IGF 2019 WS #45 Democracy and Civic Engagement in a Digital Society

Organizer 1: Olumide Babalola, Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative
Organizer 2: Adam J. Mambi, Law Reform Commission of Tanzania

Speaker 1: Marianne Elliott, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Menno Ettema, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Johannes Baldauf, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Mira Milosevic, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Jasmin Mittag, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 6: Hannes Ley, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 7: Matthew Rantanen, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 8: Nadia Tjahja, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

How have civic engagement and social commitment changed under the influence of digitisation of society? How does government encourage, support and acknowledge civic engagement, how relates this to corporate social responsibility from the private sector, and what role does the Internet play in this regard? Do we need common rules and standards for civic engagement online and who will set them? Top-down or bottom-up: how does government support counter narrative strategies, what impact does that have compared to alternative narratives as an output of civic engagement?

Relevance to Theme: Civic engagement and social commitment are two pillars of society both having the potential to contribute to a healthy and safe digital environment when performed in and with social media. By civic engagement online new communities are built and already existing communities are strengthened. Thus online engagement supports the stability of society at large as well as the stability of smaller communities. On the other hand fake news and narratives based on false information are threatening society and have the potential to eradicate democratic values. While it is important to ensure human rights such as freedom of expression and access to information it is also necessary to provide measures for the safety of users worldwide in order to empower them to cope with such threats. Only a balanced approach will help us to achieve stability and resilience of the digital society in the future.

Relevance to Internet Governance: As laid down before it needs joint efforts from all stakeholder groups to ensure that common rules and standards for civic engagement in and with social media are set and adhered to. Internet Governance provides for a framework in which such common rules can be developed and brought into acceptance by joint efforts of governments, private sector, academia and civil society. Since phenomena such as hate speech, fake news and challenges to electoral integrity are not bound by borders Internet Governance needs to address these issues on a global level. Therefore it is of paramount importance to bring forward this debate to the global IGF, deploy experiences of best practice examples from around the world and thus initiate decision-making in order to cope with the challenges that lie ahead of us.


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Description: In reference to SDG 16 peaceful and inclusive societies build the basis for promoting democratic values, social commitment, civic engagement and political participation. However, in an ever more digital society, democratic values are threatened by hate speech, fake news, challenges to electoral integrity, etc. Stability and resilience are not only an issue of (technical) infrastructure, these terms must also be understood in regard of a stable and resilient society. Democracy has come under pressure and this is in a way amplified by digital, social media. But certainly social media can help counteract these threats, and social media can also be used to promote civic engagement, social commitment and participation, having the potential to prevent threats from developing in the first place. A recently carried out study based on about 620 examples of civic engagement in and with social media has given evidence of the interrelationship and the effects of social media for social good (please refer to background paper). In the workshop, we will bring together stakeholders from various backgrounds in order to discuss which part governments, civil society, and the private sector can and must play to ensure stability of a digital and democratic society.

Expected Outcomes: The workshop attempts to achieve the following outcomes
- Highlighting and comparison of experiences from diverse best practice examples of civic engagement and social commitment as a basis for common rules and standards
- Lessons learned on scalability and transferability of social media strategies for social good
- Conclusions on the impact government strategies can unfold
- An outline for common rules and an answer to the question what role self-regulation can play in this regard

Onsite Moderator: 

Michael Raeder, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Olumide Babalola, Technical Community, African Group


Michael Raeder, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

Firstly the scene will be set and each of the four speakers will contribute from their specific stakeholder perspective as researchers, government and private sector representatives. Then the floor will be opened and representatives from diverse communities will show-case their examples of civic engagement. Since we apply for a roundtable session these best practices will facilitate the discussion with participants in the room and online.
The co-organisers and co-moderators both have a legal background and will therefore be able to steer the debate towards fruitful outcomes in regard of the policy questions relevant to the theme of the workshop.

Online Participation: 

The Policy Questions and an outline of the session will be sent in advance to the communities of organiser and co-organisers, the speakers and best practice representatives. Thus we expect to have several hundred people informed about the session. They will be invited to bring their comments and questions forward either in advance of the session or by online participation. The online moderator will monitor contributions from online participants throughout the whole session, he will invite online contributions especially after each of the four speakers and also after the presentation of best practices.
The community network members will also use their social network contacts to spread the message and outcomes further after the session.

Proposed Additional Tools: Organiser, Co-organisers and best practice representatives will make use of their social media channels to inform their communities on the session and the issues that will be addressed.


GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions