IGF 2023 WS #501 Children’s digital rights: overcoming regional inequalities

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (02:00 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (03:30 UTC)
WS 4 – Room B-1

Human Rights & Freedoms
Non-discrimination in the Digital Space

Organizer 1: Thaís Rugolo, 🔒Alana Institute
Organizer 2: Maria Góes de Mello, 🔒
Organizer 3: João Coelho, 🔒

Speaker 1: Waldemar Gonçalves Ortunho Júnio, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Alejandra Phillippi Miranda, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Sonia Livingstone, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Mikiko Otani, Intergovernmental Organization, Asia-Pacific Group

Additional Speakers

Lily Edinam Botsyoe

Emanuela Halfeld


Maria Góes de Mello, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

João Coelho, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Thaís Rugolo, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Panel - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. Digital platforms regulation in the Global North can impact regulatory frameworks in the Global South. Is this good? B. What kind of international collaborations can be mobilized to promote children's right to non-discrimination when using digital products and services? C. How other actors and knowledge can be integrated to create more effective regulations for children's protection? Who is responsible for carrying out this agenda

What will participants gain from attending this session? By attending this session, participants will gain a comprehensive understanding of recent digital platforms regulations approved in Europe and the USA, and other regulations dedicated to digital products and services design and their importance for children’s protection. They will also engage with researchers and experts who are directly involved in listening to and promoting capacity-building efforts for governments and businesses to address the presence of vulnerable individuals within the digital environment, inspiring processes of regional constructions and harmonizing global to regional protections in developing countries.


Children represent one-third of Internet users. However, because of their special vulnerability, the digital environment can present both opportunities and risks for them. In this regard, national and international efforts have been mobilized to promote a safe and rights-enhancing digital environment, the most important being the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) General Comment No. 25. Nevertheless, the lack of national regulations governing the online environment makes children's digital experiences highly vulnerable to socio-cultural and economic contexts, particularly with a prevalence of discriminatory processes that disproportionately affect countries in the Global South. The session aims to discuss paths to a safer digital environment for children, regardless of their location. To achieve this, recently approved policies and their potential for global impact will be analyzed, alongside the remaining obstacles that need to be addressed for effective regulation, especially in countries of the Global South, taking into account, especially, the application of General Comment No. 25 in Latin America.

Expected Outcomes

The expected outcomes of the session include raising awareness among the Internet Governance Forum audience about the importance of digital governance processes directed at children. The session also aims to inspire initiatives and practices to enhance decision-making processes related to the regulation of digital products and services considering children’s rights. The organization intends to publish a report summarizing the discussions with the goal of guiding best practices.

Hybrid Format: Onsite moderator will have 5 minutes for opening remarks (introductions and encouraging attendees' participation). Next, the onsite moderator will ask each panelist a specific question related to the stakeholder group they represent, in order to address the policy questions that guide the session. Panelists will have 8 minutes each to answer their respective questions. Nest 30 minutes of the workshop will be dedicated to questions and engaging in debates with the online and onsite audience. The online and onsite moderators will encourage participants from the beginning to send questions and share their views. The questions will be alternated between the onsite and online audience. 5 minutes final, the online moderator will address points highlighted by the online audience.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Digital can represent both opportunities and risks for children. The more opportunities and skills, the more the risk they are subjected to. Historical, social and economic contexts can interfere with the development of skills and the security available to users, as It can leave them more vulnerable to economic exploitation online.

Governments and businesses need to commit to ensuring children's digital rights. Regulations cannot fail to consider its potential impact on children's lives.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Regulations for the digital environment can be inspired by legislation in other countries, but they must not fail to take into account the local context and the local structures that can generate bottom up innovation. Intergovernmental networks can be essential for standardizing understandings and general paramaters for legislation for an open Internet

Platforms have the obligation to treat Global South Children with similar safeguards and highest level of regard, as they treat Global North Children. Different treatment and less protection for Global Majority Children impacts the right to non-discrimination. It is essential that global platforms develop products that are safe by default. It means that these products recognize and apply children's best interests, are transparent and accountable.

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

Summary of Session:

Maria Mello initiated the debate by discussing recent school attacks in Brazil and the influence of the digital environment business model to exploit personal data, incentivize hateful content, and prejudice Global South children. The Global South faces unique challenges rooted in historical socioeconomic contexts, requiring tailored legislation and public policies for child rights. Two videos were shown about Brazilian children's perceptions, illustrating how they see the challenges and potential of the digital environment in their lives and in those of their peers.

