IGF 2023 WS #273 Can a layered policy approach stop Internet fragmentation?

Monday, 9th October, 2023 (06:15 UTC) - Monday, 9th October, 2023 (07:15 UTC)
WS 5 – Room B-2

Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
Technical challenges of Internet fragmentation

Organizer 1: Neeti Biyani, 🔒Internet Society
Organizer 2: Noelle Francesca de Guzman, 🔒Internet Society
Organizer 3: Mona Gaballa, Internet Society (ISOC)
Organizer 4: Nobuhisa NISHIGATA, Ministry of Internal affairs and Communications (MIC-Japan)
Organizer 5: Farzaneh Badii, 🔒
Organizer 6: Catherine Garcia, Internet Society

Speaker 1: Farzaneh Badii, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Nobuhisa NISHIGATA, Government, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Jean F. Queralt, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Timea Suto, Private Sector, Eastern European Group

Additional Speakers

1. Jean-Jacques Sahel, Head of Asia-Pacific Information and Content Policy, Google

Private sector, Asia-Pacific Group


Farzaneh Badii, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Catherine Garcia, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Catherine Garcia, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

(a) How can we guard against Internet fragmentation when designing or implementing policy? (b) How can stakeholders collectively rethink the concept of regulation to develop better policy that is fit for purpose, necessary and proportionate to the problem(s) at hand?

What will participants gain from attending this session? We would like for the session to contribute to advancing specific ways for stakeholders, including policymakers, to address Internet fragmentation - specifically, by dissecting public policy approaches that could create silos in the architecture of the Internet, and collectively identifying principles for effective regulation that fosters an open, globally connected, secure and trustworthy Internet. The session will tackle: - Whether public policies relating to Internet user activity and behavior can be more effectively implemented at the ‘highest layer’ of the Internet stack, and what these policies may look like; - The concept of a ‘business and economic layer’, and how it might be productively distinguished from the ‘technical layers’ of the Internet, for the purpose of regulation; - The role that different regulators (such as telecommunications, trade, competition) can play in aiming public policies at the appropriate target.


Oftentimes, proposed remedies to social problems involve interventions in the technical infrastructure - this particularly true for the Internet. An increasingly common example is content regulation that inadvertently or purposefully target Internet infrastructure providers. Website hosts, cloud services, domain name registrars and registries and other entities operating at the so-called lower layers of the OSI stack are ill-equipped to police user activity - they are unable to precisely track and censor specific pieces of content, and have little choice but to take broad and extreme actions to comply with the regulation. This may include blocking an entire website, suspending a domain name, or denying a service to an entire business, when the intention may be to take down only one piece of harmful user post. These actions result in vast amounts of legitimate and useful content being made unavailable to Internet users. Trying to use quick ‘tech fixes’ to solve complex societal issues that pre-date the Internet may cause the Internet to fragment. Whether it is ordering week-long Internet shutdowns to prevent cheating in exams, or mandating backdoors for law enforcement to access our data, these measures fracture and endanger the experience that people are able to have online - potentially restricting the services we can use, the information we can access, and who we can interact with on the Internet, and ultimately limiting the potential of the Internet to be a force for good. Using the layered approach to Internet governance, this session will explore how policy interventions may be targeted at the appropriate ‘layer’ of the Internet architecture to be able to achieve their desired effect while minimizing their negative impact on the global Internet.

Expected Outcomes

The output of the session will directly feed into the ongoing work of IGF, the Internet Society, IO Foundation and other involved organisations on preventing Internet fragmentation. Concretely, the regulatory principles coming out of the session will be used by the Internet Society and its chapters and members around the world to advocate for policy approaches that are conducive to the continued evolution of a global and interoperable Internet. As multilateral bodies such as the G7 commit to opposing Internet fragmentation, the session output will provide stakeholders with much needed material to effectively engage with governments to help them put this promise to action.

Hybrid Format: The session will involve a combination of onsite and online speakers. The onsite and online moderators will work together, taking turns to facilitate the session. As the online moderator keeps track of, and takes note of comments, questions, and requests to intervene (raised hands) from online participants, this dynamic will enable online attendees to participate more fully, with the online moderator putting the spotlight on them at various points during the session. Online speakers will also be encouraged to interact with online participants in real time through the chat function.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

To guard against Internet fragmentation a layered approach can help the regulator think about what part of the internet do not want to affect. When designing or implementing public policies relating to Internet user activity and behavior can be more effectively implemented at the ‘highest layer’ of the Internet stack.

From a mukltistakeholder perspective regulations to develop better policy that is fit for purpose, necessary and proportionate to internet fragmentation taking into account how the regulation affects infrastructure layer and the ability to provide those services as well as global effects such as the splinter for the internet. Consequently, regulation should not happen at the infrastructure layer because that can’t be done proportionally.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Policymakers should address harmful internet fragmentation, that cause the splinter of the internet and collectively identify principles for effective regulation fostering an open, globally connected, secure and trustworthy Internet.

From the policy perspective the focus of regulation and accountability should target the public core of the internet which sits in the top layers of the stack.