Welcome to Katowice - the Internet Governance Forum 2021 has begun
On Tuesday morning, 7 December 2021, the 16th United Nations Internet Governance Forum was officially opened. The theme of this year's event is Internet United in the sense of an accessible and safe internet for all users.
In his video message, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed out the important role of the Internet in maintaining social life during the pandemic, but also the challenges posed by the digital divide with more than half of the world's population without access to the Internet. The President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, emphasised in his welcome message that digital transformation is a must for our well-being. At the same time, however, we would have to answer the questions of how digitisation is changing our lives, whether we fully trust the new technologies and how we can preserve human rights in a digital environment. Only joint concerted action can lead to a solution.
Already on Monday, several preliminary events dealt with questions of safety and security. In particular, they focused on a healthy upbringing of children and young people and the influence of digitisation on their personal development.
Today, the afternoon will be devoted to questions of regulation for the protection of children and the realisation of their rights according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We invite you to participate in the workshop 170 Child Protection Online - How to legislate? which will take place from 17.00 to 18.30 in conference room 6. The discussion can be followed live on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/user/igf/featured. registration is required for active participation in the discussion.
First day of the Internet Governance Forum 2021
Children's rights as the basis for regulation
Is legal regulation a suitable instrument for creating a safe online environment for children? This question was the focus of two workshops on Day 1 of the Internet Governance Forum 2021.
In the afternoon, the Dynamic Coalition for the Rights of Children in the Digital Environment addressed the issue of combating depictions of sexual abuse online. Patrick Burton of the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention in South Africa warned against viewing regulation as a panacea for a safer Internet space. The causes of child exploitation and abuse lie outside the net and must be tackled there as well, Burton said. Andreas Hautz from the German organisation jugendschutz.net and Michael Tunks, representing the British Internet Watch Foundation, emphasised the responsibility of platform operators. Moderation of content is imperative, he said, even if it is difficult to distinguish between illegal, harmful or grey area content, it must be done consistently because this is the only way to manage the amount of content and ensure a safe environment. This was also underlined by Thiago Tavares from SaferNet in Brazil, who believes that content moderation is essential to provide children with a safe Internet experience without limiting their rights to access information.
Encryption is an important tool for privacy and security, but it is potentially accompanied by unintended effects on child protection that need to be carefully considered. Hautz and Tunks pointed out that in December 2021, the ePrivacy Directive resulted in platform operators no longer using technical tools such as photo-DNA to detect child sexual abuse material, allowing a very large amount of such content to continue to be distributed unimpeded. Such "collateral damage" of an EU-wide regulation agreed upon with good intentions would have to be prevented in the future - also during the upcoming deliberations on the Digital Services Act.
These considerations were taken up directly in the subsequent Workshop 170 on the question of how the protection of children on the Internet can be regulated by law, which was organised by the Digital Opportunities Foundation and the German Children's Fund. Speakers from Egypt, Ghana with reference to other countries on the African continent, Great Britain, Germany and the European Commission first presented the regulatory approaches pursued in each area; in addition, David Miles representing Meta / Facebook lined out the position of a platform provider.
After a decade of Internet governance in which de-regulation and self-regulation were predominant and the development of free market forces was in the foreground, there is now an increasing tendency towards state regulation in order to strengthen the rights of users. In particular, the focus is on the question of how content moderation can be carried out in accordance with human rights and in consideration of the protection of children and young people.
Risk assessment is the key to ensuring a safe space, explained . It is particularly important to address systemic risks, the likelihood of which is higher on very large platforms than on smaller offerings, Kaarlep said. The obligation for providers to take precautions, as provided for in the German Youth Protection Act and the UK Online Safety Bill, was generally welcomed. David Miles pointed out that they must also be given the time to develop these measures in an ongoing process. In his view, there is a need to develop a new type of regulator and to further staff the regulators already operating so that they can meet the major challenges.
There was a consensus among the participants in the workshop that a new perspective on regulatory measures was needed in order to promote dialog among the stakeholders. In the sense of dialogic regulation, it was necessary to develop an overall strategy to ensure a joint perception of responsibility. Agne Kaarlep from the European Commission DG CNECT made clear that regulation must be based on the principle of proportionality in order to achieve a compromise between a comprehensive duty of care and specific obligations. To this end, Kenneth Adu Amanfoh from the Africa Cybersecurity & Digital Rights Organisation proposed a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary approach that includes the development of standards that are applied in practice and in among technical developers. Hoda Dahroug from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies in Egypt suggested that in creating a safe environment for all users, the possibilities of artificial intelligence should also be exploited.
Regulation must be thought of from the child's perspective, suggested Thomas Salzmann of the newly created Federal Agency for Child and Youth Media Protection in Germany, and found a comrade-in-arms in Beeban Kidron of the UK's 5 Rights Foundation. She called on legislative bodies at national and European level to make the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and General Comment No. 25 on the rights of children in the digital environment a reference for laws. In this way, a harmonised legal framework could be created that is based on internationally recognised standards and respects the rights of children.
Children's Rights Day 2021
Every year on 20 November, we celebrate the birthday of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the Children's Rights Committee on this day in 1989.
In 2021, there is a special birthday present: The 25th General Comment on the rights of children in the digital environment is now also available in German language and as a searchable html-file in English language.
Digital media play a role in all areas of children's lives, they are changing people's everyday lives and the way children grow up, offering opportunities and harbouring risks. In order for us to cope well with these changes, the 25th General Comment explains in a total of 125 paragraphs how to understand children's rights today, more than 30 years after the adoption of the UNCRC, and what needs to be done to realise children's rights also in the digital environment. The text gives all those who work with and for children a comprehensible basis and good justification for their efforts so that all children can benefit from the opportunities digitalisation offers.
The 25th General Comment was drafted by the Children's Rights Committee together with a group of child rights experts and adopted on 2 March 2021.
The translation of General Comment No. 25 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was carried out in a cooperation of the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft kommunale Kinderinteressenvertretungen - Verein zur Umsetzung der Rechte des Kindes auf kommunaler Ebene e.V. (Federal Association for the Implementation of the Rights of the Child at Local Level). (BAG Kinderinteressen e.V. for short) and the Monitoring Centre UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of the German Institute for Human Rights and edited with the assistance of an editorial team of which the project Child Protection and Children's Rights in the Digital World is a member.
All General Comments on the UN CRC translated into German language to date are also available as accessible PDF files at https://www.kinderrechtekommentare.de
World Children's Day 2021: Reason to celebrate children's rights in the digital world!Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen
Today is World Children's Day. This is a good occasion to let children from all over the world have their say. In our video you can hear and see what children and young people think about their rights in the digital world.
Last year, more than 700 children worldwide took part in workshops and exchanged views on the importance of the internet for their lives, where they would like to see protection but also more freedom and who can support them in this. They made very concrete suggestions on how the digital world can be made child-friendly and what needs to change.
The report Our rights in the digital world reflects the children's opinions.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has incorporated the results of the workshops into the 25th General Comment on children's rights in relation to the digital environment. This is currently being translated into German. We have already translated a child-friendly version of the General Comment, which was created together with children from the UK, together with children from Germany. The poster In our own words summarises the most important demands for a good and child-friendly growing up with digital media.
Since the adoption of the General Comment, governments in all parts of the world must ensure that children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in the digital environment. The General Comment is therefore something of a to-do list for government representatives, but also for other stakeholders involved in shaping the digital environment and for those who bear responsibility for children growing up well.
Today, on World Children's Day, we want to point this out and we want to celebrate that children's rights apply everywhere in the world - also in the digital space.