Children's rights and democracy
"Fit for Democracy" is the theme of today's Safer Internet Day. Children have the right to take part in democracy, and the digital environment offers them opportunities to exercise their rights regardless of their age, their social status and the region where they are living. This is underlined in particular in Chapter VI. of General Comment No. 25 on the rights of children in the digital environment "Fundamental rights and freedoms".
Access to information is an essential prerequisite for participating in democratic decision-making processes. The digital environment offers unique opportunities for children to realise their right to access information. In this regard, information and communication media, including digital and online content, fulfil an important function. Therefore, States Parties to the United Nations are called upon by the Committee on the Rights of the Child to ensure that children have access to information in the digital environment. They should also ensure that children's right to freedom of expression in the digital environment is not restricted. This means that even measures that may be necessary to protect children, such as the use of filtering software, must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Children should be able to make their political or other views and identities public in the digital environment without being exposed to unreasonable criticism, hostility, threats or even punishment; the States Parties should also create the conditions for this.
Fundamental rights also include freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which can be impaired in the digital environment by attempts to influence and manipulate. Media literacy and the ability to assess content are therefore important building blocks of "fitness for democracy".
The digital environment can enable children in a special way to form their political identity and to participate in social discussdiscussions. Children who participated in the drafting of the 25th General Comment say that the digital environment offers them welcome opportunities to meet, exchange and engage with peers, decision-makers and like-minded people. This is the basis for being part of a democratic society.
Fit for Democracy also means making these basic rights known to children in the digital environment, safeguarding them and making them a reality.
Safer Internet Day 2022 - Focus on democracy
On Tuesday, 8 February 2022, Safer Internet Day will take place for the 19th time. Under the main theme "Together for a better internet", there are various actions around the world. "Klicksafe", an initiative of the European Commission and German coordinator for SID 2022, has the motto "Fit for democracy, strong for society". Climate change, pandemics and radical right-wing and extremist movements are daily challenges for our democracy, which is why this year's focus is on the following questions: How do we make our democracy strong? How do we succeed in this test in everyday digital life? How can we understand diversity as wealth and strength? How can the fair and constructive exchange of different points of view be practised and trained?
To strengthen democratic competence, the EU initiative klicksafe creates space for discussions on numerous levels:
- In 2022, the klicksafe experts will publish new teaching materials on the topics of democracy promotion and media literacy. Projects and working materials for educational work will be available in advance as a compact download package at klicksafe.de/sid
- Content and discussions will be available on social media under the hashtags #FitForDemocracy and #SID2022.
- All interested parties are called upon to participate in the day of action themselves, to become active and creative and thus make a strong case for democracy. Planned actions can be registered at klicksafe.de/sid.
You can find further information in English about the Safer Internet Day here
IGF 2022 - Call for Thematic Inputs
All IGF stakeholders are invited to submit inputs to the IGF Secretariat to assist with the planning of thematic focus of the IGF 2022 process and its 17th annual meeting.
Deadline for submission is 14 February.
Day 4 of the IGF: Final report from the Internet Governance Forum 2021
Under the overarching theme Internet United, the Internet Governance Forum held in Katowice, Poland, from Dec. 6th to 10th featured discussions on some of the most pressing Internet and digital policy issues, from meaningful access, digital rights, cybersecurity, environmental sustainability and climate change to the challenges and opportunities offered by advanced technologies such as AI and quantum computing.
As the 16th IGF wrapped up following five days of lively discussions over the course of 250 sessions attended by over 9,600 participants, the United Nations presented the main outcome and recommendations of the event - the Katowice IGF Messages. With regard to children's rights, IGF 2021 has formulated a clear message: States are called upon to consider transposing the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) General Comment 25 (GC25) on children’s rights in the digital environment into national regulation and legislation, and to ensure compliance. The UNCRC itself is invited to tailor recommendations to individual countries during dialogue and review processes related to GC25.
To ensure that human rights are enforced and upheld in the digital space, it needs to be carefully reflected on how technology serves humanity, as opposed to simply putting in place safeguards around the edges and waiting until harms occur. States’ duty to prevent potential harm of human rights (e.g. through regulation and enforcement) needs to be complemented with (a) effective access to remedy when people are victims of human rights violation, and (b) responsibility on the part of the technical private sectors in integrating human rights due diligence and impact assessments throughout the entire life cycle of a technology.
Women and girls are disproportionately victimised online and find it difficult to obtain support. Governments need to harmonise legislation to protect victims of non consensual intimate image abuse, ensure easy access to redress. Network and platform policies need to accommodate a spectrum of global cultures. Peer support networks for girls who are victims of online gender based violence, such as Safer Internet Centers, must be strengthened, while digital literacy should be improved through school curricula and start from a young age, before they venture online.
Please find the complete messages from Katowice here. Stakeholders are invited to review the messages and provide feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Monday 20 December 2021.
Once again, the IGF 2021 programme, put together by the United Nations Multistakeholder Advisory Group, has shown that technical innovation and economic success must go hand in hand with the protection of human rights. Only in this way the common objective of a free, inclusive and united internet can be sustained.
Internet governance has many faces: Report from the second and third day of the Internet Governance Forum 2021
The sessions and workshops on days two and three of the IGF covered many, very different aspects of Internet governance. A common red thread running through the program were the rights of users and the protection of vulnerable groups.
On Wednesday morning, the Dynamic Coalitions of the IGF demonstrated how digital collaboration between the actors in the different coalitions is realized across topics. Points of connection abound, with advocacy for human rights in the digital space a key unifying element of the work. The Dynamic Coalition for the Rights of Children in the Digital Environment emphasised General Comment No. 25 on the rights of children in the digital environment provides a good basis for prioritising the best interests of children, including in Internet governance issues: Continuing with the Dynamic Coalition on Core Internet Values workshop scheduled for Friday morning, where the Dynamic Coalition for the Rights of Children in the Digital Environment will advocate for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation as a core value of the Internet.
In particular, the pandemic situation has made it abundantly clear that there are continuously major disparities in terms of access to the Internet and the teaching of media literacy worldwide, but also within individual countries, which need to be addressed. The growing number of users and the increase in time spent online should not obscure the fact that the digital divide persists. At the same time, more Internet use can also lead to an increased risk of children being confronted with content inappropriate for them, contacts not appropriate for their age, and the risk of sexual abuse. A whole series of national and regional Internet governance forums in 2021 addressed the question of which threats are particularly acute and how they can be countered. This was the subject of Thursday evening's NRI session, "Securing the trusted Internet now for the generations to come" For IGF Benin, Kossi Amessinou from the Ministry of Economy and Finance reported that legislation alone is not enough to protect children. Regulatory instruments such as the Child Protection Code must be implemented in practice, he said, and this includes teaching media literacy in families. For the Asia-Pacific region, Jennifer Chung also pointed to a lack of media literacy programs. Many areas in this region are still underserved, the cost of access to the Internet is high, and educational opportunities are rare.
From Italy, Giacomo Mazzone reported access to education being severely hampered by the pandemic. Children and young people lacked access to devices, and parents lacked the skills to help their children using them. One teenager had died by imitating a challenge on TikTok; this had initially led to a three-month ban of the platform. In the meantime, the provider has introduced measures to prevent use by minors, but more media literacy is also needed for greater safety.
From Mauritius, Mahendranath Busgopaul reported on risks posed to children and young people by advertising for dangerous products and services. The country has good legal regulation in the area of data protection, IT security and defense against computer misuse, responsibilities are clearly defined and there are functioning reporting mechanisms available in the event of violations. Nevertheless, increased activity, particularly in the area of online games, has led to more dangers for children - such as unauthorized purchases or online betting.
Mary Uduma highlighted the risk of children being recruited for terrorist activities in the West Africa region. She said that providers, like the education system, have a responsibility to ensure that children are not excluded from the opportunities of digitalisation on the one hand, but are also not abused for the interests of others. From Lebanon, Zeina Bou Harb reported a significant increase in the number of child sexual abuse cases since 2019. In cooperation with platform providers, children should be increasingly introduced to offers that are safe for them; the Champ of the Internet competition is a successful example.
The participants in the session consented on the need for good professional exchange about risks and ways to combat them. The IGF's national and regional initiatives in particular can make a significant contribution here, as they know the conditions on the ground and can assess the transferability of solution approaches. An overview of potential dangers as well as examples of legal regulation and offers for teaching media competence and creating safe spaces for children and young people was proposed, which shall be updated regularly with the participation of the NRIs.
