We have both been active in the IGF cosmos for some time, both globally and locally in our home countries Portugal and Germany, as well as on a European level, for instance at EuroDIG. We were looking forward to many exciting topics, many exciting people and also to seeing old familiar faces again. The youth community at the IGF is very large and well networked and there is a friendly relationship between many of us that have endured through time, even after a pandemic that meant that internet governance related events moved fully remote for a while.
The main themes and topics of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) vary from year to year, as they are determined by the host country and the current issues and challenges facing the Internet. The 17th IGF took place under the overarching theme 'Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future', with five parallel tracks that were:
- Connecting all people and safeguarding human rights
- Avoiding internet fragmentation
- Governing data and protecting privacy
- Enabling safety, security and accountability
- Addressing advanced technologies, including AI
We were really happy to have the chance to host sessions where we as youth representatives from Europe could meet with politicians from the European Parliament and representatives from the European Commission, among other stakeholders.
The youth community at the IGF is great. Every year during Day 0, we hold an event for all the young people at the IGF. There we connect and present the outcomes of all the work throughout the year and what messages we want to send to the whole IGF community and to the conference.
Better Internet for Kids (BIK) and its partners submitted and organised three very interesting sessions. We were granted with the opportunity of moderating two of them on-site.
Joao moderated the workshop session "Blurred line between fact and fiction: Disinformation online", about how the spread of false information on the internet and in private groups can disrupt democratic processes. All panellists emphasised the need for investing in media literacy among the population as a means of equipping them with the tools to critically evaluate the information they receive and make informed decisions, thus countering disinformation and misinformation. An action that was called for was to increase awareness about online safety and media literacy, with a focus on youth. This is important because young people tend to overlook the negative impacts of disinformation on democratic societies and only address the surface level of the issues. One way to counter disinformation is to support credible, fact-based journalism and uphold journalistic ethical standards.
Kathrin moderated the workshop session “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly- online gender violence”, which was mainly about the question of why online gender violence, especially against girls and young women, is not yet challenged and still isn’t addressed in the right way. The key takeaways have been that more data is needed to train AI tools to help tackle online gender based violence. The problem is that society is normalising men as perpetrators, and more investments need to be made in educating boys and men as well on this matter. Why does one gender - females- need to make an extra effort to be safe online? Many women and girls are tired of the advice society is giving to them and the language that has been used. We are also putting an extra burden on women and girls.
We also took part in a session that showed how great and full of ideas our network is: "Cyber hygiene: Best practices from the Insafe network". We can say even more how glad we are to be part of this network for so many years now and that it’s great to see what was developed in the last years.
Attending the Internet Governance Forum provided a wealth of learning opportunities for those interested in issues related to the internet and its governance. In-person attendance offered more opportunities for engagement with speakers and other attendees, such as the chance to ask questions during presentations or participate in discussions and workshops. All in all, the IGF remains (hopefully for a long time) a platform for discussing the latest developments and issues related to the Internet and its governance. We will now continue to dedicate our focus to the most pressing challenges facing the internet, as well as emerging trends that may shape its future.
About the authors:
João holds a Master’s in Informatics Engineering from the University of Coimbra, specialising in Intelligent Systems. He has an active role in online safety, digital literacy discussions, and best practices, being a Better Internet for Kids Youth Ambassador since 2012. João collaborates at the national and international levels to roll out initiatives and resources that contribute to a better internet. He is an active member of several youth groups in the Internet Governance field like the Youth IGF Movement and EURid Youth Committee and participates in youth programs of CoE, ICANN, and ITU.
I started working in the field of safer internet when I was still in school, as a youth panellist for the National Awareness Centre, Klicksafe. I have been studying law and have developed an interest in digital law and politics. I was also involved in the launch of the Youth Manifesto initiative, which was an amazing opportunity for young people to have their say on priorities for creating a better internet for the future. I believe the internet gives great opportunities but we all need to learn how to use it in the right way. The idea of peer education and the fact that youth from every country in the EU meet up to discuss themes around online safety is one of the greatest things I can imagine. I'm really lucky that I can take part in such great programs and meet such great people!