IGF 2019 WS #54 Public and private definition of content standards and FOE

Organizer 1: Joan Barata, CIS, Stanford Law School

Speaker 1: Chinmayi Arun, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: David Kaye, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Emma Llanso, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

- What are the main elements in the debate about legal and/or regulatory frameworks for the definition and application of content standards by online platforms?
- How freedom of expression principles can be applied to an environment that combines public and private rules?
- What are the current practices and tendencies regarding the regulation of content standards by States or supranational bodies like the EU?
- Which are the best venues for dialogue and cooperation between platforms, civil society, and public authorities in this area?

Relevance to Theme: The debate about how platforms define and apply their content rules and the implications in the area of liability is nowadays at the center of many Internet policy debates. The growing concern about the presence and availability of hate speech, fake news, terrorist content and other illegal and harmful items on online platforms is directly linked to the emergence of regulatory proposals to reinforce trust and accountability in the online world. This theme also reflects the tension between the alleged need to better regulate the responsibilities and the role of platforms vis-a-vis content on the one hand, and the need to avoid creating new and indirect forms to restrict the exercise of the right to freedom of expression when such right is excercised through private online distribution platforms, on the other hand.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The proposed topic is of central importance in the current process of defining the rules framing online content distributed via platforms. The objective of the session is precisely to discuss the best possible way to define such norms as the result as a combined effort and dialogue between platforms, governments, media, and civil society.


Debate - Classroom - 90 Min

Description: The session will be structured as follows:

a) General introduction by moderator.
b) Intervention by David A. Kaye, UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Expression. This intervention will describe the applicable international standards and the documents adopted by international and regional organisations on the issues related to the theme of the session.
b) Intervention of Emma Llanso, from Center for Democracy and Technology. This intervention will describe the effort made by civil society in different parts of the world, in dialogue with governments and online companies, to find a correct balance between the responsibilities of online platforms, the competences of governments in areas like fake news, hate speech or online terrorist content, and the need to protect freedom of expression as a fundamental principle.
c) Chinmayi Arun, from National Law University Delhi will describe some practices and problems related to this area in countries of the global South, as well as the way solutions adopted in Europe and The United States may have a special influence in other regions of the world.

After these presentations, participants in the audience will be asked to share and discuss specific cases, experiences and approaches. The panel aims at fostering a debate that shall combine a human rights and international standards approach together with a proper consideration of the adequate tools to effectively deal with illegal and harmful content.

The debate will also identify particular global and regional tendencies aiming at transforming the general liability system applicable to online platforms, as well as possible actions and efforts to properly tackle these tendencies and adequately understand the impact on freedom of expression."

Expected Outcomes: - Enable and encourage civil society organizations to pay particular attention to new legislative proposals in any regions of the world regarding online content moderation, and properly assess their impact on freedom of expression.

- Increase the number of advocacy and sensitization activities regarding the role of online platforms as facilitators of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, and the impact that certain legal provisions can have on them.

- Increase the awareness among main stakeholders (civil society, international organizations, etc.) on the ongoing debates about the combination of public and private rules for the establishment of content standards, as well as on the need to engage and collaborate in the adoption of a proportionate and adequate model.

Onsite Moderator: 

Joan Barata, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Joan Barata, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Joan Barata, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

Initial presentations will be brief and basically present main ideas and suggestions on the topic. Participants will be asked not only to interact and discuss with speakers but also to assist in the formulation of policy proposals and specific actions applicable to ongoing cases and discussions in different areas of the world.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

Proposed Additional Tools: The session will have a hashtag to promote engagement via Twitter from interested participants not present in the event.


GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions