IGF 2021 WS #170 Child Protection Online - How to legislate?

Time
Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (16:00 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (17:30 UTC)
Room
Conference Room 6

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)

Speaker 1: Beeban Kidron, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Hoda Dahroug , Government, African Group
Speaker 3: Kenneth Adu-Amanfoh, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Thomas Salzmann, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: David Miles, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 6: Tomasz Kulasa, Government, Eastern European Group
Speaker 7: Agne Kaarlep, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Format

Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Digital policy and human rights frameworks: What is the relationship between digital policy and development and the established international frameworks for civil and political rights as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and further interpretation of these in the online context provided by various resolutions of the Human Rights Council? How do policy makers and other stakeholders effectively connect these global instruments and interpretations to national contexts? What is the role of different local, national, regional and international stakeholders in achieving digital inclusion that meets the requirements of users in all communities?
Inclusion, rights and stakeholder roles and responsibilities: What are/should be the responsibilities of governments, businesses, the technical community, civil society, the academic and research sector and community-based actors with regard to digital inclusion and respect for human rights, and what is needed for them to fulfil these in an efficient and effective manner?

In addition to the above phrased policy questions we will address also from the emerging and cross-cutting area Trust, security and stability the policy question: Ensuring a safe digital space: How should governments, Internet businesses and other stakeholders protect citizens, including vulnerable citizens, against online exploitation and abuse? All three policy questions will be tackled with a child rights based approach by stakeholders from government, industry and civil society. 196 states have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child thus committing themselves to make the best interests of the child a primary consideration in all actions concerning children undertaken by administrative authorities or legislative bodies. A previous stock-taking process has revealed a patchwork of regulatory approaches to child online safety across jurisdictions around the world. The global nature of the Internet poses a challenge to national legislation and demands for exchange of experiences and expertise among legislators and with the industry being subject to the legal regulations and undertaking self-regulatory efforts at the same time. The guardrails of our debate will be set by the aspired outcome of the session: Recommendations for policy makers in regard of legislation towards child online safety and children’s rights to be protected.

SDGs

3. Good Health and Well-Being
4.4
16.2

Targets: Growing-up in a digital environment needs a holistic understanding of children's well being as it is addressed by SDG 3 and requires access to education that provides children with the respective skills and digital literacy as addressed by SDG 4.4. SDG 16.2 End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children is literally related to the issue of child online safety addressed in the session.

Description:

In the years of the Internet’s infancy attempts to regulate were frowned upon. Private sector-led self-regulation and co-regulation initiatives were pre-dominant and considered to be the best strategy to ensure a level playing field and an open market. However, with the Internet’s coming of age, other regulatory approaches seem to become more accepted, but there is still no common strategy. While some jurisdictions are discussing how liability of Internet intermediaries can be ensured by respective legislation, others are advocating for regulatory standards that platform providers are obliged to adhere to. The German Youth Protection Act amended in May 2021 in regard of online safety follows the new concept of a “dialogic regulation”. The law builds on a child rights approach, sets up a new government body responsible for the provision of orientation in the digital environment and digital literacy and obliges platform providers to set a framework of standards to ensure young people can use their services safely. Addressed by this type of regulation are risks from communication and contact functions, from purchase functions, from gambling-like mechanisms, from mechanisms to promote excessive media usage behaviour, from the disclosure of inventory and data usage of third parties without consent, and from purchase appeals that are not age-appropriate, especially through advertising references to other media. In order to ensure equal and safe access for all children the law obliges platform providers to take precautionary measures to counter such risks. These include child-friendly terms and conditions, safe default settings for the use of services that limit the risks of use depending on age, for example, by ensuring that user profiles cannot be found by search engines, and easy-to-find information on provider-independent advice, help and reporting mechanisms. Companies shall consult with self-regulation organisations and young users, then enter in a dialogue with a government regulatory body, provide their catalogue of precautionary measures for review and certification by the government body, and thus become compliant with the requirements of the law.

During this session the concept of dialogic regulation will be presented and discussed with government representatives from around the world, by presenting legislation from their own country and comparing different child protection strategies with regard to their impact on children's access, child safety and their human rights. In addition, we have invited representatives from social networking platforms to discuss their self-regulatory approaches and how they deal with certain types of regulations in different countries.

Expected Outcomes

Overview on different regulatory approaches to child online safety and their impact on digital inclusion of children Analysis of the concept of “dialogic regulation” Recommendations for policy makers in regard of legislation towards child online safety and children’s rights

The outcomes will be summarised afterwards in the session report and published in different languages in order to support legislators and parliamentarians to further develop their own country’s concepts of regulation towards child online safety and digital inclusion.

