IGF 2022 WS #236 To Regulate or not to Regulate?

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (08:00 UTC)

Organizer 1: Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Jonathan Stever, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Helani Galpaya, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Anne Doose, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Additional Speakers

Jon Stever- Innovation for Policy Foundation (i4policy)

Pascal König, GIZ


Debate - Classroom - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

  • What is the right level of regulation of technology and data to ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms, while leaving space for innovation and economic competitiveness?
  • What role can agile, human-centred and innovative regulatory approaches involving national governments, regional actors, civil society, academia and the private play in tackling regulatory uncertainty?
  • What role do international harmonization processes play to develop and shape national technology and digital policy regulations?

Connection with previous Messages:

20511 (intgovforum.org)

  • Suggested underlying principles to guide policy approaches towards strengthened market competition and consumer protection include: (a) transparency; (b) global taxonomy of service providers; (c) emphasis on rights application; (d) proportionality; (e) acknowledging the complexity of platforms, content and behaviours and jurisdictions; (f) harmonization - ensuring that the Internet remains a global, unified platform that enables the exercise of human rights.
  • Stakeholders have a joint responsibility in ensuring that digital transformation processes are diverse, inclusive, democratic and sustainable. Commitment and strong leadership from public institutions need to be complemented with accountability and responsibility on the part of private actors.
  • Agile regulatory frameworks – at the national, regional and, where possible, global levels – need to be put in place to outline rules, responsibilities and boundaries for how public and private actors behave in the digital space.
  • More awareness should be raised about the interplay between big platforms, competition, and consumer rights, among both consumers and global, regional or national antitrust regulators. Antitrust regulation could incorporate the concept of public interest, addressing the issue of market power and concerns about fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of speech. Tailored approaches like pro-ethical design in regulation should also be considered.
  • Policies implemented by Internet platforms to deal with harmful online content need to be transparent, acknowledge the limits of automated content moderation, and ensure a proper balance with the right to freedom of expression.
  • There is an urgent need to understand why policy solutions already known and proven to be effective are not being more widely implemented.
  • There is a necessity to strengthen the multistakeholder approach, in order to be truly inclusive and to develop effective policies that respond to the needs of citizens, build trust and meet the demands of the rapidly changing global digital environment. The most powerful stakeholders - governments and private companies - are responsible for ensuring that civil society actors are able to meaningfully contribute to these processes.

Women and girls are disproportionately victimised online and find it difficult to obtain support. Governments need to harmonise legislation to protect victims of nonconsensual intimate image abuse, and ensure easy access to redress. Network and platform policies need to accommodate a spectrum of global cultures.


5. Gender Equality
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: The session with its cross-cutting focus on inclusive, human-rights based and citizen centred digital regulation has a particular relevance for SDGs 5, 8, 9, 16 and 17.


Massively growing global data and digital services markets, privacy and consumer harms, and online disinformation are only some of the major challenges that regulators and policymakers are facing worldwide in view of dynamic technological developments. The technological innovations behind these developments engender manifold technical regulatory questions. Their answers can be highly context-specific and depend on the concrete technologies and the settings in which they are deployed. However, policymakers also face the question which broader regulatory approach to adopt in governing and shaping the digital transformation. Thus far, one can discern at least three models that are taking hold in different parts of the world: (1) a market- and innovation-oriented, (2) a state-led and security-oriented, (3) and a fundamental right-centered approach.

The question which approach to adopt becomes especially important for least developed countries as these may lack the capacities to develop their own policy and regulatory framework and may thus opt for an existing regulatory model. The choice of such a model can have important implications for societies.

  • First, each of the existing major regulatory approaches entails different value priorities, such as increasing innovativeness and competitiveness versus safeguarding fundamental rights.
  • Second, adopting a given model can accelerate policymaking – but it can also mean that a country’s digital sovereignty, understood as the control over the domestic trajectory of the digital transformation, is substantially reduced.
  • Third, the prevalence of different models and a resulting regulatory fragmentation can go against achieving a degree of harmonization that is needed for creating cross-border markets, reducing transaction costs, and creating economies of scale.

Policymakers face a major dilemma as they will often not be able to achieve optimal outcomes with regard to all three dimensions. They will thus have to best navigate the existing landscape of regulatory approaches while trying to find their own place in it. Against this backdrop, the session aims to bring together diverse perspectives from a variety of backgrounds, countries and stakeholders to discuss different approaches to the described regulatory dilemma. It aims to shed light on how countries can deal with trade-offs between central goals in regulating the digital transformation. It will also debate to what extent and how countries can establish regulatory practices that are open, participatory, and rights-centered, and how countries can cooperate to ensure regulatory harmonization.

Expected Outcomes

A Short Policy Recommendation Paper will be produced summarizing the different approaches to regulating digital technology that were jointly discussed in the session. If participants are interested, a follow-up could be organized to dive deeper into concrete examples and best practices shared in the session. This could eventually evolve into a Community of Practice on the role of regulation and human-rights-based digital policies and regulation with session participants and other interested actors from civil society, academia, government, private sector and the development/international organisation community.

Workshop Duration: 90 Min

    • 5 Minutes Welcome by Moderator, Setting the Scene, Agenda
    • 40 Minutes Panel
    • 30 Minutes Peer Exchange in Breakout groups
    • 15 Minutes – summarizing findings and presentation of follow-up  process

The session will commence with a panel discussion (40 minutes) that will present different approaches, experiences and food-for-thought around regulatory models for digital policy. After this debate, participants will be invited into working groups to capture, discuss, and evaluate their experiences, viewpoints, and insights. In a final plenary session, main discussion points are collected and recommendations and next steps jointly produced.

Hybrid Format: The session will be organized fully hybrid, with a mix of speakers on-site and online. In order to ensure a good quality of collaboration, virtual collaboration tools will be used in the break-out sessions to document the discussions and present them in the plenary. The virtual collaboration tool will also serve to make the session more interactive, allowing for small activities online to enable participants to get-to-know each other in a simple to use and time-effective way. The moderators will ensure that all participants online and on-site will have access to the virtual collaboration tool and provide inputs. Some of the breakout groups (depending on the number of participants) will only take place on-site, to enable a different level of interactions between participants (while still recording main findings on the virtual collaboration tool). 

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.