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Published 11.10.23

Time for children's rights

Jutta Croll & Torsten Krause, SDC

On the third day of the Internet Governance Forum in Kyoto, Japan, many events were focused on children's rights. Topics included how to develop technologies that promote the well-being of young people, how young people can get involved and participate in decision-making, and how their data can be protected and handled responsibly.

#52 RITEC: Prioritizing Child Well-Being in Digital Design

Together with leading experts, UNICEF and LEGO have launched the RITEC project (Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children) to identify what is necessary to develop technologies and services that not only protect children and young people, but also promote their well-being and thus make a positive contribution to their development. The participants are aware that such a development cannot be realized without the participation of young people. For this reason, the Young & Resilient Research Center at Western Sydney University in Australia conducted a comprehensive participation survey with more than 34,000 children from over 30 countries. These results will help to develop a framework that provides guidance for developers and programmers on how to address the competencies, emotional self-direction, empowerment, and creativity of young people without neglecting their social connectedness, issues of safety and security, diversity and inclusion, and the development of young people. Once the guidelines are finalized, it is intended to enter into a pilot phase and test their realization.

#64 Worldwide Web of Youth: Cooperation for Enlightenment

At the event, which was organized by young people, they presented their plans for media literacy education, but also for increasing the involvement of young people in shaping and regulating the digital environment, and reported on their experiences as young ambassadors or members of youth committees, for example of the IGF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). They pointed out that self-organization and dealing with topics that match their interests contributes significantly to getting more young people involved and participating. They can benefit from the support of more experienced young people, who can help them become familiar with the specifics and procedures of adult organizations and help them successfully make offers for their conferences and events. Although they can gain good attention through this, they sometimes also experience that their participation and presence is welcomed and supported in principle, but that their influence on the shaping of the development of the digital space is not yet effective in all cases.


DC COS main session „Risk, opportunity and child safety in the age of AI“

At the event, representatives of the German Children's Fund, Childfund Japan, Asia Pacific Youth IGF, Microsoft and the Center for Law and Crime Prevention discussed with the audience how to guarantee the safety of young people using digital applications in the face of a multitude of opportunities and risks. The conversation pointed out that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has produced a landmark document, General Comment No. 25, that comprehensively sets out how children's rights should be interpreted and applied to the digital world. However, it also became clear from practical experience and current studies that there are still major challenges in encouraging young people to participate safely in digital applications. One reason for this is that children and young people are not always familiar with all the options for protection in the applications and often receive little support and guidance from their parents or other adults. But not all offers and services fulfill their responsibility and provide appropriate preventive and protective services for their users either. For this reason, there are various efforts worldwide to protect children and young people in digital environments, for example by forbidding companies to use their data for the targeted advertising of products. The challenge is to achieve the right balance between protection and participation and to find a good solution in the best interest of the child and the best interests of all children. More participation of young people and research on how they use digital applications will be necessary to achieve this goal.

#559 Harnessing AI for Child Protection

Artificial Intelligence is THE buzzword at IGF 2023. So the workshop’s title underlines the importance of bringing children’s right to protection together with the potential of AI.

Ghimire Gopal Krishna from Civil Society in Nepal, Sarim Aziz, representing Meta and Michael Ilishebo from Zambia Government and Jutta Croll were discussing how can AI technologies be effectively leveraged to detect and combat emerging forms of child exploitation in the digital age, considering the evolving nature of online risks. Sarim Aziz lined out what Meta is doing to fight CSAM on their services and that they do so very successfully, f.e. with software like PhotoDNA and now also by a technology that is able to detect abusive video material. But, although platform providers have being working there is still a huge amount of CSAM available even on the open Internet. Jutta Croll referred to the draft CSAM regulation currently in the parliamentarian process which provides for regulatory measures addressing the following three issues: already know CSAM, not-yet identified CSAM and grooming processes. Due to the high complexity of monitoring content and communication it is obvious that it is necessary to improve the efficiency of monitoring technologies, and to make them as rights respecting as possible. Privacy is one of the most ambivalent rights, Jutta Croll, explained. Children of course have the right to privacy not only in regard of service providers, but also towards their parents, But, as Michael Ilishebo pointed out rightly parents want to protect their children and with that intention sometimes break the privacy of their children. Gopal Krishna informed about the Nepalese Child Protection Act and encouraged to adhere to human rights and the rule of law to uphold democracy. He then referred to the concept of “age of consent” that is differently implemented in national jurisdictions, and these differences are enhanced in the digital environment with cross-border services being offered. In response Jutta Croll referred to Art. 118 of General Comment #25, which explicitly urges States not to criminalize the consensual sharing of sexually explicit contents among young people under the age of 18. This led to the key take-away of the session: Ai is not a silver bullet; it may be able to recognize certain types of illegal content but understanding the consensual or non-consensual nature of interaction among human beings will always need human assessment.