IGF 2021 Open Forum #66 Moving Forward – Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content Online

Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (16:30 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (17:30 UTC)
Ballroom B

Governance and cooperation for an evolving Internet: How does Internet governance need to change in order to meet the changing nature and role of the Internet? What tools, mechanisms, and capacity building instruments are needed for stakeholders to effectively cooperate, and engage in Internet governance?

Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min


Citizens’ access and exposure to a diversity of content play a central role in the making of a resilient democracy. A healthy democracy requires its citizens to have access and be exposed to information and content from a wide range of views and perspectives, particularly from local and regional news. This in turn:

• promotes a healthy public discourse

• fosters greater social inclusion

• encourages understanding and tolerance between different cultures and communities

• builds citizens’ resilience to disinformation

Issues, such as the phenomena of filter bubbles and disinformation, as well as the business models used by online intermediaries affecting the remuneration of content creators, are now mainstream. In the digital age, there are growing concerns that the media diets of users are less diverse due to content being highly personalized and reflecting fewer, and more polarized, points of view.

Because the Internet crosses all borders, it is necessary to work with a range of stakeholders to develop solutions. That is why the Government of Canada has established a multi-stakeholder working group with like-minded countries (Australia, Finland, France and Germany), civil society, and the private sector to develop guiding principles on diversity of content online to strengthen social cohesion and citizen resilience to online disinformation.

The Department of Canadian Heritage is organizing this panel session with members of its multi-stakeholder working group to reflect upon multi-stakeholderism and digital cooperation by discussing the questions of: What have been the benefits of the approach? What challenges were faced in working in a multi-stakeholder fashion? Where to go next? How to get there? How do we keep the guiding principles relevant in the face of a fast-changing digital environment?


Government of Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage

  • Michel Sabbagh, Director General of Broadcasting, Copyright, and Creative Market Place, Department of Canadian Heritage, Government of Canada
  • Wolfgang Wohnhas, Head of Audio/Visual, Ministry of State for Culture and the Media, Government of Germany
  • Tessa Sproule, Co-founder and CEO, Vubble Inc.
  • Maria Luisa Stasi, Senior Legal Officer, Article19
  • Susanne Nikoltchev, Executive Director, European Audiovisual Observatory
Onsite Moderator


Online Moderator

Charles Vallerand


Matthew Higgerty, Department of Canadian Heritage, Government of Canada


11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

Targets: The guiding principles on diversity of content online, that are being developed in a multi-stakeholder fashion, reflects the importance of cultural heritage in the making of a resilient and healthy democracy. Reinforcing this point are the four themes deemed essential to the promotion of diversity of content online, which would have positive impacts on cultural heritage in the digital era: (1) Creation, access and discoverability of diverse content online (2) Fair remuneration and economic viability of content creators (3) Promotion of diverse, pluralistic sources of news and information as well as resilience against disinformation and misinformation (4) Transparency of the impacts of algorithmic treatments of digital content.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The panel agreed that multi-stakeholderism continues to be the most appropriate approach in this space, despite its challenges.

There is appetite across the world, from North America to Africa, to the Middle East and Europe, to address the issues around diversity of content online.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The Multi-Stakeholder Working Group welcomes stakeholders to share different projects or initiatives, particularly from the Global South, that are underway that align with the Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content Online.

Interested countries, civil society organizations, and private sector actors are encouraged to be signatories to the Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content Online.

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

UN IGF Session Report

Open Forum #66 – Moving Forward – Diversity of Content Online
December 7th, 2021

Session Overview:

The Government of Canada facilitated a panel discussion at the IGF entitled: Moving Forward - Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content Online. The panel included members of the Multi-Stakeholder Working Group on Diversity of Content Online, whose mandate is to develop Guiding Principles that help foster greater exposure to diverse cultural content, information, and news online.

The purpose of the session was to discuss the benefits and challenges of working on a multi-stakeholder initiative; and consider actions needed to ensure greater access and exposure to a diversity of content in an evolving Internet and information ecosystem.     

Session Summary:

The moderator opened the session by asking the panelists to share if and why they found the Diversity of Content Online initiative to be meaningful and relevant. Panelists cited the importance of citizens and users having access and exposure to diverse points of view and opinions and access to pluralistic sources of news and information as a means of building resistance to dis and misinformation. Panelists also mentioned that the issues related to diversity of content online go beyond what governments can address on their own and as such,  a multi-stakeholder approach is needed.

Following the introductions, officials from the Government of Canada provided a presentation on the Diversity of Content online initiative, which is available at this link.

To begin the roundtable discussion panelists, were asked why, in their opinion, the multi-stakeholder approach was optimal in the development of the Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content Online (the Guiding Principles). The panelists’ reactions included that:

  • The Internet crosses all borders, and each stakeholder has a different area of influence to contribute. A range of stakeholders offers a variety of perspectives to develop solutions.

  • Different stakeholders have different incentives and compromises are sometimes more difficult to find than others.  The multi-stakeholder model forces different groups to explore the issues to try to find common ground and incentives. 

  • The Multistakeholder approach enables more transparent and inclusive conversations between the various stakeholders groups, which provides more legitimacy to addressing the issues.

When asked about the challenges of a multi-stakeholder approach, panelists noted that:

  • With the private sector at the table, there is a heightened internal sensitivity concerning their contributions and participation in the working group because they are under intense scrutiny and facing regulatory discussions in many regions and jurisdictions. This can limit how ‘active’ they are in the working group.

  • A greater diversity of voices, particularly from the Global South and others in the private sector is needed in the working group.  

  • On the question of whether these guidelines are enough to drive greater change, it was noted that to establish a common vision to work towards desired concrete changes, work needs to start somewhere.  

  • Technologies are advancing so quickly, they are outpacing regulatory and policy developments. Making policy choices that attempt to keep pace and with the least number of unintended consequences requires a reflective and sensitive approach.

The moderator then sought opinions on whether multi-stakeholderism was the best means of developing solutions and furthering cooperation on these complex and far-reaching issues. It prompted the following reactions from the panelists:

  • Key stakeholders must collectively continue to gather information and conduct research to understand the problems. In the scope of the content environment and online content distribution, if key stakeholders really want to achieve certain standards of diversity, they need to come to consensus on these standards.

  • To achieve a common goal on a global matter, it is useful to consider perspectives at the local, national, or personal level.

  • Despite the limits of multi-stakeholderism, particularly when countries begin to work on national regulations in a particular sector,  it still offers the best array of tools.

The final question asked the panelists to share their reflections on the next steps for the Guiding Principles, which are to:

  • Raising awareness about the Guiding Principles to acquire more signatories and broader adoption from the international community, including other countries, civil society, and other members of the private sector;

  • Extend the working group membership to include more diverse voices, particularly from the Global South; and

  • Develop high-level voluntary actions that different stakeholder groups can adopt in order to implement the Guiding Principles.