IGF 2018 WS #265
Who's really setting the internet's rules of the road now?

Organizer 1: Sheetal Kumar, Global Partners Digital
Organizer 2: Melody Patry, Access Now
Organizer 3: Agustina Del Campo, CELE (Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information)

Speaker 1: Milton Mueller, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Agustina Del Campo, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Gayatri Khandhadai, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Melody Patry, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Sheetal Kumar (GPD)

Online Moderator

Daniela Schnidrig (GPD)


Peter Micek (Access Now)


Other - 60 Min
Format description: Short panel introduction (20 minutes) and break-out session (30 minutes) with summary of break-out and panel by the moderator (10 minutes)


The speakers will set the scene for the break-out session by drawing on their own work and experiences on the question of internet governance. Each of the speakers will offer their own unique perspectives on the questions and represent a wide range of expertise on the issues.

Milton Mueller is an internationally recognised scholar who has written extensively on the roles of stakeholders in internet governance, including private actors, and on the evolution of the internet. Apart from providing responses to the questions above, having occupied senior advisory roles at ICANN, Mueller will also be able to reflect on the more traditional role of organisations such as ICANN in a world where more players and stakeholders are shaping internet norms and governance.

Gayatri Khandhadai is a lawyer with a background in international law and human rights, international and regional human rights mechanisms, research, and advocacy, who has engaged extensively with regional human rights mechanisms in Asia and with global level mechanisms, including the UN Human Rights Council. In her intervention she will be able to provide concrete examples of the use and application of both regional and global human rights norms and standards and also be able to provide suggested explanations as to why gaps exist between international and national jurisprudence on internet-related issues.

Agustina del Campo is an Argentine lawyer with a specialisation in human rights. Due to her in-depth experience engaging with regional mechanisms in the Latin America region, including the IACHR, she will be able to provide examples of how human rights and multilateral mechanisms have recently been shaping internet governance and particularly the role of courts in doing so within the Latin America region.

Melody Patry will discuss the role of regional commissions and courts, including in Africa and Europe, in interpreting international law and norms to better protect human rights online. Access Now regularly intervenes in domestic and regional courts with expertise on freedom of expression issues ranging from internet shutdowns to collateral blocking of websites and domains. Melody will illuminate trends in recent decisions and the ways civil society organize to leverage legal mechanisms in the development of internet governance norms.


This session is intended to engage a global audience and the introductory panelists have been selected in order to provide a broad array of both theoretical and applied perspectives on the questions of stakeholders in internet governance.

The speakers represent diversity in gender (three of the speakers are women), geographical (each speaker represents a different region) stakeholder (the speakers represent different stakeholder groups) and policy perspectives (each of the speakers has different positions and perspectives on the questions which will be addressed).

Finally, this workshop is broadly pertinent to all stakeholders who will attend the IGF and the interactive format of the session (with 30 minutes allocated for a break-out into smaller groups which facilitate interactive discussion) is designed to draw on all perspectives and to feed those into the outcomes of the workshop.

First each of the panelists will provide their perspectives on the following three questions:

- Who is determining the “rules of the road” globally - e.g what roles are new actors like courts playing in the interpretation and the shaping of internet standards, and where else are standards being set that are affecting human rights on the internet?
- What is the role of role of civil society in evolving internet norms and values at regional & international human rights norm-setting bodies: the ECHR, HRC, UN, ACHPR, for example? What is their role in the new spaces identified above?
- What are the gaps that exist between the international resolutions and national practice?

Following this panel discussion (25 minutes), a break-out will divide the wider groups into smaller groups who will brainstorm responses (15 minutes) to these questions and identify the following: positive examples of enforcement of international human rights norms on the internet, gaps, blind sports and areas for jurisprudence, obstacles to enforcement and lessons learned from engagement.

Finally, the moderator will facilitate a summary of the main examples, lessons learned and gaps in order to help push forward more effective and informed human rights standard setting for the internet.

The panel and interactive break-out format will enable to have a dynamic and interactive conversation with both expert speakers and draw on the experience of the audience. The moderator has experience in managing both panels and break-out sessions and will make sure the speakers provide brief interventions to kick off the debate, after which both audience participants and online participants will have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion through a structured break-out session, which will then be summarised by the moderator.

The policy question that this workshop addresses is one of the most pertinent to the IGF, namely who are the main players setting internet governance standards now?

Since the IGF was first founded, there have been huge shifts in the policy landscape. Private actors, including global tech companies continue to play an important role in internet governance at the global level, but there has also been a noticeable attempt by state actors to regulate the internet: this includes by passing laws and policies which introduce, for example, new obligations on companies that provide internet-based services. Meanwhile, courts have gained confidence and expertise in asserting the rule of law online, defining regional norms that increasingly reach globally and taking on challenging technical problems. For example, in 2014 the European Court for Human Rights determined
that a user -­generated news portal is a publisher liable for the comments of its readers in Delfi v Estonia. In the same year, the Argentine Supreme Court ruling of Belén Rodriguez v. Google also contributed to the setting of standards on the liability of search engines for third-party content.

Further, the internet and digital technologies are discussed in an increasing number of multilateral and global fora. In 2017 the G20 held the first digital ministerial conference ahead of the Leaders Summit. In 2018, the ITU Plenipotentiary will consider and decide on a number of issues related to the internet’s development and governance. Finally, there are also initiatives at technical standard setting bodies which are discussing integration of human rights frameworks and internet protocols. Meanwhile, what is the role for civil society in the development of norms and standards considering the proliferation of these spaces?

This session builds on a number of prior workshops and discussions that have sought to identify the main players in the internet governance landscape and determine the roles they are playing. It builds on and complements the work of the Dynamic Coalition on Publicness and its work on the right to be forgotten and the role of courts, as well as Content Regulation and Private Ordering at Internet Governance Institutions (WS # 67 at IGF 2017) the Role of Judiciary Systems and Internet Governance (WS 162 at IGF 2016) Can civil society impact global internet governance (WS 68 at IGF 2015) and Who governs the Internet: How people can have a voice (WS 36 at IGF 2014), among many others.

The organisers will study the content of these sessions in order to ensure that the workshop builds on the discussions which have already taken place within the IGF on the relevant issues to be covered by this session, and in order to meaningfully advance the discussion.

Online Participation

A remote moderator will be in permanent contact with remote participants and update them on the progress of the session. Remote participants will be encouraged to feed into the discussion, and their comments and remarks will be fed back to the room to incorporate them in the discussion.
There will be a specific segment of the session dedicated to receiving questions from remote participants, to make sure they have opportunities to intervene and engage. The remote moderator is experienced and has remote moderated four IGF sessions to date.