IAMCR/UNESCO Preconference on 'Governing the Internet for Democracy'

On 21 February 2023, CGCR Co-Director Jan Aart Scholte presented the Centre’s work on ‘Governing Global Digital Data: Polycentric Perspectives’ at a preconference on ‘Governing the Internet for Democracy: Lessons from Research Embracing a Multicentred World’. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.


The preconference, co-sponsored by UNESCO and the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), provided an academic contribution to a larger UNESCO gathering on ‘Internet for Trust: Towards Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms for Information as a Public Good’. Presenters offered, in the words of the preconference programme, ‘lessons arising from media and communications research […] to embed democratic principles and respect for fundamental human rights in the structures and procedures of Internet governance’.

Jan’s presentation drew upon a project co-coordinated with Centre Associate Senior Fellows Carolina Aguerre and Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn. His remarks described polycentric governance of the global Internet as an ‘ordered chaos’ that poses both opportunities and perils for democracy. The talk also evaluated the potentials of six possible ways forward in democratizing governance of the global Internet: statism, multilateralism, world federalism, multistakeholderism, deliberative democracy, and agonism. None of these approaches was suggested to be sufficient in itself, suggesting that the optimal way forward for the time being might lie in their combination.

More broadly, the preconference considered issues including a human right to opt out of the Internet, steps to counter gender-based online abuse, and various models for online content moderation. Robin Mansell, Professor Emeritus from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), aptly summed up the spirit of the preconference as a quest for how to communicate with each other in order to flourish together.