Help me if you can … Resilience in the focus of Day 1 at IGF 2022Jutta Croll, SDC
Day 1 of the Internet Governance Forum started with a networking session on helplines working with communities. It turned out there is great interest from civil society organizations and governments on the African continent to engage in child online protection. For example it was reported, Rwanda has adopted a law on child online safety. Representatives from several other African countries and also from India joined the debate how best to protect children online.
Opening Ceremony: Resilient Internet for a shared sustainable and common future
This year’s key themes are focused on the UN Secretary-General’s proposed Digital Compact. Those five themes are:
- Connecting all people and safeguarding human rights
- Avoiding Internet fragmentation
- Governing data and protecting privacy
- Enabling safety, security and accountability
- Addressing advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI)
Speakers in the opening Ceremony of IGF 2022 referred to the 2.7 billion people still left offline and encouraged participants in the IGF to find solutions for creating a human-centered and resilient digital future. Especially Lily Edinam Botsyoe, representing the global youth, called upon the IGF community to close the digital gap and create the conditions for meaningful participation. She regards cooperation for a secure, open and robust Internet as necessary and she claimed “Young people are ready to get involved”. This was echoed by Vint Cerf, so-called father of the Internet, who referred to the Herculean task of achieving safety, security, privacy, utility, accessibility, operational sustainability, adaptability etc., but, he said: “It’s time to take concrete steps, let’s roll-up our sleeves and get to work.”
On behalf of UNESCO Mr. Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, demanded a regulatory framework and cautioned not to take regulation for censorship.
Safety and security were also in the focus of WS #523 Youthful approach at data protection in messaging apps. Special attention was given to quantum computing which will have a massive impact on how users’ data disclosed in messaging apps can by analysed and used either for their benefit or detrimental.
Another issue of safety was discussed in WS #70 Fighting the creators and spreaders of untruths online. Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner asked for a safer product design, algorithmic transparency, and the development of critical thinking skills to counteract the spreading of untruths. Rehobot Ayalew, who is working as a professional fact checker in Ethiopia explained how difficult it is to check what is true and what is false in a country where there exist 80 different languages, with content even in the five main languages being difficult to oversee. The mental health of the fact checkers was also very important to her.
Later in the afternoon WS #183 Digital Wellbeing of Youth: Selfgenerated sexualised content was held, organized by the German Children’s Fund (Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk) and the German Digital Opportunities Foundation (Stiftung Digitale Chancen). Speakers in the session dealt with the following questions:
- What does “self-generated” mean?
- Which answers does legislation provide?
- Which answers do further national policies and transnational strategies provide?
- How can Internet Governance support a common approach in respect of different political systems and cultural backgrounds?
After a lively debate with participants in the room and online the session was concluded with the following key messages:
- Since usually legislation refers to consensuality in order to differentiate images of abuse and sexual violence from usual behaviour in adolesence, a common definition of what "consensual" means is necessary, taking into account cultural differences.
- General Comment 25 on the rights of children in the digital environment provides for a framework to address the issue of sexualised content, that needs to be translated into national legislation and transnational measures.
The session organisers called to action as follows:
- In order to address the issues properly, consider the wording in regard to self-generated sexualised content, the definition of "consensual" and the wording in regard of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexualised violence.
- Make the voices of young people heard in alle matters that affect them and give the views of the child due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. Take into account that sexual orientation and the formation of one's own sexual identity is a developmental task in adolescence.