IGF 2023 WS #460 Internet standards and human rights

Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (00:45 UTC) - Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (01:45 UTC)
WS 1 – Annex Hall 1

Organizer 1: Michaela Shapiro, 🔒Global Partners Digital
Organizer 2: Sheetal Kumar, 🔒
Organizer 3: Vanja Skoric, 🔒
Organizer 4: Yoojin Kim, 🔒
Organizer 5: Grazvydas Jakubauskas, 🔒DG INTPA

Speaker 1: Rafael Zanatta, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Eva Ignatuschtschenko, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: VANESSA CRAVO, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Jessamine Pacis, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Yoojin Kim, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Sheetal Kumar, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Vanja Skoric, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Vanja Skoric, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Panel - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. How have technical standards setting bodies at the national, regional and international level approached addressing the human implications of technical standards? 2. What guidance can be developed to address gaps in CSO participation and human rights expertise in the forums developing technical standards? 3. What opportunities do CSOs have to engage in the technical standard-setting development process, and how can SDOs facilitate their engagement to ensure inclusive, collaborative processes? What lessons learned from efforts to address human rights in AI standard-setting processes can be applied towards standard-setting processes for other emerging technologies?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants and attendees will collaboratively share ideas for guidelines and best practices for integrating human rights concerns and safeguards into technical standards in an inclusive manner, culminating in a set of proposed practical steps to operationalise the recommendations put forth by the UN OHCHR report on the topic. Additionally, they will gain - A deeper understanding of the relationship between national, regional and international standard-setting processes and how to engage with them - Regional differences in approaches to technical standard-setting processes and how to integrate human rights concerns into technical standards - Insight into addressing challenges to CSO participation in SDOs, including detailed and timely knowledge of the current governance landscape and how to engage in the forums developing these standards - Knowledge of existing global tools, frameworks and guidelines, (including ECNL’s “Framework for Meaningful Engagement”; GPD’s list of Internet Fragmentation resources; Article19's “Internet Standards Almanac”).


Whereas the human rights implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence have dominated headlines, the human rights impact of the technical standards regulating digital technologies have yet to be widely understood. Technical standards underpin and have fostered the development of the digital landscape as we know it today: they enable innovation, real-time communication, ensure interoperability of technologies, and have widespread implications for society. However, technical standards can also impact human rights negatively: if not developed carefully, they can undermine encryption, interfere with the right to privacy, and impede freedom of expression, among other issues. The process of developing such standards further compounds this issue, with civil society and human rights experts facing immense challenges to participating in discussions due to financial constraints, lack of sufficient technical knowledge to follow discussions, or structural barriers preventing participation. To address these challenges, the UN passed a resolution requesting that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) convene an expert consultation on the relationship between human rights and technical standard-setting processes for new and emerging technologies and to submit a report with recommendations for how to move forward. This IGF session will build on this process by convening a panel of experts from across the technical standard-setting landscape - including representatives of standard development bodies (SDOs), the OHCHR, as well as civil society based in Latin America and Europe - to operationalise the report’s recommendations. The discussion will map out the most promising pathways to address key challenges from the OHCHR report. The aim is for the panel to provide actionable next steps for forums, civil society and policymakers to integrate human rights concerns into technical standards via open, inclusive, and accessible policy processes.

Expected Outcomes

On the basis of the discussion, participants will come away with a set of practical guidelines and best practices for integrating human rights concerns and safeguards into technical standards in an inclusive manner, including concrete steps to implement the recommendations put forth by the UN OHCHR report on the topic. The session will also feed into a series of regional roundtable discussions co-hosted by GPD and regional partners on technical standards and human rights, which will focus on identifying the concrete risks to an open, interoperable internet posed by technical standard-setting bodies as well as the policy layer within the specific regional context. The guidelines developed from the IGF session will serve as the baseline for region-specific action plans to counter proposals for technical standards that could negatively impact human rights and simultaneously integrate human rights safeguards into technical standards.

Hybrid Format: We will ensure interaction between onsite and online attendees by requesting questions throughout the session. This will be relayed to online attendees if made in person, or shared in person if asked online by the moderator. At specific points, the moderator will ask panellists to invite discussion from participants by posing questions to the audience, inviting feedback on suggestions put forward and responding to inputs made whether in the chat (which is to be monitored throughout the session). The moderators will coordinate and play an active role by encouraging questions on specific themes, and posing questions to the panellists and the audience. Moderators will note concrete suggestions and best practices that could form the basis of the guidelines, and solicit input from all on specific elements of it. We will also set aside the final 20 minutes for questions and feedback.