The GovLab SCAN – Issue 14

Supporting the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation.

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our fourteenth edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at [email protected].

This week’s highlights:

  • The European Commission called for an acceleration of the globalization of ICANN and its functions, and in particular seeks to establish a timeline for this globalization.
  • In the midst of national positioning around Internet governance, several “camps” have emerged, including the “multistakeholder camp,” the “multilateral camp,” and the “in-between camp.” Many warn that “intergovernmental” in these contexts means “for governments only.” The European Commission has also explicitly expressed that a new international legal instrument should not be instituted for Internet governance.
  • Increasing nation-state pressure to govern the Internet is being met by calls for the development of decentralized approaches to Internet governance, especially by the Internet’s technical community. This has been evidenced, for example, by growing interest in Namecoin.
  • More issues in ICANN’s new gTLD program were debated this week, such as domain name “squatting” and the situation that many “edge” devices are not properly configured to accept new gTLDs, leading to both usability and digital rights concerns.


Bachman, Katy. “Icann: Brands Are at Risk of Domain Abuse With New Top Level Domains. Advertisers: That’s exactly what we said when you started this.” Adweek. February 7, 2014.

  • After previously receiving warning from the business and advertising communities that the new gTLD program may result in domain abuse, ICANN is now returning the warning back to trademark holders. In fact, recent data released from the Trademark Clearinghouse showed that “unknown entities have prereserved their interest in registering domain names for every one of the nation’s 50 most valuable brands,” something that Jonathan Robinson, strategic consultant to the Trademark Clearinghouse, notes puts America’s top brands at risk for intellectual property infringement online.

ICANN CEO to Meet with Chinese Internet Industry Leaders in Beijing.” PRWeb. February 11, 2014.

  • ICANN’s President & CEO Fadi Chehadé is in Beijing this week to meet with leaders of China’s Internet and telecommunications industry. According to Chehadé, “the number of Chinese citizens going online is increasing dramatically and collectively they have a voice that needs to be heard.”

Lanfranco, Sam. “Commentary on “The Quest for a 21st Century ICANN: A Blueprint.” Distributed Knowledge Blog. February 12, 2014.

  • This commentary addresses the draft blueprint document of the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation, “The Quest for a 21st Century ICANN.” It is offered by Sam Lanfranco of ICANN’s Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns (NPOC) constituency, which is part of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO)’s Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group. The commentary primarily focuses on the Blueprint’s sixteen proposals, questions some of the Blueprint’s assumptions, and elaborates and expands upon the Blueprint’s ideas.

Mohan, Ram. “More Problems Crop Up With Universal Acceptance of Top Level Domains.” CircleID. February 7, 2014.

  • The hundreds of new gTLDs being launched through ICANN’s new gTLD program may create unpredictable end-user experiences because not all Internet devices and applications are configured to accept these new gTLDs in the same ways. Different browsers will resolve internationalized domain names (IDNs) in different ways, and users will therefore miss the standardized uniformity of how current browsers resolve, for example, “.com.” Mohan argues that, “the problem isn’t technical in nature,” and that what is needed is “coordination and collaboration between far removed actors in the Internet world.”

Internet Governance

Clark, Liat. “Tim Berners-Lee: We Need to Re-Decentralise the Web.” Wired. February 6, 2014.

  • Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is urging the public to “re-engage” with the Web’s original decentralized design. Trust in the Web has eroded both at the political level and the ordinary netizen’s level, where people are self-censoring in the wake of NSA surveillance revelations. Berners-Lee warns that for-profit Internet monopolies and government digital isolationist policies are dangerous for an Internet that should be open to all.
De Natris, Wout. “Ludites of the 21St Century Unite?” CircleID. February 7, 2014.
  • As automation processes continue to make more and more human tasks and even human professions obsolete, many are concerned about the job market impact of technology’s continued evolution. De Natris sees three potential options for responding to this situation: the economy continues to develop with different, currently unforeseeable jobs being created; people permanently lose their jobs and the economy sharply declines; or a large-scale decision is made to value job security over automation-enhanced productivity. De Natris sees many parallels between automation’s threat to 21st century job security and the Internet’s ongoing threat to the vested interests of a number of traditionally powerful entities. In both cases, for better or worse, such threats drive people to attempt to stop developments.

Google’s ‘Good to Know’ campaign to push for safe internet.” India Express. February 12, 2014.

  • February 11th marked the 11th annual Safer Internet Day and this year, Google India is commemorating the day by unveiling its ‘Good To Know’ campaign. Launched in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and the Voluntary Organization in the Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE), the goal of the campaign is to teach new Internet users standard personal identity safety measures. While the ‘Good To Know’ campaign seeks to instill principles of digital literacy in all new Internet users, its principle target is youth.