We are aware that the panel format needs a certain pre-caution to ensure a lively debate including onsite and online participants. The session therefore follows a well thought through structure to allow for fruitful exchange of perspectives among the panelists and the participants in the (digital) room. In the first half of the session the moderator will guide the panelists through their presentations keeping an eye on the time and allow for questions of understanding. Then after 45 min the floor will be opened up to a debate with all participants and panelists. Once the workshop is accepted and scheduled in the IGF program we will announce the theme and the agenda to the broader public, we will especially invite parliamentarians around the world and representatives of the platform industry to take part in the session. Thus we will be able to get additional input from a variety of stakeholders not represented in the panel.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Change the perspective on regulation; make dialogue on regulatory measures mandatory; develop an overall strategy to ensure a joint exercise of responsibility; adhere to a system of proportionality to address a potential trade-off between a broad duty of care and specific obligations; follow a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary approach; develop and enforce acceptable standards that go down to practice and to the technical community.

Adhere to a system of proportionality to address a potential trade-off between a broad duty of care and specific obligations; follow a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary approach; develop and enforce acceptable standards that go down to practice and to the technical community.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Think from the perspective of the child not from a technical one; make the UN-CRC and the GC. 25 a reference; create a new type of regulators and beef regulatory authorities up; bear in mind systemic risks on very big platforms need mitigation obligations, don’t assume small is safe; risk assessment is key to ensuring a safe space; oblige companies to implement precautionary measures and give them time to develop those in an ongoing process

Create a new type of regulators and beef regulatory authorities up; bear in mind systemic risks on very big platforms need mitigation obligations, don’t assume small is safe; risk assessment is key to ensuring a safe space; oblige companies to implement precautionary measures and give them time to develop those in an ongoing process.

Session Report (* deadline Monday 20 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Report

Panelists lined out regulatory approaches to child online safety from Egypt, Ghana with references to other countries on the African continent, UK, Germany and on European Commission level. In addition the perspective from industry on various regulatory approaches was given by Meta / facebook.

For Egypt Hoda Dahroug outlined their country’s  supportive regulation and policies to ensure safe access to the Internet as a basic right for 100 Mio people in Egypt. A special focus is given to the production of age appropriate content.

Speaking for countries on the African continent Kenneth Adu-Amanfoh explained the high relevance of digital technologies and the challenges of a borderless unregulated Internet. He raised the issue of children not even knowing their rights and the difficulties to educate them. Ghana therefore has developed a child online safety strategy that is now also adopted in other countries, f.e. Kenia.

Beeban Kidron referred to the Age Appropriate Design Code recently adopted in the UK and the Online Safety Bill that is underway. In regard of the EU Digital Services Act she pointed out that the beginning era of regulation should adhere to the principle of the best interest of the child as laid down in Art. 24 (2) of the European Charter on Human Rights and Art. 3 of the UN-CRC. Policy makers should not reinvent the wheel but, being conscious of national legislation, avoid unintended consequences of regulation on European level.

Thomas Salzmann from the German Federal Agency for Child and Youth Protection based his statement on the UN-CRC’s triangle of protection, provision and participation of children. Germany is following an approach of dialogic regulation to enforce industry’s duty of care; he called on platform providers for joint responsibility and pre-cautionary measures.

For the European Commission DG CNECT Agne Kaarlep underlined the objective of the Digital Services Act to ensure users’ safety online and protection of fundamental rights. Systemic risks associated with algorithms and content moderation need to be addressed by a holistic strategy, on EU level the Audiovisual and Media Services Directive as well as the Strategy for the Rights of the Child and the Strategy to combat child sexual abuse together with the DSA provide of a regulatory response.

David Miles pointed out for Meta / facebook that children’s digital lives were not regulated 10 years ago. Nowadays there are excellent best practice examples like the GDPR and the Age Appropriate Design Code in place and companies are willing to act upon such regulation.

The debate then focused on the following policy questions:

  1. How to ensure that government regulation, self-regulation and co-regulation approaches to content moderation and child online safety are compliant with human rights frameworks, are transparent and accountable, and enable a safe, united and inclusive Internet?

Key take-aways from this question are:

Change the perspective on regulation; make dialogue on regulatory measures mandatory; develop an overall strategy to ensure a joint exercise of responsibility; adhere to a system of proportionality to address a potential trade-off between a broad duty of care and specific obligations; follow a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary approach; develop and enforce acceptable standards that go down to practice and to the technical community.

  1. What needs to be done by the respective stakeholders to ensure the human rights granted to children in the UN-CRC are protected, respected and fulfilled in a digital environment? 

Key take-aways from this question are:

Think from the perspective of the child not from a technical point of view; make the UN-CRC and the General Comment No. 25 a reference for regulation (i.e. in regard of the definition what is a child, etc.); create a new type of regulators and beef regulatory authorities up  

  1. Ensuring a safe digital space: How should governments, Internet businesses and other stakeholders protect citizens, including vulnerable citizens, against online exploitation and abuse?

Key take-aways from this question are:

Establish strong political will; go with radical transparency (and not play hide and seek with the big companies; bear in mind systemic risks on very big platforms need mitigation obligations but don’t assume small is safe; establish risk assessment as a key to ensuring a safe space; oblige companies to implement precautionary measures and give them time to develop those in an ongoing process