversations in the online chat, while passing these conversations and questions to the on-site moderator, who will raise them with all participants. 2) Participants will be both online and in person. 3) The session will be promoted by the organizers online prior to the event. The event will also be live Tweeted so that the inputs from speakers and participants are shared widely, using well-established community hashtags (such as #MediaDev and #Netgov). Additionally, the online moderator will (time and capacity-permitting) monitor Twitter conversations which may be able to shape the discussion.


Daniel O'Maley (Center for International Media Assistance – CIMA), Civil Society, Western European and Others Group Courtney Radsch, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group Jordan Higgins (Global Forum for Media Development – GFMD), Civil Society, Western European and Others Group


Speaker 1: Claire Wardle, US Director, First Draft News
Speaker 2: Jason Lambert, Senior Director of Media Business, Internews and Program Lead, Ads for News
Speaker 3: Olaf Steenfadt, Head of the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) and Media Ownership Monitor (MOM), RSF
Speaker 4: Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi, Chief, Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section, UNESCO

Onsite Moderator

Courtney Radsch, Co-chair DC-Sustainability and Senior Tech Policy Advisor, Global Forum for Media Development

Online Moderator

Dan O'Maley, Co-chair DC-Sustainability and Center for International Media Assistance


Daniel O'Maley



Targets: This DC-Session addresses a topic that is directly applicable to SDG target 16.10 (Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements). Over the past 30 years the internet has facilitated previously unimaginable access to information. At the same time, however, the changes to the digital marketplace it has catalyzed have also fundamentally altered the dynamics of the news media industry. Ensuring that citizens have access to high-quality news and information is fundamental to achieving SDG 16.10, which is why digital media sustainability is an essential component to making progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Journalism has a fundamental role in ensuring accountability and transparency in all areas of society. Journalism’s independence and health is prerequisite for other areas of development.

Trust initiatives are also about making media organisations visible. Being trusted has become a major challenge for most media outlets.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The sustainability of journalism has to be a more central concern of the Internet governance policy agenda.

Need for engagement of both media organisations and tech companies in trust initiatives to make these solutions more scalable and inclusive.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

At the Internet Governance Forum in Katowice, Poland, GFMD’s Courtney Radsch chaired a discussion on the role of trust-building initiatives in fighting disinformation and strengthening media sustainability.

The growing recognition of journalism’s fundamental role in ensuring accountability and transparency in all areas of society and that journalism’s independence and health is prerequisite for other areas of development, is – not before time – leading to the sustainability of journalism becoming a more central concern of the Internet governance policy agenda.

One of the drivers of this change in perspective is the Dynamic Coalition on the Sustainability of Journalism and News Media which hosted a panel discussion on 9 December at the 2021 Internet Governance Forum in Katowice, Poland. The “DC-Sustainability” – launched in 2019 – is an official dynamic coalition of the IGF and provides opportunities for coalition building around how to inform the broader debate over how to ensure news media sustainability in the digital age.

Chaired in-person by Dr Courtney Radsch, GFMD’s Tech Policy Advisor, and online by Daniel O’Maley of CIMA, the panel brought together members of the coalition to discuss the progress, effectiveness and interoperability of some of the leading journalism trust initiatives.


Ads for News

Jason Lambert, Senior Director of Media Business at Internews, explained that Ads for News was created in response to a crisis of trust between advertisers, news publishers and platforms.

“Back in 2017 many of the world’s largest brands pulled their advertising from the big platforms after finding their ads were being placed next to extremist content or web pages.”

This wake-up call for the news industry was the catalyst for the formation of the United for News Coalition that develops and maintains an inclusion list of 8,000 trusted news media in 30 countries that is available for free to media buyers. Being trusted has become a major challenge for most media outlets. Being proactive and engaging in Ads for News and other similar initiatives, Lambert said, can help build trust not just with audiences and advertisers but also inside the media ecosystem, such as identifying who to collaborate with for cross border investigative stories.


Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI)

The Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) aims at a healthier information space. It is developing and implementing indicators for the trustworthiness of journalism and thus, promotes and rewards compliance with professional norms and ethics. The JTI was originally launched and is now operated by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The Head of the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) Olaf Steenfadt, RSF explained that among the ingredients to make the Journalism Trust Initiative work Olaf Steenfadt are:

  • Scalability
  • Machine readability
  • Enabling environment of regulation and co-regulation

Steenfadt described JTI as an example of “Middleware” – a middle layer of different tools and instruments between big tech and consumers which offer a choice and empower the users – a term coined by Francis Fukuyama and others in a 2020 article for Foreign Affairs: How to Save Democracy From Technology.

Fukuyama and his co-authors postulated that if efforts to break up the monopolies of big tech, search and social media fail, an alternative could be to create a middle layer of different tools and instruments and plugins, between big tech and to the consumer. These tools, Steenfadt said, have the potential to create pluralism and empower users by offering choice even if we still have to live with monopolies in certain areas.


The other side of disinformation: the sociology of information consumption.

Platforms and algorithms are only the technological side of the problem, we also have to consider the human aspects of information consumption – how people consume information and why.

Claire Wardle, US Director of First Draft News, told even that “the real challenge that everybody is trying to solve here is this idea of heuristics”, a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently.

“When we’re scrolling everything online looks similar. So our brains are looking for these cues to try and make sense of it. So enabling people to understand through a visual cue that this is a trustworthy organisation is important”.

To understand the sociology behind disinformation, Wardle argued, it is also crucial to understand the participatory and dynamic nature of the information ecosystem where “consumers have choices and can “seek out and consume information that reinforces their worldview”.

Wardle challenged those that work countering disinformation to consider how we can “learn from the disinformation ecosystem where people feel heard and feel they have agency?”

“It doesn’t matter how many credibility indicators we have, if we don’t fundamentally understand that relationship that audiences want to have with their information providers.”


“Glocal” Trust: how can we create scalable solutions?

What about scalable solutions for developing countries? They are less connected, have fewer news sources and can’t compete in the engagement algorithms because their audiences sometimes are too small. And, last but not least, how does this work in other non-western character languages?

Speakers noted that it is crucial to decipher the markets and to understand the local context. Testing of instruments to implement could also be quite useful as it helps to detect flaws, address them, upskill the staff and come out of this process more experienced. The linguistic aspect is also related to our ability to listen to what’s going on in the field.

“Most trust initiatives have been built in US or Western Europe. We need more research, more understanding, more partnerships with people on the ground. Existence of different media ecosystems – not an easy way of describing them. Funding research to answer what does credibility look like in Thailand? What does it look like in Malawi?, because without that, without a true understanding, we’re not going to be able to scale at all, we’re going to scale with some really problematic unintended consequences that we’ve seen the platform’s do. So I think we have to learn from the mistakes they’ve made. We can’t scale similarly, unless we have a true understanding of what’s happening on the ground.” Claire Wardle, US Director, First Draft News.

Claire Wardle acknowledged the importance of an organisation like UNESCO which not only has a global view, but also the ability to connect with partners on the ground. For her, this “hybrid approach […] has to be the key to this to make it sustainable, and again, prevent the unintended consequences.”


Transparency of Internet companies

This year, information as a public good became the main topic of World Press Freedom Day.

“In the Windhoek+30 declaration that just two weeks ago was endorsed by all the 193 member states of UNESCO, the issue of media viability was at the very centre of this idea that information is a public good, but connected with another element that is very much related to the main topic of the session. We can’t move forward without more transparency of the internet companies, and particularly the social media companies”, said Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi, Chief of Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section at UNESCO.

According to him, currently, UNESCO is working on a broader strategy that started with the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). IPDC handbook that is going to be launched next year in January will contain useful practices from various countries. It will also highlight some trends that are common for all those countries. For instance:

  • The way the algorithms of the major social media platforms are calibrated: they don’t help people find the news they want to find in local independent media, because their news feed receives specific indications that the algorithms want them to see.
  • It’s very difficult for small or medium-sized independent media to interact directly with the social media giants. So one of the things they are precisely asking is for more media alliances around those issues.


Where do we go from here and what’s next?

Dan O’Maley, Co-chair DC-Sustainability and Center for International Media Assistance concluded that the main common goal is democratic accountability, inclusivity and visibility of organisations. “The other takeaway is figuring out how to make news information, ecosystems, financially viable is really about our societies, and what kind of societies we want to live in”, he summed up.