IGF 2023 Open Forum #152 Internet Governance in Times of Conflict

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (02:30 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (03:30 UTC)
WS 6 – Room E

Cyberattacks, Cyberconflicts and International Security

Round Table - 60 Min


While the world has been shocked by the physical devastation in Ukraine, a hidden part of the conflict is underway in cyberspace. The year 2025, the 20th anniversary of WSIS and the year the IGF’s current mandate expires, will be a decisive moment for internet governance. A likely defining parameter in these discussions of “who runs the internet” will be perceptions on different approaches to advancing peace, stability, and security while maintaining openness and respect for human rights and sustainable development. Strengthening the multi-stakeholder governance model of the internet and supporting a more positive and inclusive digital future is now more crucial than ever. Against this backdrop, the panel “Shaping Internet Governance in Times of Conflict” – co-hosted by the German Federal Foreign Office, Access Now, CyberPeaceInstitute and ICANN – explores the reality of current cyber conflicts, their effects on civilians, the need to ensure free, open, and secure access to the Internet in conflict areas and the consequences for internet governance. A core goal of this event will be to identify avenues for effectively future-proofing and strengthening the IGF, its mandate and governance architecture and to discuss policies for effective multi-stakeholder governance of the internet in a world where conflicts increasingly stretch from the physical to the cyber realms and questions of accountability arise. The side-event will bring together experts from governments, civil society, the private sector and those directly affected from areas of armed conflict. The panel will explore the following themes: At the governance level: - Understand the nature, challenges and actors (often private) of current armed conflicts and how their dynamics interact in the online realm. What are present and potential de-stabilizing spillover effects beyond belligerent countries? - Present real-world examples of physical-cyber conflict dynamics, with examples focusing on occupation/control, spyware, internet shutdowns and sanctions as well as the impacts they have on affected people/civilians/communities. - Discuss norms, best practices and policies for effective internet governance in interstate conflict to prevent internet fragmentation/”splinternet” and censorship. What can we learn from civil society and the private sector in preventing and managing internet restrictions aside from government action? Which stakeholders need to be involved in effective internet governance? How can we balance competing interests, such as fighting disinformation or restricting dissemination of state-sponsored propaganda, hate speech and incitement to violence, while providing citizens free access to information? - Consider the future of the internet and the future of IGF: how to ensure the openness of the internet, especially in areas under occupation? How do we ensure data rights and privacy are protected under international law, especially in occupied areas? How can the existing IGF mandate be reinforced and reflected in the GDC process in view of strengthening internet governance through this emerging global pact? At the practical level: - Explore which practical tools are needed to respond to war-time needs of civilians, victims; - Establish fora and technical tools for short-notice incident response - building on lessons- learned and showcasing practical efforts of dedicated civil society organizations, such as cyberattack monitoring or internet shutdown trackers.

The aim is to ensure high-level government representation, for example, by co-hosting the event with like-minded partners of the FOC or countries that have been particularly dedicated / committed to contributing to the Global Digital Compact consultations on internet governance and human rights online. Also, high level participation of the Tech Sector should be aimed at, possibly by inviting Amazon or, for example, the Slovak company, ESET. The online audience will be engaged prior to the session through surveys and consultations. Moderators may include their feedback in the moderation of the round table. Q$A is encouraged from both the online and the in-person audience.


German Federal Foreign Office
German Federal Foreign Office AccessNow Cyber Peace Institute Co-hosting Governments: ISR, ArG, KOR


German Federal Foreign Office, AccessNow CyberPeaceInstitute ICANN Co-hosts from Korea, Israel and Argentina.

Onsite Moderator

Nicole Manger

Online Moderator

Max Schuhmann


John Reyels


9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: Industry Innovation and infrastructure: the session outlines how internet infrastructure is attacked in times of conflict, through surveillance and shutdowns, and discusses how to prevent restrictions on the freedom of expression through innovative multi-stakeholder governance mechanisms. 10 & 16: the session shows how critical a free internet is to maintain peace and social cohesion. It also highlights the role of strong institutions and multilateral collaboration to prevent and address internet shutdowns, surveillance and internet fragmentation.