IGF 2023 WS #405 Internet Fragmentation: Perspectives & Collaboration

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (04:30 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (06:00 UTC)
WS 1 – Annex Hall 1

Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
Digital Sovereignty
International Legal Perspectives
Technical challenges of Internet fragmentation

Organizer 1: Vera Major, 🔒
Organizer 2: Avri Doria, 🔒
Organizer 3: Anriette Esterhuysen, Association for Progressive Communications🔒

Speaker 1: Timea Suto, Private Sector, Eastern European Group
Speaker 2: Elena Plexida, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Jennifer Chung, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Nicolas Caballero, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 5: Javier Pallero, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Avri Doria, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Anriette Esterhuysen, Civil Society, African Group


Vera Major, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. How should Internet Fragmentation be defined and understood? 2. Do experts have differing viewpoints on Internet Fragmentation, and does this hinder effective resolution of its challenges? 3. What are the consequences of Internet Fragmentation for the global digital economy, and should policies be implemented to mitigate these effects? 4. How can stakeholders collaborate to balance security, sovereignty, and an open Internet amidst increasing fragmentation challenges?

What will participants gain from attending this session? The Internet technical community, civil society, governments and businesses all have a vital stake in ensuring the free flow of information across to the global Internet – we will discuss and encourage contributions from all participants on how to work together to preserve the integrity of the global Internet. We will hear from different organizations and stakeholders about different aspects of Internet fragmentation, from challenges to the technical operations of the single, interoperable and open global Internet, to the impact of state specific restrictions and controls, and shutdowns as they affect the user experience. We will invite additional speakers/participants from each of the stakeholders to the table to increase the diversity of views from within each group – a true "round-table" approach. Participants attending the session will be part of the discussion and invited to participate in future collaboration and actions. (see Discussion Facilitation section below).


The importance of an unfragmented Internet for economic and social prosperity is undoubted. However, various stakeholders understand the term "Internet fragmentation" differently, experience the related challenges differently, and perceive different threats and outcomes. Due to the absence of common understanding, discussions about Internet fragmentation rarely progress beyond phenomenon and definitions rather than actionable outcomes to tackle the problem. The intent is to move the Internet fragmentation debates forward by seeking common ground in our shared understanding of the issues and identifying collective actions and collaboration. Different perspectives on Internet fragmentation will be discussed- whether fragmentation includes things such as changes in protocol, or national legislation that dictates \routing or Internet shutdowns, denial of access, restriction on speech or assembly online within certain jurisdictions. But it is essential we also consider the consequences of technical fragmentation, where the global network of networks might be splintered into national or regional networks operating under different regulations and potentially different forms of government intervention and control. The single, global Internet is the bedrock of all activity on the Internet. This raises concerns about the potential impact of a fragmented Internet on businesses, such as the adverse effects of shutdowns on national economic activity and innovation. How do different government and intergovernmental actors view the complexities of fragmentations, what will help them inform and develop their policy approaches? In this session you will hear from diverse stakeholders – those who keep the Internet running, human and digital rights defenders and champions of programs for providing local connectivity, governments and intergovernmental organizations – about the social, political and technical risks of Internet fragmentation. In a round-table format, the session will be a dialogue about different perspectives aimed at identifying areas for collaboration, and to develop actionable recommendations to support the free, open and unfragmented Internet.

Expected Outcomes

The workshop intends to foster a comprehensive understanding of Internet fragmentation by considering diverse stakeholder perspectives. Participants will gain an understanding of different points of view and responses to threats posed by Internet fragmentation, and explore how global multistakeholder collations can prevent these threats from happening. The session will build on the outcomes of panel discussions we organized at RightsCon conferences in 2022 and 2023, however, the IGF is the ideal global multistakeholder space to discuss acting together in responding to the challenges to the open Internet. The goal of the session is to seek opportunities for collaboration, to develop actionable recommendations, and how we can contribute to other forums discussing different aspects and impacts of Internet fragmentation. The discussion format is designed and organized to achieve these goals

Hybrid Format: Speakers/invited participants will be onsite and online. In addition to the named speakers, we have invited others to add greater diversity in terms of background and experience. The moderators are expert in the issues, familiar with the concerns and positions of the different stakeholders, and understand the dynamics of hybrid discussions. They also know the majority of invited participants, which will help the flow of discussion. Their subject matter and process expertise, plus familiarity with the participants will be essential to guiding the discussion through the roundtable format. The session will be carefully prepared. Additional participants: Tomoaki Watanabe (Academic, Japan); Paula Bernardi (Tech, Brazil); Tatiana Tropina Academic, Germany); Alhagie Mbow (Member of Parliament, Gambia).