Moran, Rick. “Tech Companies Worry About Global Internet Power Grab.” PJ Media. February 8, 2014.

  • Divergent opinions regarding ICANN’s role in the Internet governance ecosystem continue to spark debate, as some point to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé’s release of domain names in Chinese, Arabic and Cyrillic as a sign of the organization’s commitment to prioritize global Internet governance. However, others believe the organization’s recent globalization attempts “should set off alarm bells in Congress,” and may result in positioning governments one step closer to sitting in the “internet drivers seat” and threatening a free net.
Perlroth, Nicole. “The Day the Internet Didn’t Fight Back.” New York Times Bits Blog. February 11, 2014.
  • Unlike the widely visible and successful protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect I.P. Act (PIPA) on which it was based, The Day We Fight Back online protest against the NSA’s large-scale survelliance efforts, characterized by a banner placed at the top of websites, was relatively quiet. While sites like Wikipedia and Reddit played a major role in the SOPA and PIPA protests, The Day We Fight Back, with its less clearly defined goal, saw participation largely limited to the “usual suspects” of online advocacy, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty Internaional and Greenpeace. However, eight major technology companies – Google, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, Apple, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn – did create a joint website featuring the protest banner.

Power, Privacy, and the Internet.” The New York Review of Books. February 7, 2014.

Roberston, Adi. “The Day We Fight Back: Can An Internet Protest Stop the NSA?The Verge. February 10, 2014.

  • The 2012 online protests that defeated SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) created a precedent for successful Internet activism. That activism resurfaced in “The Day We Fight Back,” an anti-surveillance online protest that was held this week, although with a different effect. While the anti-SOPA protest was against a single bill, The Day We Fight Back is against an institutionalized process, the threat from which is much less clear and much less direct, making successful activism in this case not as simple as with SOPA.

Robinson, Frances, and Schechner, Sam. “EU Pushes to Globalize Internet Governance.” The Wall Street Journal. February 11, 2014.

  • The European Commission (EC) proposed this week that the exclusive relationship between the United States government and ICANN should end, and called for a globalization of ICANN and the IANA functions.  In particular, the EC called for the establishment of a timeline for globalizing ICANN, and “explicitly rules out calling for a new international legal instrument to address issues of Internet governance.” You can read the EC press release here.
Sugarman, Eli, and Joshua Walker. “How Emerging Markets’ Internet Policies Are Undermining Their Economic Recovery.” Forbes. February 12, 2014.
  • Often in response to recently disclosed U.S. surveillance activities, a number of emerging economies are taking steps toward Internet censorship, data localization requirements and other restrictive policies, putting their “fragile” economic markets at risk. Brazil, which is set to host the April Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, is working toward passage of its Marco Civil Da Internet legislation, which features both positive Internet policies, like net neutrality, as well as potentially dangerous ones, like data localization requirements. Last week, in what is considered to be a response to information leaks related to government corruption, Turkey’s Parliament passed new legislation allowing the government to block websites and compel Internet service providers to censor content without a court order. Indonesia is close to implementing the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, which may require foreign Internet companies to store Indonesian user data locally.

Internet Technology

Baker, Chris. “Namecoin Decentralized DNS Research.” CircleID. February 7, 2014.

  • Baker discusses and lays out some of his research on Namecoin and “.bit,” a TLD which is a “peer-to-peer decentralized namespace” which is outside of ICANN’s public root zone (to reach .bit, users have to manually configure their DNS settings). Namecoin uses a “block chain,” which is “a transaction database shared by all nodes participating in a system based on the Bitcoin protocol. A full copy of a currency’s block chain contains every transaction ever executed.”

Gayomali, Chris. “Invisible Networks: One Woman’s Fantastic Quest to Photograph the Living Internet.” Fast Company. February 12, 2014.

  • Invisible Networks is a photography project of Shuli Hallak in which she is capturing the physical infrastructures that make the Internet work –the data centers, server farms, fiber optic cables, and “carrier hotels” (e.g. 60 Hudson St.). Hallak wants to remind us that the Internet is not an abstraction in the cloud, but is a very physical structure with many weak points and that occupies very real spaces in our built environments.

Three Technology Revolutions.” Pew Research Center. (February 2014).

  • During the time that the Pew Research Center has been studying digital technology, it has identified three major technology revolutions. Broadband and the rise of the Internet changed how we use and share information; mobile connectivity has affected “the way people allocate their time and attention”; and social media has blurred the “traditional boundaries between private and public,” and changed how we connect with other people.

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