IGF 2021 DCPR Platform Interoperability: Understanding a Complex Issue

Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (14:05 UTC) - Thursday, 9th December, 2021 (15:35 UTC)
Hall A3

Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility

Round Table - U-shape - 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?
Protecting consumer rights: What regulatory approaches are/could be effective in upholding consumer rights, offering adequate remedies for rights violations, and eliminating unfair and deceptive practices from the part of Internet companies?


A recurring theme in recent platform related discussion is platform interoperability and how this can play out in practice. This session will aim at stimulating a multistakeholder discussion, bringing together a range of views, to analyse the various facets of the platform interoperability debate. Speakers will explore proposed and existing regulatory instruments dedicated to interoperability, and how (the lack of) interoperability is playing out in the platform governance arena. The session will also offer the occasion to launch the Glossary on Platform Law and Policy Terms, developed by the IGF Coalition on Platform Responsibility, which is available at: https://www.intgovforum.org/en/filedepot_download/45/20436.

The session will be open to questions both from on-site and online participants – the organizers have extensive experience in conducting and moderating similar sessions (e.g. the Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility at IGF 2020). The session will also be live-tweeted from the institutional accounts of the Center for Technology and Society (@CTS_FGV) and the CyberBRICS project (@BRICSCyber) by other staff members.


Yasmin Curzi, Center for Technology and Society Luca Belli, FGV Law School



Keynote speakers:

David Kaye, Co-Director UCI Law 

Patrick Penninckx, Head of the Information Society Department, Council of Europe


Catherine Garcia-van Hoogstraten, Microsoft

Vittorio Bertola, Open-Xchange

Rolf H. Weber, University of Zurich

Smriti Parsheera, CyberBRICS

Alejandro Pisanty (UNAM)

Nina da Hora (CTS-FGV)


Onsite Moderator

Luca Belli

Online Moderator

Yasmin Curzi


Yasmin Curzi



Targets: In the last few years we have seen a growing trend towards the monopolisation of communication mediated by applications, such as WhatsApp - the ensuing market concentration generates risks both for privacy and other users' rights, since users are heavily descouraged from migrating to other platforms. The consolidation of this monopoly could exacerbate the already sharp inequalities between North and South countries in the technology sector, by inhibiting the entrance of new actors (for instance, new companies and organisations from the global South) in this market. A potential solution for mitigating the market concentration is through industrial diversification by platform interoperability. Discussing the means and methods by which such measures could be implemented by governments and international organisations is of vital interest in a increasingly technology-reliant society.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The central role digital platforms play in economic relations, their potential impact in democratic processes and human rights require adequate regulation to optmize how society uses them. One important regulatory step is implementing platform interoperability - which has many facets, from data to protocols and legal systems. This potentially unlocks value in digital environments, stregthening competition and providing user control.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Download the "Glossary of platform law and policy terms", available at: https://www.intgovforum.org/en/filedepot_download/45/20436.

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

IGF 2021 DCPR Platform Interoperability: Understanding a Complex Issue

The 2021 session of the DCPR aimed at instigating a multistakeholder discussion towards platform interoperability by bringing together speakers from different backgrounds and countries. Session organizer prof. Luca Belli and founder of the DCPR stated that the goal of this years' session was threefold: first, to discuss the most pressing issues regarding platform governance and platform responsibility; second, to analyze platform interoperability and, three to launch the Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms, a volume with 100 relevant terms in Platform Governance – which is a collaborative work by the DCPR working group. The Glossary shows DCPR’s commitment to involving stakeholders outside academia, thus embracing a plural and multifaceted approach towards the field’s issues. Regarding the Glossary, in his opening remarks, Prof. Luca Belli commented upon the difficulty of finding a common language through which policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders can discuss fundamental concepts for platform regulations. 

The firsts to talk were the keynote speakers, Patrick Penninckx and David Kaye (who participated through a recorded video). Regarding platform governance/responsibility, both of them highlighted the importance of human rights for guiding the development of platform's regulation – which is the current approach advocated by the Council of Europe – as stated by its Head of Information Society Department and keynote speaker, Patrick Penninckx – and several other relevant institutions (e.g., the 2018-2019 reports by the DCPR keynote speaker, David Kaye, during his tenure as U.N. special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression). David Kaye especially commented on the importance of interoperability from this standpoint: it strengthens the users’ free choice and facilitates the entrance of new actors into the market, while simultaneously diminishing governmental censorship.

Approximately halfway through the session, keynote speaker David Kaye’s presentation was interrupted by a zoombombing attack, with harmful content (including racial slurs) being broadcast to all participants and audience members. The session was shut down and resumed after about 20-30 minutes. Speaker Vittorio Bertola, who presented after the incident, remarked that the case perfectly exemplified the importance of interoperability: without it, users are more likely to be dependent on monopolizing platforms that often have security and privacy concerns. With interoperability, competition is encouraged, with users being able to choose the platforms that offer the best, most reliable, and secure services.

Speaker Smriti Parsheera, bringing her experience with the Indian scenario, stated the importance of the technical level in developing interoperability, especially in the case of data sharing models in India.  Speaker Alejandro Pisanty stated, in his presentation, that companies are capturing the legislative debate on platform regulation – it is necessary, therefore, to return the debate to the stakeholders – policymakers, activists, and scholars. Speaker Nina da Hora, who closed the session, remarked that we are still unaware of the prejudices that lie behind the platforms’ code and algorithms highlighting that decisions are often taken in closed doors, from biased perspectives, especially from the North towards the South, disregarding context and other relevant pillars for analysis. 

The 2021 DCPR session showed how platforms are playing an important role in economic and societal relations, impacting democratic processes and other social dynamics. Platform interoperability is a relevant regulation step for unlocking value in digital environments, strengthening competition, and providing possibilities for user control. Furthermore, platform interoperability can mitigate monopolies challenging violations of users' rights by private companies.