Then began the speaker’s presentations:

Mikiko Otani (Attorney, International Human Rights Lawyer and immediate past chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child): The Committee on the Rights of the Child, made up of 18 experts, ensures that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 196 countries, is enforced. They review country reports and create "General Comments" that focus on children's rights. In 2019, they initiated a new General Comment addressing children's rights in the digital world, adopted in February 2021. This decision aims to guide the protection of children's rights, define state and business responsibilities, and empower children and parents in the digital era, enabling children’s education and preventing online risks like bullying, exploitation, and health issues. Post-COVID-19, online activity has increased, expanding discrimination. Children without digital access are excluded from essential services. The right to non-discrimination requires States to ensure that all children have equal and meaningful access to the digital environment. This involves providing free and safe access in public places and investing in policies and programs that support affordable and knowledgeable use of digital technologies by children. Discrimination can arise when automated processes make biased decisions based on unfair data collected related to a child.

Recommendations: The UN Child Committee country reviews can address specific recommendations about digital inequalities. International cooperation is needed to provide financial and technical resources for capacity building through multilateral approaches. UN Global policy must involve stakeholders, especially in the global South, whose rights are affected. Ensuring child participation in the Global South involves addressing issues like cost, access, and language barriers. Additionally, child rights impact assessments are important for businesses to safeguard child rights.

Lily Edinam Botsyoe (PhD student and information technology):  From the context of Ghana, it is important to think about actively increasing the talking about awareness with and for children on child online harms. Digital literacy is connected with the fact that not everyone is connected. Few people who are online are using the online spaces in such a way that their rights are not also trampled. Exploitation, misinformation and cyberbullying are just a few problems faced by Ghanaian children. It's important to think about the caregiver, ensuring that families and educators have enough support. Ghana already has a national online child protection policy but lacks meaningful implementation. 

Recommendations: International support is needed and can strengthen local organizations. 

Sonia Livingstone (Full professor in the Department of Media and Communications of London School of Economics): In a world marked by divisions and inequalities, it's essential for researchers and policymakers to understand how these inequalities persist from offline to online. Global Kids Online shows that as children gain more internet access, they encounter both opportunities and risks. The challenge is to maximize opportunities while mitigating risks. Risks don't necessarily lead to harm; vulnerability, protection, geographic location, and living circumstances must be considered in regulatory processes for careful interventions. Europe's experience that can be useful to the Global South is personal data safeguarding and addressing risks for consumer protection (eg. The European Digital Services Act). Concepts like Privacy by Design, Safety by Design, and Security by Design are essential for a holistic approach to children's rights.

Recommendations: Age-appropriate design codes can protect and empower children in different digital contexts, enhancing data protection and children's rights as data subjects. Risk assessments can emphasize transparency, accountability, and the provision of remedies. 

Waldemar Ortunho (Brazilian National Data Protection Authority President-Director):  The Brazilian National Data Protection Authority has the protection of children’s personal data as an absolute priority. The Authority has been investigating TikTok's data processing, particularly about children and adolescents, examining age verification effectiveness and proper data processing for those under 13 and 18. The results led to recommendations for the platform. Additionally, the Authority is investigating seven digital education platforms that share children's data with online advertising companies. These regulatory processes consider other global experiences but are adapted to Brazil's unique context, such as its large population and recent data protection legislation. The Authority recognizes the major challenges to protect children and adolescents as consent for verifying users' ages, the impact of digital platforms and games, and the potential risks in the digital environment. 

Questions: The Panel questions revolved around the following topics: a) different treatment by global platforms guidelines for children in the North and South and corporate responsibility; b) the clashes of LGBTQIA+ rights and Kids Online Safety regulation; c) the use of technology to emancipate the identities of Global South children; d) the role of the Brazilian National DPA in age verification and platform regulation; e) do we need increased attention in the field of regulation? f) does CG 25 provide international regulatory models? and g) the roles of international organizations in supporting child rights implementation in the digital environment.

Lily: Technology can provide support and awareness raising. Hotlines can be useful and new hotlines can be trained with international support. We need to balance regulation with innovation and make it useful for people. How can we replicate some of these best practices in other countries for the global South and provide further implementation of policies? 

Mikiko: We also need to understand the children's rights in a holistic way including the non-discrimination against those children who are LGBTQIA+. When the Committee drafted the General Comment 25 there was a lot of discussion about the age restriction or age verification. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is very much dependent on age cutting. What is an appropriate age? Safety by design and other protections by design require efforts from the business. In addition to protection against risks, children also need to be supported in acquiring online navigation skills. How can we use existing platforms and instruments to protect children? 

Waldemar: Brazil has been working with other actors, including internationally, to exchange information and experiences, for example, about age verification. The regulation of AI in Brazil passes through the National Congress and the Authority is present. A study is being made about AI and data protection. 

Emanuela Halfeld: A holistic approach to the environment, thinking about children’s rights outside the digital world, can be helpful to resolve inequalities and child online harms. In that sense, it would be useful to think about General Comment 25 and General Comment 26 in an integral approach.