IGF 2023 WS #345 DigiSov: Regulation, Protectionism, and Fragmentation

Monday, 9th October, 2023 (07:30 UTC) - Monday, 9th October, 2023 (08:30 UTC)
WS 3 – Annex Hall 2

Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
Digital Sovereignty
International Legal Perspectives

Organizer 1: Pilar Rodriguez Pita, IGF Spain
Organizer 2: Turra Daniele, Internet Society
Organizer 3: Pedro de Perdigão Lana, ISOC Brazil
Organizer 4: Germán López Ardila, Colombian Chamber of IT and Telecoms

Speaker 1: Andrea Beccalli, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Neelesh Maheshwari, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Bruna Santos, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Venceslas Katimba, Government, African Group


Pilar Rodriguez Pita, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Turra Daniele, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Germán López Ardila, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

What are the most impactful legal initiatives around the globe with potential fragmenting effects and what are their justifications? Are there tools/protocols to promote digital sovereignty, while also avoiding (i) unfair limitations to legitimate economic use of data; (ii) restricting free trade, and (iii) harming the physical infrastructure of the Internet? How are the stakeholders of different countries and regions approaching the discussions regarding digital protectionism and digital sovereignty and their impact on Internet fragmentation?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the issue from different perspectives as represented by the various stakeholder groups contributing to the workshop, avoiding a Manichean approach. They will be able to map diverse legal initiatives around the globe which are allegedly fragmenting, getting access to arguments on why they are harmful or beneficial to a certain population, technology, or country. We hope participants will get more ideas on how to tackle the question at least at their national level, taking into consideration the economic and political advantages of keeping the Internet open and interoperable, while also establishing some common ground on the heated debate that arises from digital sovereignty arguments.


This session will discuss the intertwining between the concepts of digital sovereignty and digital protectionism, as well as the effects they may have on national and regional approaches to Internet regulation. The discussion will rise from concrete examples of national or regional legislations that have been identified as capable of fragmenting the global network and have already been implemented or are in advanced stages of debate within legislative bodies. Particularly, we want to explore how different regions and stakeholders perceive the need to strike a balance between these two categories, and how this creates new dimensions in the discussions on Internet fragmentation. Digital sovereignty has been a topic largely associated with Internet Fragmentation. While some stakeholders rightfully seek to protect the best interest of their citizens' interests, be it through economic or social considerations, others use the broadness of the concept to promote censorship and raise trade barriers for foreign companies. The tension between digital sovereignty and digital protectionism, if wrongly managed, might lead to unwanted consequences that restrict the free flow of data for legitimate uses. Also, if not enough consideration is given to data protection, it might end up with insufficient safeguards for the citizens’ rights This risk is increased by the fact that IT procedures, standards, and access to data infrastructure could be used to raise technical barriers to trade or negatively affect the sharing nature of the Internet, shifting the equilibrium towards particular interests, be them economic or political in nature, reinforcing a protectionist approach. Hence, the discussion proposed in this workshop will focus on identifying the limits dividing sovereignty from protectionism, from the perspective of different stakeholders representing various regions.

Expected Outcomes

This workshop aims to create a document that contains the following: - A typology of risks brought by different approaches to digital sovereignty in various regions. - A sketch of measures and actions for ensuring compliance with data regulations on a local level based on open and interoperable protocols - General, multi-stakeholder guidelines on how to avoid Internet fragmentation and digital protectionism, while advancing in legitimate protection of citizens and governmental interests.

Hybrid Format: We will promote hybrid participation by: (i) alternating questions between online and on-site audiences; (ii) using Mentimeter (or an alternative website) to collect questions so the audience that does not or can not speak at that moment may present their question or interactions, showing them on the screen and selecting a few to be asked by moderators; (iii) actively invite some people interested in the thematic to participate online; (iv) giving a proactive role for the online moderator in presenting the speakers and commenting on presentations. The debate will be started with an initial question presented by both moderators to break the ice and encourage participation by the audience. These first questions will be collected through Mentimeter and, if there is none until the open discussion phase, moderators will have a backup question ready. Mentimeter will also be used sometimes to allow for anonymity in questions and commentaries.