On Thursday morning, the Main Session on economic and social inclusion and human rights and the Main Session Regulation and the open, interoperable, and interconnected Internet - challenges and approaches had already dealt with the protection of children and young people. Best practice examples of regulatory approaches to personal data handling, content moderation and the use of artificial intelligence were discussed. Both sessions emphasised children's rights to protection, provision, and participation as a necessary condition of the Internet's future. The primacy of the best interests of the child under UN CRC Art 3 and under the European Human Rights Charter Art 24 (2) must also be taken into account in Internet governance decisions.
An Open Forum of the OECD on Thursday afternoon dealt with access requirements and the protection of children on the Internet. Brian O'Neill from the project CORE - Children Online Research and Evidence reported that risks of contact and conduct are particularly noticeable in phases of transition, for example when young people use their first own device or expand their radius of action on the internet and engage with social networks or online games. The recommendations published by the OECD on children in the digital environment confirm the central role that the Internet plays in the upbringing of children and young people, while at the same time underlining the resulting potential danger for the younger generation. The OECD considers better protection for children's data and age-appropriate design of the offerings used by children in accordance with the principle of safety-by-design, legally regulated framework conditions and the cooperation of all stakeholders to be suitable instruments.
The multi-stakeholder approach of the Internet Governance Forum proves to be the right one, especially in view of the challenges for a safe and trustworthy Internet that is equally accessible to all.
Internet Governance Forum 2021: Children's Rights in the Digital Environment again in the FocusStiftung Digitale Chancen
From December 6th to 10th, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2021 has taken place as a hybrid event. It was hosted by the Government of Poland.
Update from Dec. 10th, 2021: Please find here our reports from the event:Day 1 of the Internet Governance Forum 2021
Welcome to Katowice - The IGF 2021 has begun>
- Economic and Social Inclusion / Human Rights
- Universal access and meaningful connectivity
- Emerging regulation: market structure, content, data and consumer/user rights regulation
- Environmental sustainability and climate change
- Inclusive Internet governance ecosystems and digital cooperation
- Trust, security, stability
The topics of children's rights and child protection are once again at the top of the Internet Governance Forum agenda this year. There is a clear focus on the realisation of children's rights to protection, empowerment and participation in the digital environment. This is also reflected in the name of the Dynamic Coalition on Child Online Safety, which started its work back in 2007 in Rio and is now called Dynamic Coalition on Children's Rights in the Digital Environment.
We have put together for you a schedule of the sessions that will cover aspects of children and young people growing up in a digital environment. This way you can decide which parts of the program are of interest to you. All sessions are designed to actively involve participants, whether they are on-site or online. Within the IGF week we will report from the event, with a special focus on these sessions.
Registration is required to attend the IGF here. It is recommended that you register in good time before the start of the event. You will receive a confirmation that entitles you to access the on-site events and the digital Zoom meetings..
IGF sessions on "Growing up in a digital environment"
- 10:25-11:10 Uhr, Hall A3: Day 0 Event #114 Keep Our Children Safe in The Digital World
- 12:00-13:00 Uhr, Hall A2: Day 0 Event #118 Freedom of speech on the Internet - what does it mean for young people?
- 12:00-13:00, Raum 4: Day 0 Event #101 Internet - safety and development of children and young people - educational, social and legal consequences
- 09:00-09:20 Uhr, Raum 7: Lightning Talk #85 Rapid notice & takedown - the key to getting child sexual abuse off the internet fast
- 15:00-16:30 Uhr, Raum 10: DCCOS Regulate or prevent to protect children - a false dichotomy?
- 17:00-18:30 Uhr, Raum 6: WS #170 Child Protection Online - How to legislate?
- 16:15-17:15 Uhr, Ball-Raum A: WS #133 Delivering children’s rights in the digital world
- 13:50-14:50 Uhr, Raum 3: Open Forum #39 Inclusive and Safe Connectivity for Children and Adults
- 17:05-18:05 Uhr, Raum 7: NRIs collaborative session: Securing the trusted Internet now for the generations to come. Special Focus: Child Online Safety
- 09:30-11:00 Uhr, Raum 6: WS #240 Education 4.0: Who is looking at cybersecurity?