IGF 2023 WS #84 Diverging Platform Regulations and Internet Fragmentation


Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
Digital Sovereignty
International Legal Perspectives

Organizer 1: Anna Bosch, Innovators Network Foundation
Organizer 2: Brian Scarpelli, 🔒

Speaker 1: Neeti Biyani, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Elolo Emmanuel Agbenonwossi, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Paragh Shah, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Kontji Anthony, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Bhawna Ghulati, Government, Asia-Pacific Group


Brian Scarpelli, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Anna Bosch, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Anna Bosch, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. Does a competition vs. fragmentation tradeoff exist within currently circulating digital platform proposals, given their proliferation across different markets and legal regimes? Is fragmentation avoidable while respecting the sovereignty of nations and regions to create their own regulatory paradigms?
2. How is the trend toward digital platform regulation influenced by regional economic imperatives? Do these regulations constitute trade barriers? How are the potentially fragmentary impacts of these proposals mitigated by the size or relative power of regulated businesses?
3. How is the average internet user helped or harmed by jurisdictions taking individualized approaches to digital platform regulation?

What will participants gain from attending this session? i. For each of the areas of interest, introductory short presentations/remarks by experts will provide basic knowledge and discuss important trade-offs. The moderator will ensure the active participation of the audience, who will be able to intervene and ask questions to the experts. Sufficient time will be given to online participants to ask questions, by the online participant. Following these initial interventions, the roundtable will get to the heart of the debate, guided by the moderator who will begin by giving an opportunity to online and in-person participants to pose questions and discuss views on the strategies presented. The moderator will guide the debate on investment strategies to find common ground between views brought forward. In addition to the background documents and papers that will be prepared ahead of the IGF, additional articles of interest, reference materials, and social media conversations will be published and distributed ahead of the workshop.


Recently, legislators and regulators in the U.S., U.K., EU, India, China, and elsewhere, have leaped into action with proposals intended to increase competition in markets led, and sometimes dominated, by large tech platforms. While the motivation and particulars of such proposals vary widely, key components tend to be prohibitions on self-preferencing behaviors and requirements to effectuate greater data interoperability access for third-party companies. Third parties often both rely on the larger platforms to reach a greater number of customers locally and globally and that, in many cases, they directly compete with those same platforms. Such new competition rules mean to broaden access, increase consumer choice, and incentivize platforms to compete on innovative privacy practices and services to distinguish themselves.

Yet as jurisdictions begin to finalize and implement such proposals, the tension between competition imperatives and maintaining regulatory interoperability with other jurisdictions grows, as demonstrated by the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) and its intersection with Member States’ competition laws (e.g., in Germany). This dynamic especially impacts smaller players, for whom navigating bespoke regulatory regimes is more challenging than it is for larger companies that have the resources to devote time and money to compliance and legal teams, which could ironically decrease competition via regulatory arbitrage. Similarly, questions are beginning to arise regarding the inter-regional competition implications of such proposals, including whether they can constitute de jure or de facto discrimination against companies headquartered abroad. The U.S. Trade Representative recently went so far as to categorize the EU’s DMA and Digital Services Act as ‘barriers to digital trade’.
This panel will assess the extent to which recent competition rules around the world could contribute to internet fragmentation; assess current proposals globally; and provide insight into how to harness the opportunities and mitigate challenges in this moment of impetus on tech regulation.

Expected Outcomes

i. Understand the spectrum of opportunities and challenges that existing competition proposals bring to bear on the open, free, and interoperable Internet.
ii. Learn about what the IGF community can do to further action and cross-sector collaboration to realize the potential and work through challenges that surfaced in the conversation.
iii. Share diverse perspectives regarding the discrete priorities and/or changes needed from the IGF community to combat these challenges and harness opportunities.

Hybrid Format: The online moderator will encourage remote participation through various social networking platforms in addition to the platform provided by the IGF Secretariat. After the first round of interventions, the discussion section of the roundtable will open up with an invitation to online participants to weigh in on the strategies discussed and pose questions to the speakers. The organizing team will work to promote the activity on social media and will specially invite relevant stakeholders to join the session and share questions ahead of the debate. Online participants will be given priority to speak, and their participation will be encouraged by the online and in-person moderators In-person and online moderators have previously moderated numerous panels at IGF and other events through the normal course of work and are comfortable with the tasks and skills necessary to engender a lively conversation and fulsome audience participation.