IGF 2022 WS #395 Creating a safer Internet while protecting human rights

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (12:30 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (13:30 UTC)
Caucus Room 11

Organizer 1: Alex Bradbrook, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, UK
Organizer 2: Timewell Amelia, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, UK
Organizer 3: Aaron Bailey-Athias, DCMS
Organizer 4: Connolly Sarah, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, UK

Speaker 1: Irene Khan, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 2: Kazim Rizvi, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Liz Thomas, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Bertie Vidgen, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Connolly Sarah, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Williams Paul, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, UK

Online Moderator

Timewell Amelia, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, UK


Alex Bradbrook, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, UK


Round Table - Circle - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

1) How can governments put human rights considerations at the heart of their measures and approaches to allow users to engage safely online? 2) What actions can the multi-stakeholder community, including civil society and tech companies, take to enable the enjoyment of human rights online and reduce internet disruptions/restrictions in times of crisis and conflict? 3) How can platforms embed human rights considerations in their design, application, and evaluation of their services?

Connection with previous Messages: This session builds on the messages under the ‘Economic and Social Inclusion and Human Rights’ theme of IGF 2021, in particular in relation to States duty to prevent potential harm of human rights through regulation or enforcement. Other connections relate to messages around the need for platforms to implement policies to deal with harmful online content in a way that respects the right to freedom of expression and other human rights. At a macro level, this event also relates to the 2021 message around the need for adequate enabling environments (e.g. policies, legislation, institutions) to be put in place at the national, regional and global levels to foster inclusive, just, safe, resilient and sustainable digital societies and economies. In summary, the seSsion will aim to showcase to a diverse audience that governments' online safety interventions can, and should, champion individuals' human rights and fundamental freedoms, and encourage delegates to move away from Internet shutdowns and restrictions that limit those rights and freedoms.



Targets: Safeguarding internet freedoms enables citizens around the world to enjoy social, economic and political inclusion. Human rights online should be protected regardless of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. Online interventions that restrict internet freedoms reduce equal opportunities for all citizens and exacerbates inequalities by allowing certain groups more privileges over others. Eliminating laws, policies and practices that infringe on human rights online is key to reducing inequality.


The Internet and new technologies have transformed our lives: from the way we work, socialise, to how we consume and share information. Individuals more than ever live their lives online, accessing news, engaging democratically, discussing issues, and campaigning for change. It can enable individuals to explore their identities, express themselves and access the diverse viewpoints that enable them to form their own opinions and beliefs. It is clear that the increasing importance of the Internet and digital technologies has also created new public policy challenges. For example, individuals subject to targeted online harassment and abuse can resort to self-censorship online – limiting their ability to engage in public life. Increasingly toxic online discourse can result in the dominance of one-sided narratives, where the voices of those disproportionately subject to discrimination are silenced. The impact of disinformation and misinformation on free and fair elections, and public health, is also a growing concern. At a basic level, to realise their human rights online, citizens require access to the Internet. However Internet freedom is under growing pressure. Just last year, at least 182 politically motivated shutdowns occurred in 34 countries, along with other arbitrary censorship measures and restrictions. To build a healthy, inclusive online world that enables free and open debate, and supports democracies, stakeholders need to take concerted action to enable all users to feel safe and empowered to engage online. It’s crucial that human rights considerations guide these actions. This workshop will bring together diverse stakeholders to discuss how industry, civil society, and governments can enable users to engage safely online, whilst promoting and protecting human rights, and how to address threats to Internet freedom. Speakers include: Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Kazim Rizvi, Founder, The Dialogue think tank Liz Thomas, Director Public Policy, Digital Safety, Microsoft Bertie Vidgen, Head of Online Safety, Turing Institute Paul Williams, Director for Open Society and Human Rights, UK Government

Expected Outcomes

This discussion aims to contribute to domestic and international efforts to protect, defend and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in the digital space, including in the context of content regulation. Conclusions and perspectives can be drawn upon as part of preparations towards the proposed Global Digital Compact, building consensus and support for a proportionate, human rights compliant approach to tackling public policy challenges associated with the Internet, encouraging stakeholders to e benefits focus on prevention measures, effective human rights safeguards, and effective systems and processes, to build a more inclusive digital world.

Hybrid Format: The sessions will follow a Round Table format, with an aimed balanced representation of both online and onsite speakers. The event will have an onsite moderator, chairing the discussion, and an online moderator to manage online participation, for example questions and comments in the online chat. The onsite and online moderators will be working closely together during the event to ensure a fluid and smooth conversation and interactions between participants onsite and online, supported by Google Meet/Zoom and onsite AV equipment. The event will begin with an introduction and welcome from the moderator, followed by 3-5 minutes of speaking time for each Round Table speaker, which will take up the first 45 minutes of the event. The second half of the session (45 minutes) will be for an open discussion with attendees. During this time, the onsite moderator will chair the conversation and contributions from both online and onsite participants, ensuring equal opportunity of speech. The online moderator will source questions from the online audience to the onsite moderator, who will intertwine the online queries and comments with questions from the onsite audience. To maximise engagement, we will use interactive polling (1-3 poll questions) on relevant issues throughout the event to 'read the temperature in the room'. The poll will use Slide/Mentimeter, which will allow onsite attendees to quickly access it using their mobile devices. The poll questions will also be pasted on the chat box by the online moderator, so people can respond to the poll questions in the chat box if they are not able to use Slido/Mentimeter. The online moderator will be responsible for collating insights from the polling tool and responses in the chat box, to feed these to the on site moderator to announce and provide comments in designated moments throughout the event.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.


Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

There is a clear need for greater regulation on online safety, but human rights, specifically the importance of maintaining freedom of expression, must be a major consideration throughout. The panel noted the dangers of internet shutdowns, especially on marginalised groups, and the importance of collaboration with the tech sector, and the use of new technologies such as AI, when considering solutions to improving online safety. The panel noted the importance of privacy and avoiding government overreach, and noting the importance of technologies such as end-to-end encryption, which should not be compromised.