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?
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.