IGF 2017 Messages

November 2017

Main session: Local interventions, global impacts: How can international, multistakeholder cooperation address Internet disruptions, encryption and data flows


  • While there is increasing awareness of potential unintended impacts of Internet shutdowns, they continue to happen around the world. Shutdowns may affect the exercise of human rights, have economic implications, and may lead to the fragmentation of the Internet (as they often have cross-border effects).
  • The motivations behind Internet shutdowns vary, they may be legitimate, but sometimes blocking is used to address problems that could be solved by using the Internet. It is important to have a process in place that ensures: transparency, , adequate oversight, and redress mechanisms.
  • Encryption helps promote public security, and allows a better protection of human rights (such as those of activists, journalists, and minorities). It should not be seen as a by-default security threat. Countries that consider bans on encryption should understand the limitations and impacts of such a ban (e.g. cross-border effects, undermining the security of citizens, challenging the human rights of groups or minorities, and determining companies to move to other jurisdictions where such bans are not in place). Tools developed or employed to undermine encryption can come into the hands of those with illegal or criminal purposes. Governments and industry should cooperate and Identified vulnerabilities in encryption/encrypted products should be reported to the vendors.
  • Stakeholders should work together on achieving an appropriate balance between the interests of citizens and entities to secure their data and the needs of law enforcement agencies, while not undermining the fundamentals of the technology.
  • Data is an important asset in the digital era, due to its multiple uses. As governments and private companies collect and process large amounts of data, there is a need for more transparency and accountability in these processes. Users should be educated on how their data may be used and how to protect it.
  • The digital economy depends on the free flow of data, but this should be balanced with data protection. Governments, private companies, and civil society should work together on basic sets of rules that allow data aggregation and data flows, while also protecting the integrity of data and the privacy of individuals.

High level thematic session ‘Shaping our future digital global governance’


  • There was broad support for the notion that as the Internet and digital technologies continue to evolve, better coordinated digital governance systems are needed to maximise the opportunities offered by these technologies, and address the challenges they bring. How such systems could or should look like, and what they should focus on, remains however an issue to be further discussed.
  • That effective digital governance adapts and responds to the needs of the global citizens, was shared by all participants. But what are those needs? Some highlighted as priority areas bridging the digital divide (in its multiple dimensions), fostering digital literacy, and supporting the development of the digital economy. Others stressed that governance structures need to focus on enhancing confidence and trust in digital technologies, ensuring security, and creating stability and predictability in cyberspace.
  • The notion that the ideal future digital global governance should be value-based, inclusive, open, and transparent gained traction along the debate. While it is challenging to determine values that can be shared by all stakeholder groups, and at a global level, there was common ground in the thought that core Internet values are and need to stay human-centred.
  • When it comes to the governance model, there was broad support for the multistakeholder approach, and a more active involvement of all stakeholders in identifying and implementing consensus-based solutions for digital policy issues. It was underlined that the challenges of the digital world also need to be addressed by governments and intergovernmental organisations, through laws and regulation.
  • On the suitability of an international treaty or convention to address challenges such as cybercrime and cybersecurity, some expressed the view that it might be too early to consider such an option – without excluding it as an option for the future – , while others considered that an intergovernmental treaty is not an adequate solution to tackle challenges that affect all stakeholders, and for which all stakeholders should have roles and responsibilities.
  • The IGF, as a multistakeholder and inclusive process, was broadly supported as an important platform that allows stakeholders to reflect critically on existing digital governance processes, and contribute to the shaping of future processes.

High level thematic session ‘The impact of digitisation on politics, public trust, and democracy’


  • Digitisation can empower citizens, strengthen institutions, and promote more inclusive democratic participation and policy making. But it can also lead to information disorder, public mistrust, and the manipulation of public opinion. There was broad support for the idea that we should avoid over-focusing on the risks, and rather put emphasis on maximising the positive aspects of digitisation.
  • Trust in public institutions and policy making processes remains a matter of concern, and digitisation can act both as a solution and as a threat. Many emphasised that core principles – such as accountability, transparency, legitimacy, and openness – are needed to consolidate or restore trust. Digital technologies can help put these principles into practice.
  • ‘Fake news’ continues to be in focus, but many noted that the term is confusing, and ‘disinformation’ or ‘misinformation’ could be used instead. While the phenomenon is not new, it now has a wider effect due to digital technologies. There were diverse views on the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. Some noted that governments are mainly responsible, and should invest in education and media literacy, instead of building new institutions and policies. Governments were called upon to abstain from content regulation and censorship. Some were in favour of intermediary responsibility and the need for regulation in this regard, while others argued that platforms cannot be solely responsible for countering misinformation.
  • There was general agreement on the crucial role that education and literacy have in equipping individuals with a critical mind, and the ability to make informed choices and distinguish trustworthy information from misinformation and/or manipulation.
  • While acknowledging the importance of education, several other remedies were proposed for addressing the challenges of misinformation in the digital space: strengthening quality journalism, rebalancing the relation between traditional and new media, fact checking, and providing alternative positive stories.
  • Finally, it was broadly agreed that multistakeholder cooperation is key in making sure that we, as a society, use the digital space to the best of our abilities. While the digital future is characterised by uncertainties, and facing the unknown is a challenge, relying on long-term principles (such as accountability and transparency) combined with having flexibility in implementing and finding tailor-made solutions to face new challenges would be the most appropriate way forward.

