IGF 2022 WS #342 Protecting a Global Internet in an Age of Economic Sanctions

Wednesday, 30th November, 2022 (13:50 UTC) - Wednesday, 30th November, 2022 (15:20 UTC)

Organizer 2: Farzaneh Badiei, Digital Medusa
Organizer 3: Suzanne Taylor, RIPE NCC

Speaker 1: Nathalia Foditsch, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Alexander Isavnin, Technical Community, Eastern European Group
Speaker 3: Farzaneh Badiei, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Dawit Bekele, Technical Community, African Group

Additional Speakers

Jane Coffin, Connect Humanity;
Nathalie Jaarsma, Dutch Ambassador at-Large for Security Policy and Cyber 



Chris Buckridge, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Suzanne Taylor, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


PABLO HINOJOSA, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

How can we minimise the unintended consequences of economic sanctions that jeopardise the global Internet governance model?

Connection with previous Messages: This workshop will contribute to the discussion around the IGF 2021 message on "Emerging Regulation: Market Structure, Content Data and Consumer Rights and Protection", and particularly the suggested underlying principle of harmonization - ensuring that the Internet remains a global, unified platform that enables the exercise of human rights. This is an outcome-oriented session that will contribute to a practical improvement in harmonization of approach to economic sanctions, while reducing the risk that such sanctions pose to the global Internet governance model.


9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Targets: SDG 9.1 talks about, "Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all". The global Internet is one of the most significant pieces of transborder infrastructure connecting our world, and it is this that is put at risk by the inadvertent consequences of economic sanctions. A practical outcome in this space would contribute meaningfully to ensuring that the Internet can continue to serve a global function supporting economic development and human well-being.


As geopolitical tensions have risen in recent years, states’ use of economic sanctions has increased, and this has posed specific challenges to the global Internet governance model. This workshop will report on a research project examining the specific impacts of sanctions globally on Internet governance functions, the risks posed and the specific outcomes that may result. Additionally, the workshop will intend to launch an effort to address this challenge, drawing on multistakeholder expertise and insight to work towards an output that could help state actors to avoid unintentional harm to the global Internet via the use of sanctions, while highlighting the importance of these core Internet administrative functions to maintaining a global Internet.

Expected Outcomes

The workshop would provide a foundation for ongoing, intersessional work to develop and disseminate a multistakeholder recommendation designed to minimise the risk posed by sanctions to the global Internet.

Hybrid Format: All organisers have used multiple online tools, including Zoom, Moodle, Miro, Kahoot, and many others. We have organised and run hybrid sessions at RIR and other technical community meetings (including national network operator groups), academic conferences, NRI events, and past IGFs. An experienced moderator team is fundamental, actively working to bring in other remote participants during the session, and both the onsite and remote moderators have guided multiple hybrid events in the RIR communities. The session format, which will be very open in the second half, will allow for remote participants to engage in the conversation with those on-site. The focus of this session will be working to build consensus around next steps and direction; to support this, we would expect to build participant interaction using the poll feature in Zoom, Kahoot or other tools, as available.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.


Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Sanctions regimes, while legitimate policy tools, may affect Internet connectivity of citizens and diminish their online presence. // It is important to consider measures to prevent unintended consequences affecting connectivity and preventing Internet fragmentation. // Multistakeholder approach should be used to consult and help to evaluate impact, consider exemptions and monitor unintended consequences.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Bilateral and multilateral arrangements for governments to coordinate and prevent adverse effect of sanctions on access to the Internet.

License, exemptions, derogations, processes to review and revise sanctions. Also immunity considerations for technical organisations, such as ICANN and RIRs. Maybe a treaty based solution?

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

Chris Buckridge from RIPE-NCC introduced the topic of Internet sanctions. Followed by a presentation by Farzaneh Badii, with a historic overview of how sanctions regimes have become more sophisticated and targeted. Specifically, she mentioned impact of sanctions on: a) Regional Internet Registries; b) inequitable access to number resources; c) network operators; d) DNS. Nathalie Jaarsma, Cyber Ambassador from The Netherlands, explained that sanctions are a legitimate policy tool. She also explained the concept of public core, that her country has been advocating in the UN to foster responsible State behaviours and prevent attacks to public core infrastructure. She also advocates for the governance of the public core to be conducted in a multistakeholder fashion. Sanctions are dealt in a different area from the cyber silo, and they come under a lot of time-pressure. Sanctions are, in the view of The Netherlands, a means to change the behaviour of another country. The impact is not always looked at in a very complete or comprehensive way. Sometimes citizens might be deprived from access to the Internet. Jane Coffin from Connect Humanity shared a story about equipment for Internet Exchange Points being donated to developing countries. This equipment cannot be shipped to countries under sanction regimes, with penalties to the non-for-profits that donate them. Coordinating these shipments of equipment in countries that are sanctioned is very onerous, as well as inviting participants from these countries to events, becoming daunting and off-putting for organisations that mean well. Dawit Bekele from the Internet Society also shared stories about technical support to countries like Sudan and consequences to the Internet. Also he mentioned that sanctions may have the unintended consequence of fostering Internet fragmentation, sovereign national intranets. Alexander Isavnin, talked about impact of sanctions on users and further Internet fragmentation in countries in conflict. Nathalia Foditsch talked about the impact of the US embargo in Cuba resulting in low quality Internet connectivity, which also have an effect in freedom of expression in the country.  Moving into potential solutions, Farzaneh mentioned immunity as a consideration, for example, to ICANN and RIRs, so for them to be able to operate globally without being affected by sanction regimes. To a question in the chat from Marilia Maciel, about not only economic sanctions, but also trade restrictions, Farzaneh talked about the security and the security updates of the equipments and how these restrictions can also affect availability of service and connectivity. Farzaneh also talked about treaty protections to national post offices that protect the traffic of parcels, while she did not advocate for a treaty based solution for Internet sanctions. She asked what are the Internet services that, if sanctioned, can reduce the online presence of individuals.  There was a question in the room about humanitarian impact of unilaterally imposed measures. There was another comment in the room in support of sanctions in Russia and that misinformation is not a consequence of fragmented Internet due to sanctions, but a failure of civil society and digital rights activists. There was a counterargument that sanctions affect innocent citizens and the flow of information. A conversation continued in how much resilient the Internet is, and how difficult it was to prevent content blocking, as network operators were over compliant with local regulations. Nathalie Jaarsma explained that sanctions are always political, but they need to consider proportionality and their impact needs to be thoroughly considered, as well as how exemptions should be handled and help from the multistakeholder community should be welcomed. The session concluded with a suggestion to have a multistakeholder approach to map the chain of effects of sanctions.