IGF 2021 Open Forum #55 Enhancing the transparency of internet companies

Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (13:00 UTC) - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (14:00 UTC)
Hall A3

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?
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?

Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min


Transparency has become a buzzword in the field of digital technology, fueled by the increasing dominance of internet companies in public life and, alongside their benefits, also their potential for causing harm to human rights.

Focusing on transparency in the processes used by internet platform companies offers a third way between over-regulation of content on one hand, which has led to disproportionate restrictions of human rights, and a completely laissez-faire approach on the other, which has proven insufficient.

There is growing global multistakeholder support for enhanced transparency. Yet existing corporate transparency reports have gaps and cover different issues and in different ways, and existing multi-stakeholder initiatives have so far lacked substantive impact and occurred in relative isolation of each other.

In this context, and as part of its work to promote a human-rights based, open, accessible, and multi-stakeholder governed digital ecosystem, UNESCO has initiated a global dialogue to enhance the transparence of internet platform companies through setting high-level principles, focused on achieving outcomes.

On World Press Freedom Day 2021, UNESCO released a selection of 26 high-level principles, which cover areas ranging from content and process, to due diligence and redress, empowerment, commercial dimensions, and personal data and use. The high-level principles—contained in the issue brief “Letting the Sun Shine In: Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age”— are designed to be applied across industry regardless of size, business model and engineering of platform companies.

The UNESCO Open Forum will facilitate dialogue around these high-level principles for enhancing the transparency of internet platform companies. It will start with a presentation of the principles by the brief’s lead author, followed by a discussion with experts from government, the private sector, civil society, academia and the technical community.

The UNESCO Forum will seek to raise awareness of the principles, solicit input and feedback from the experts and IGF community, and identify how the principles could be translated into an operational framework that can guide the work of companies, policymakers and regulators.

The Open Forum is conceived as a roundtable discussion, with a strong role being played by the moderators in engaging the invited speakers and audience in facilitating a stimulating debate. UNESCO will take steps to integrate online and on-site participants as equal members in the discussion, drawing on experiences of organizing several large-scale hybrid conferences in the past year. The online moderator will be in close contact with the on-site moderator, to signal when questions or comments are received and to adapt as situations arise. In order to ensure a large number of remote participants, the session will be promoted by UNESCO through its website and social media channels and through its networks.



  • Mr Guilherme Canela, Chief, Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section, UNESCO - IGO
  • Ms Annina Claesson, Consultant, UNESCO - IGO
  • Ms Rachel Pollack, Associate Programme Specialist, UNESCO - IGO

Mr Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO - IGO

Mr Andrew Puddephatt, independent expert and author of the UNESCO publication "Letting the Sun Shine In: Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age" - Civil society, WEOG

Ms Akriti Bopanna, Policy and Advocacy Manager, Internet Society - Technical community, Asia-Pacific

Ms Avri Doria, ICANN Board - Technical community, WEOG

Ms Flavia Alves, Head of International Relations and Institutions, Meta (Facebook) - Technical community, LAC

Ms Malavika Jayaram, Executive Director of the Digital Asia Hub - Civil Society, Asia-Pacific

Mr Thomas Schneider, Head of the International Affairs service, International Information Society coordinator, Swiss Federal Office of Communication (OFCOM) in the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) - Government, WEOG

Onsite Moderator

Mr Guilherme Canela, Chief, Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section, UNESCO - IGO

Online Moderator

Ms Rachel Pollack, Associate Programme Specialist, UNESCO - IGO


Ms Annina Claesson, Consultant, UNESCO - IGO



Targets: Enhancing the transparency of internet companies would contribute to SDG 16.10.1 (promoting fundamental freedoms and public access to information).

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Enhancing the transparency of internet companies is crucial. It allows all actors to develop evidence-based policies to combat the risks of digital space. Transparency is key for good policymaking and appropriate regulation that does not overstep to restrict freedom of expression. Transparency reduces information asymmetry – reduces unequal power dynamics between different actors, sectors and regions.

Transparency is not simply about releasing information – it is also about making that information clear and legible to the public. Point of discussion: the difficulty of adapting and implementing transparency principles to a wide range of companies with different roles and different levels of resources at their disposal. Further consultations could benefit from taking consideration of a diverse set of actors – not just tech giants.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Call to action to internet companies and other actors: Need to invest in content management system to avoid obfuscation and information overload.