IGF 2022 Open Forum #32 Online content: a structural problem

Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min


Digital technologies have brought a profound change to the media and information environment. Alongside opportunities for freedom of expression and for public participation in democratic processes, this change carries with it important risks and threats, many of them related to the proliferation of illegal online content. Perhaps even more importantly, digital platforms are also riwe with content that is legal but may potentially infringe human rights and undermine democracy, as well as content that is legal but deemed societally undesirable and that may, as a result, spark calls for its limitation that may also potentially infringe human rights.
While across the globe there are attempts to regulate content itself and content moderation by internet intermediaries, there seems to be little debate about the systemic nature of the issue. At the same time, policymakers and civil society stakeholders need to know much more about the nature and extent of these problems than can be revealed by the statistics of unwanted content take-downs provided by internet intermediaries.
The public sphere is being shaped by the business models of the attention economy. Private platform oligopolies shape public discourse. Publicly relevant content risks getting crowded out by noise. Professional news organizations see their roles as gatekeepers increasingly challenged and displaced by algorithmic mechanisms that seem to prioritize controversial, eye-catching, superficial, and even misleading content. Anti-democratic forces are enabled to spread targeted content. Voices of underrepresented groups may get silenced because of targeted harassment and bullying.
In this constantly changing context, what should the foundational principles for rule-making be, so that digital technologies uphold and support freedom of expression and serve democratic purposes? What needs to be changed in the digital infrastructure design to mitigate the negative effects of massive digitalisation? What standards for transparency and accountability should be set to ensure enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression for all, while efficiently curtailing any abuses in a human rights compliant manner? And how can these policies be enhanced by accurate, up-to-date, independently developed knowledge on the causes of these problems and the effectiveness of potential remedies?
The session will seek answers to the above questions, also considering the role of user empowerment and independent research in addressing the issue in a systemic and consistent way.

Background documents:
o Recommendation CM/Rec(2022)13 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the impacts of digital technologies on freedom of expression
o Guidance Note on best practices towards effective legal and procedural frameworks for self-regulatory and co-regulatory mechanisms of content moderation

1) How will you facilitate interaction between onsite and online speakers and attendees?
The session moderator will dedicate equal attention to onsite and online speakers, involving them in the discussion with questions. Effort will be made to take an equal number of questions from onsite and online participants in the second half of the session.
2) How will you design the session to ensure the best possible experience for online and onsite participants?
Panel presentations and a round of questions from the moderator to the speakers will take place in the first half of the session. In the second half of the session the floor will be open for questions from both onsite and online participants.
3) Please note any complementary online tools/platforms you plan to use to increase participation and interaction during the session.
For communication with online participants latter, the chat function will be used.


Council of Europe
Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University
[academia, Europe]


Ms Maria Luisa Stasi, Head of Law and Policy for digital markets at ARTICLE 19 (tbc) [NGO, global]
Mr Cristian Vaccari, Professor of Political Communication and Director of the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture, Loughborough University [academia, Europe]
Ms Julia Powels, Associate Professor of Law and Technology at The University of Western Australia (tbc) [academia, Australia]
Mr Matthias Traimer, Head of Department, Media Affairs and Information Society, Federal Chancellery, Constitutional Service (tbc) [government, Europe]
Ms Alexandria Walden, Global Human Rights & Free Expression Policy Counsel, Google (tbc) [business, global]

Onsite Moderator

Rodica Ciochina, Council of Europe

Online Moderator

Rodica Ciochina, Council of Europe


Rodica Ciochina, Council of Europe



Targets: 16.3 Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
16.b Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development
The overall aim of the session is to promote the rule of law approach in the online environment and the protection of human rights online as offline. From this perspective the session will discuss the foundations/principles for human rights enhancing decision making as regards regulation of development and deployment of digital technologies, including AI, which may potentially impact freedom of expression and other human rights.