Main session: Empowering global cooperation on cybersecurity for sustainable development and peace


  • Cybersecurity and the preservation of a secure and reliable cyberspace are essential elements in the road towards sustainable development. Some pointed out that countries have different levels of preparedness to deal with cyber threats and cyber risks, and more efforts need to be focused on capacity building measures. It is important for countries to have institutions, strategies, and policies in place to tackle cybersecurity issues, but capacity development should also focus on individuals.
  • Cybersecurity cannot be achieved by one stakeholder group on its own, and all stakeholders have roles and responsibilities. Participants warned that siloed approaches can lead to ineffective and counterproductive measures, multistakeholder cooperation needs to be reinforced. Such cooperation carries challenges, one of them being related to the fact that there is no universally agreed definition of cybersecurity. Hence, a global culture of cybersecurity could help to enhance mutual understanding among stakeholders on what, when, how can be done to ensure an open, secure, stable, and accessible cyberspace.
  • While there was broad agreement that international law applies to cyberspace, calls were made for more efforts to clarify how it applies, and to identify whether there might be gaps in some areas that international law does not cover.
  • Participants shared the view that cyberspace should be a place for peace, stability, and prosperity. International cooperation among states, some suggested in the framework of the UN, could contribute to avoiding a cyber arms race and militarisation of cyberspace.
  • Many agreed that existing norms related to responsible state behaviour in cyberspace – although not binding – can significantly contribute to enhancing cybersecurity and stability. Calls were made for more awareness raising about these norms, and more efforts to enhance their voluntary implementation.
  • While some called for new international treaties or convention to encode rules, norms, and principles for cybersecurity and responsible state behaviour, others considered this premature and called for first identifying what could be the mechanisms that would allow meaningful engagement of all stakeholders in the development of rules. Moreover, questions were raised on the actual implementation and effectiveness of any potential future international agreement considering that there is still lack of clarity on how existing international law applies to the use of digital technologies by states.

Main session: Dynamic Coalitions: Contribute to the digital future!


The following are points raised by Dynamic Coalitions, during the presentation of their work. They reflect the views of the DCs.

  • The digital divide remains a concern around the world and it requires actions in multiple areas, from building infrastructures, to empowering individuals and communities to make meaningful use of the Internet. Community networks are an example of such a multidisciplinary approach: the building of physical infrastructures is complemented by empowering communities to benefit from digital opportunities. Public libraries also have an important role to play in improving access, especially in developing countries.
  • The principle of universal design in the development of technologies should be seen as a requirement for enhancing accessibility, including for persons with disabilities. Measures are implemented around the world, and it is important to collect data about what works and what does not, to inform policy making.
  • Internet rights, principles, and values span across multiple dimensions. Core Internet values are of a technical nature and refer to the Internet as a global, interoperable, open, decentralised, user-centric, robust, and reliable network. Beyond these values, human rights need to be protected online. For example, privacy and data protection rights remain a major concern, and principles such as privacy-by-design and consent-by-design could contribute to better preserving them. Children and gender rights are also important, and their implementation requires both digital literacy and protection from online harm and violence.
  • Content control policies that platforms implement at the request of governments could challenge human rights. To avoid platforms becoming regulators, solutions could include co-regulation and self-regulation, with governments maintaining an adequate supervision of the processes. With regard to netneutrality and zero-rating, it was pointed out that different practices and policies exist around the world, and it seems as if zero-rating plans are more common in countries without netneutrality regulations, while other services seem to be zero-rated at a global level.
  • As technologies continue to develop, new challenges need to be addressed. Blockchain can improve the security of data and the stability of systems, but it also raises questions of jurisdiction and governance. In the case of the Internet of Things, developing an accountability and transparency framework is needed to guide its evolution in a responsible manner. Transparency is also important in the context of international trade negotiations, as governments need to keep citizens informed and allow them to contribute comments in the drafting processes.

