IGF 2022 WS #458 Do Diverging Platform Regulations Risk an Open Internet?

Time
Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (08:00 UTC)
Room
Large Briefing Room

Organizer 1: Marjorie Buchser, Chatham House

Organizer 2: Yasmin Afina, Chatham House

Organizer 3: Jacqueline Rowe, Global Partners Digital

Organizer 4: Rowan Wilkinson, Chatham House

Organizer 5: Alex Krasodomski, Chatham House

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 4: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 5: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Jacqueline Rowe, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Jamila Venturini, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: 'Gbenga Sesan, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Usama Khilji, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific-Group 
Speaker 5: Meg Chang, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific-Group 
Speaker 6: Aman Nair, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Moderator

Yasmin Afina, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Alex Krasodomski, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Rapporteur

Alex Krasodomski, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Format

Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)
  1. What forms of online platform regulation are emerging in different parts of the world, and in what ways do they diverge?
  2. What risks does policy divergence pose to an open and interoperable Internet, as well as to human rights?
  3. How can these risks be mitigated, and what opportunities are there for encouraging harmonisation and consensus?

Connection with previous Messages:

The primary IGF 2021 Message that this session builds upon is the need, identified in 2021, for “harmonization - ensuring that the Internet remains a global, unified platform that enables the exercise of human rights”. The session would build on this message by promoting a better understanding of the elements of platform regulation requiring greater harmonisation, and opportunities to encourage this harmonisation.

The session also builds on a number of further IGF 2021 which sought to encourage appropriate, human rights-respecting regulatory frameworks relating to digital technologies, including the Messages that “adequate enabling environments (e.g. policies, legislation, institutions) need to be put in place at the national, regional and global levels to foster inclusive, just, safe, resilient and sustainable digital societies and economies” and that “policies implemented by Internet platforms to deal with harmful online content need to be transparent, acknowledge the limits of automated content moderation, and ensure a proper balance with the right to freedom of expression”.

 

SDGs

9.c
16.10
Targets: The primary link between this session and the SDGs is Target 9.c - “Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020”. While the session does not relate to internet access in a narrow sense, it will explore how to ensure that the internet itself remains open and interoperable, which is an important prerequisite for meaningful internet connectivity and access. Further, by focusing on identifying elements of platform regulation that may restrict human rights, the session also links to Target 16.10 - “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”, and will help policymakers in this space understand potential risks to human rights in domestic platform regulation.

The last few years has seen a plethora of news laws and proposals which would regulate online platforms and other internet intermediaries. In the absence of any international frameworks or consensus on how to govern intermediaries, many of these laws and proposals are diverging widely. This is leading to potential impacts on intermediaries’ ability to operate globally, barriers to entry for new intermediaries in already concentrated markets, and risks to freedom of expression and other human rights.

This session will:

  1. Provide a stocktaking exercise, examining some of the laws and proposals developed in recent years, particularly in parts of the world to which less attention has been paid so far, such as Latin America, Africa and South Asia;
  2. Present Chatham House and Global Partners Digital’s research on platform regulations and norms, as well as their potential impacts on an open and interoperable internet;
  3. Invite discussion on how to address the risks that policy divergence and fragmentation in this space poses to an open and interoperable internet, including through efforts to promote greater harmonisation and consensus among policymakers.

 

Expected Outcomes

The session will present the research undertaken by Chatham House and Global Partners Digital on platform regulations and norms and their potential impacts.

The session will also provide an opportunity for inputs into a report to be developed by Chatham House in early 2023 assessing divergent forms of platform regulation. More broadly, the session will provide an opportunity for knowledge sharing, with participants able to better understand different forms of platform regulation being developed in different parts of the world.

At the same time, the session will also encourage identification of, and participation in forums and processes, which promote harmonisation and consensus among policymakers in this space.

 

We have deliberately requested a 90 minute session in order to ensure the maximum amount of time for discussion among the panellists and with the participants more broadly.

  • Chatham House will present the joint research that has been undertaken on online platform regulations, in partnership with Global Partners Digital, for the first 15 minutes.
  • The session will comprise short presentations of 5-6 minutes from each of the panellists, providing an overview of platform regulation trends in four key regions (Latin America, Europe, Africa, and South Asia).
  • The presentations will then be followed by a perspective shared from an industry angle.
  • In order to get the conversation flowing, the moderators will then use the next 35 minutes to ask questions of the panellists questions, reflecting on the ways that platform regulations are diverging. The moderators will also facilitate a discussion among the participants themselves, with input from the panellists. To encourage good online/offline participation, both the onsite and offsite moderators will coordinate, with questions to the panellists alternating between those from in person participants and those online.

The moderators will play an active role, encouraging questions on specific themes. The moderators will also encourage constructive questioning and discussion on the issue of how to encourage greater harmonisation and consensus-building among policymakers in this space, including through global and regional standards and norms. Where necessary, the moderator will pose questions directly to the panellists on this issue.

 

Online Participation

The discussion will be held in hybrid format; facilitated by IGF's official tools (using Zoom as the primary platform for discussions). 

 

 

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The elaboration and enforcement of global standards may pave the way for greater alignment in regulating digital platforms. Its feasibility and desirability, however, remain much-contested. The development of standards, and more generally deliberations on platform regulations, must be done against the democratic context of each country and region in addition to their respective political, socio-cultural, legal and historical backgrounds.

In addition, platform regulations bear great importance in shaping the power balance between governments, ‘big tech’ companies, civil society and everyday users of platforms. Greater resources must be dedicated to promoting and facilitating honest and inclusive multi-stakeholder discussions; protect digital platforms as an open and neutral civic space; and ultimately foster a healthy digital ecosystem for all.