IGF 2018 WS #452 Community governance in an age of platform responsibility

Salle VIII

Organizer 1: Jorge Vargas, Wikimedia Foundation
Organizer 2: Anna Mazgal, Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU

Speaker 1: Juliet Nanfuka, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Tiago Peixoto, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 3: Jochai Ben-Avie, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Rachel Pollack Ichou, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Anna Mazgal

Online Moderator

Jan Gerlach


Jorge Vargas


Round Table - 60 Min


- Juliet Nanfuka is a Research and Communications Officer for the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). She studies how information moves across digital platforms and conducts policy analysis with a focus on African participation in policymaking. Juliet’s expertise will shine a light on community governance in a context where the cost of connectivity and a lack of access to locally relevant knowledge are challenges for large parts of the population. - Ms Xianhong Hu is the program specialist at the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Communication and Information Sector of UNESCO's Headquarter in Paris. She works in the areas of freedom of expression online and offline, Internet privacy, media development, and Internet governance and was involved in developing UNESCO Internet Universality framework. Xianhong will provide valuable insights on community governance from the perspective of an international organization that focuses on building peace through intellectual and moral solidarity among humans. - Jochai Ben Avie is a Senior Global Policy Manager at Mozilla, and a former Policy Director at Access Now. He develops Mozilla’s policy positions and oversees the company’s grantmaking program for open source development. Jochai works to empower the Mozilla community in public policy work. This roundtable will benefit from his expertise and knowledge of a global, distributed, and tech-savvy community that collaborates to improve open source products. - Abby Vollmer is a Senior Policy Manager at GitHub, the world's largest software development platform. Abby's work focuses on developing GitHub's policy positions and advocacy strategies, mobilizing developers, and engaging with policymakers to support policy outcomes that empower developers and shape the future of software. At this session, Abby will draw from her expertise in human rights law and highlight community-led moderation of open source projects on GitHub as a model for community governance.


The speakers represent a diverse set of perspectives including civil society, government and industry. The confirmed group of speakers and organizers is also diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, gender, national origin, location, and age. Community building and governance is a topic that necessarily must include discussion about how diverse and marginalized viewpoints can be heard. Our speakers will be able share their experience and expertise fostering inclusion in online communities with members representing a diverse array spanning age, race, ethnicity, gender, location, and internet fluency. Additionally, the roundtable format, with ample time allotted for audience and online questions, will ensure that diverse perspectives are being represented in the room not only by our speakers, but also by individual attendees.

This proposed roundtable will explore participation in community governance as an important form of digital citizenship in the context of internet regulation. In times when policymakers are increasingly seeking to increase internet platforms’ liability for online content, thereby centralizing editorial functions and gatekeeping, laws and policies for digital communication need to leave room for individuals to participate in effective self-regulation, collaboration, and good faith moderation of online content. Experts from a diversity of stakeholder groups will discuss questions about effective and scalable community self-governance, such as: What are the communities that engage in self-governance online? What conditions enable this self-governance? What functions are best fulfilled by communities?

We propose a 60 minute discussion, with 5 minutes reserved at the beginning and end for an introduction and wrap-up. The intervening 50 minute discussion will focus on 5 topics, with roughly ten minutes devoted to each. For each topic, the speakers will be asked to share their impressions on the topic briefly (1-2 minutes) and then discussion will be opened to the audience and online participants to ask questions of the panelists or make comments on the topic, with both in-person and online moderators assigning priority to questions as they are raised. The online participants will be given equal opportunity for input as on-site participants, both in providing questions and in providing comments. The roundtable format is most suitable for this discussion as it allows a back and forth between the speakers and the audience, both online and in-person, that encourages collaborative discussion on these topics.

One premise of the Internet Governance Forum and other forums of regulation of digital communication is that stakeholder groups collaboratively shape the rules under which the internet functions. Under multistakeholder formats, however, one important group does not have a seat at the table and consequently is not heard: individual internet users who actively participate in the development and governance of online communities. These communities are large, engaged, and serve important functions for digital citizenship, cultural participation, and access to knowledge for many people around the world. The governance models for these communities are closely related to core principles of internet architecture and aligned with important democratic values. The issue of community governance is relevant to the Internet Governance Forum because, in a networked society, it is important to leave room for internet users’ ability to govern through distributed and democratic decision-making processes. Such participatory governance models allow individuals to engage as digital citizens for the greater common good of the communities they inhabit, not only in their physical world but also online.

Online Participation

The organizers will use social media channels of their respective institutions to draw attention to the roundtable before the event, in order to better engage online participants in conversation. In part, we will tailor our communications toward reaching out to existing online communities, including the communities which the speakers and organizers represent. We will encourage participants to submit questions before the session, but will also direct participants to the appropriate IGF channels for online participation during the roundtable. After the roundtable, the organizers will present a report on the discussion on the Wikimedia blog, where it can be discussed by the larger community.


Introduction (5 min)
Jan Gerlach, Wikimedia Foundation

The roundtable will start with a short introductory overview of Wikimedia communities as a prominent example of large, distributed online governance system and digital citizenship.

Discussion (50 min):

The moderated discussion in a roundtable setting will explore various aspects of online community governance. Specifically, we will elicit insights about the following topics (10min each):

  • Governance models and mechanisms

  • Development of community policies (content/conduct)

  • Enforcement of policies

  • Conflict resolution/sanctions

  • Agency of users and cohorts

Conclusions and wrap-up (5 min)

Anna Mazgal, Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU

Jan Gerlach, Wikimedia Foundation

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

- Session Type (Workshop, Open Forum, etc.): Workshop

- Title: Community governance in an age of platform responsibility

- Date & Time: Nov. 14, 2018 ; 10.10-11.10am

- Organizer(s):
Anna Mazgal, Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU (Online Moderator)
Jorge Vargas, Wikimedia Foundation

- Chair/Moderator:
Jan Gerlach, Wikimedia Foundation (Onsite Moderator)

- Rapporteur/Notetaker:
Jorge Vargas, Wikimedia Foundation

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):
Abby Vollmer, Github (female)
Jochai Ben-Avie, Mozilla (male)
Xianhong Hu, UNESCO (female)
Juliet Nanfuka, CIPESA (female)

- Theme (as listed here): Human Rights, Gender, and Youth

- Subtheme (as listed here): Digital Citizenship

- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]
At a time of increased pressure on internet platforms to act as proxy law enforcement, policymakers must not forget that online communities can build effective systems of self-governance.
Community self-governance can be an important enabler of freedom of expression and empower citizens to engage in democratic processes online.
Internet policy should accommodate for such models of self-governance and content moderation by internet users, which promote the right to participation in culture.