Main session: NRIs Perspectives: Rights in the digital world


  • There was broad support for the view that the rights that people have offline should also be protected online. Rights such as privacy, data protection and freedom of expression are equally important in the digital space as they are in the physical world. Some pointed out that there might not be an uniform understanding of these rights and that the application of rights might vary from country to country.
  • While for some access to the Internet should be considered as a human right, others noted that access is more a need than a right. It was generally supported that access to the Internet is an important enabler of development and growth. For this reason, many noted that more should be done to bridge the digital divide.
  • Many indicated that the Internet enables them to exercise their digital rights, and called for more education, digital literacy, and for raising awareness about digital rights, and ways to exercise and protect them.
  • Some recommended that the protection of digital rights should be imbedded in an inclusive approach that also considers the needs and rights of vulnerable groups and communities – such as children, women, gender minorities, people with disabilities.
  • Other challenges and limitations mentioned during the session were: Internet shutdowns; limited transparency in how some Internet intermediaries process personal data or deal with content control policies; individual self-censorship caused by activities such as surveillance; tendencies to trade off rights against each other; and the lack of effective legal frameworks at national level, or insufficient resources to implement them.
  • New data-driven technologies such as the Internet of things and artificial intelligence were expected to have both positive and negative impacts on human rights. Suggested solutions to maximise the opportunities andminimise the risks included the adoption of standards and principles on issues such as security and privacy, ethics, and accountability.
  • There was a broad confidence that multistakeholder processes could be effective in addressing challenges related to digital rights. It was noted that more efforts should be made to strengthen the engagement of stakeholders, and empower them to make meaningful contributions.

Main session: Gender inclusion and the future of the Internet


  • There was strong recognition on the significance of the first main session on gender at the IGF, and its importance in addressing this as an integral and cross-cutting issue. Gender should be understood through the lens of intersectionality, which integrates diversity, including on rural/urban locations, economic power, and sexual orientation and gender identities, and that special attention should be given to gender-related issues of subgroups (e.g. rural women, girls, women in refugee camps, LGBTQI).
  • There was general support that gender digital divide is still a reality manifesting itself in multiple dimensions. Efforts to enable women and girls to access the infrastructures and digital technologies need to be complemented with creating digital literacy, enabling meaningful use of technologies, encouraging them to prepare for jobs in technology fields, enabling them to create content that is relevant and valuable to their lives and contexts, as well as empowering them to contribute to Internet governance and digital policy processes. Some pointed out that gender equality is also a matter of culture and norms, and that stereotypes should be fought against through education and awareness. Context was stressed as an important factor that impacts on this issue.
  • The digital divide facilitates discrimination of women and girls and as such, is a human rights issue that states should address in line with international human rights frameworks. Cooperation is key, and also other stakeholders have critical roles to play.
  • Several discussants stated that technology is not neutral, and that gender diversity should be taken into account when technologies are designed. They warned for the potential impact of data-driven technologies on gender digital rights, and called for multistakeholder action to avoid that opaque algorithms and machine learning systems make gender-biased decisions.
  • The issue of online gender-based abuse and violence was highlighted as a continued challenge to be addressed. Some warned that states and Internet intermediaries, when tackling online gender-based abuse and violence should not do so through a protectionist framework, but through the framework of human rights. This includes the need to potentially balance different rights, and that the principles of necessity, proportionality, and transparency should be respected in so far as they limit the freedom of expression.
  • The important role played by civil society actors in developing research and coordinating collaboration to understand key and emerging gender-related issues were acknowledged, and policymakers were encouraged to engage and be part of honest conversations to develop not only policies but coordinated plans together to achieve concrete results. Many acknowledged the progress made in recent years to integrate women rights and the gender issues into Internet governance processes, mechanisms, and structures (including the IGF). Yet, it was felt that gender equality and inclusion should remain a priority area. A multistakeholder approach was underlined as an important model and approach in this.

Main session: Digital transformation: How do we shape its socio-economic and labour impacts for good?


  • The underlying message of the session was that digitisation brings benefits to society and advance growth and development, but also comes with challenges. To reap these benefits and ensure that no one is left behind, actions are needed in multiple areas: ensuring access to digital infrastructures and technologies, developing the capacities of individuals and companies to use digital technologies, and putting policies in place to support innovation and growth.
  • E-commerce was seen as an enabler of global trade, empowering enterprises to reach international markets. But barriers still exist. Some pointed that this specific time is a historically important turning point in many meanings, then also touched upon a need to update cross-border trade rules and procedures, to better cater for the digital era. Others cautioned that time is needed to reach consensus between countries on how to best address the challenges of the digital trade. There were also calls for tackling issues such as limitations in cross-border data flows, as well as data privacy and security concerns.
  • Some discussants noted that automation and artificial intelligence offer new avenues for development, and it is important to ensure that societies are able to adapt and take advantage of the opportunities. Other focused on the need to address risks associated with such technologies, from bias and imbalances in algorithmic decision making, to disruptions on the labour market and workforce.
  • Some argued that societies and individuals will be able to adapt to the changes brought by new technologies, as was the case with previous industrial revolutions. While some jobs may become obsolete, technologies could develop new services, and create new markets and jobs. Others warned that the digital revolution risks leading to profound occupational changes, gaps in social protections, and workers’ rights abuses. Among the proposed solutions were: digital inclusion, active market labour policies, social protection and social safety nets, and adequate legislation to regulate the behaviour of companies.
  • There was general support for the view that education and capacity development especially for children, youth, and women are key to ensure that the future workforce has the skills required by the new economy. Calls were made for changes in the overall curricula and learning process, to allow individuals not only to make use of new technologies, but also to be able to challenge them.
  • While it cannot be predicted how our digital future will look like, it was said that we should take a human-centric and ethics-based approach to digital development.