The GovLab SCAN – Issue 38

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our thirty-eighth edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at SCAN@thegovlab.org.

This week’s highlights:

  • Several articles this week discuss the possibility of “fundamentally redesigning the Internet”. This is in response to continuous incidents of Internet technologies used for purposes that were originally unintended and potentially harmful to Internet users.
  • ICANN has released a draft organizational structure for its “Strengthening ICANN Governance and Accountability track” (the “accountability update”). The proposed structure has been criticized for lacking transparency in its development and for the “Board-appointed advisors” which are part of the proposed structure.

ICANN

Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group Releases Statement on ICANN Staff’s Accountability Plan. CircleID. August 12, 2014.

  • ICANN’s Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) has released a statement on ICANN staff’s accountability plan. The NCSG notes its disappointment with ICANN staff for not providing a “synthesis of public input upon which staff relied in the formulation of its accountability proposal” and argues that “this is an example of top-down policymaking, which runs counter to ICANN’s bottom-up methodology and may inspire mistrust on the part of the stakeholders”. The NCSG does not support the proposal as it is currently drafted and asks in particular that the “make-up, roles and responsibilities of the members of the proposed CCG [Community Coordination Group] must be reformulated in a more bottom-up fashion by the community for this proposal to be acceptable”.

Swinehart, Theresa. IANA Functions Stewardship Transition & Strengthening ICANN Governance and Accountability: Monthly Update. ICANN Blog. August 8, 2014.

  • Swinehart –ICANN’s Senior Advisor to the President on Global Strategy—in this post provides an update on the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) and the “Strengthening ICANN Governance and Accountability track”. Swinehart points out that the “process on enhancing ICANN’s accountability will be key to the success of the transition” and that “trust and alignment are going to be important moving forward with both of these processes”. The post contains links to relevant resources for both processes.

York, Dan. Video Interviews of IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) Members. CircleID. August 7, 2014.

  • ICANN has published a set of interviews with members of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG). York notes that the videos are a “good sampling of the variety of people involved with the ICG and [do] provide a range of different viewpoints into what is going on within the ICG process”. Links to the videos are in the article.

Internet Governance

Gibbs, Samuel. Is the Internet ‘Full’ and Going to Shut Down? The Guardian. August 14, 2014.

  • Gibbs discusses the cause of several Internet outages this week, which happened as a result of some Internet Service Provider hardware reaching a maximum number of Internet connections in the available memory. According to Gibbs, “the issue revolved around a limit on the number of concurrent connections made to routers that underpin the internet”. Exceeding this limits leads to “leaks” in Internet address space, which can cause websites to go offline because they become disconnected. Gibbs points to the incident as an example of the difficulty of rebooting or updating Internet hardware as these are relied upon by hundreds of thousands of customers at a time.

Guerrini, Federico. Regulating the Web: Does the Internet Need Its Own Bill of Rights? ZDNet. August 11, 2014.

  • The Italian government –through an ad-hoc committee “composed partly of politicians from all parliamentary parties, and partly by independent experts in the field”—is working on a “bill of rights for the Internet”, which “could serve as the foundation for a model defining web users’ rights and obligations, potentially not just in Italy but throughout the continent”. The proposal is expected to be completed in October, in time for a Meeting on Fundamental Rights to take place in Rome, organized by the EU Presidency. The proposal will focus on “internet access as a universal right; net neutrality; freedom of information; the need to find a balance between transparency, the rule of law and privacy; protecting users against the misuse of their data by online companies; and digital literacy”.

Hu, Elise. A Fascinating Look Inside Those 1.1 Million Open-Internet Comments. NPR. August 12, 2014.

  • The Federal Communications Commission received over 1 million comments when it asked for “public comments about the issue of keeping the Internet free and open”. A data analysis firm has “looked beyond keywords to find the sentiment and arguments in those public comments”, finding that while the comments did include “anti” net neutrality positions, “every emergent theme was ‘pro’ net neutrality, or supports the idea of a level playing field for content on the Internet”. The analysis also found that some arguments seek to frame threats to net neutrality as “attacks on the very nature of what it means to be American”, which Hu points out are “surprising emerging arguments [that are] not outflows of advocacy group talking points or news media”.

Kuerbis, Brenden. A Tale of Two Processes. Internet Governance Project. August 8, 2014.

  • Kuerbis briefly overviews the history to date of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) and ICANN’s concurrent accountability enhancement process, and argues that the latter process, though interdependent with the former, has been formulated with too little input from ICANN’s stakeholders. ICANN has proposed an organizational structure for determining ICANN accountability enhancements that differs from typical cross-community working groups (CCWGs) and includes seven “board appointed advisors”, which Kuerbis argues is “ad-hoc” and “opportunistic”.

Moss, Brandon. It’s Not You, It’s Me: Committee of Cryptographic Experts Tries to Crack NIST/NSA Relationship. Access Blog. August 7, 2014.

  • Moss discusses the relationship between the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Institute for Standards and Technologies (NIST) in the context of recent stories on the NSA’s active undermining of encryption standards. NIST is “responsible for researching and promoting [encryption] standards, among others, and is required by law to consult with the NSA in their creation”. Access would like to see NIST’s independence increased so that the NSA cannot undermine encryption algorithms through NIST. In particular, Access supports a drive for “additional funding for the NIST to hire cryptography experts and additional transparency for public review”.

Wolff, Josephine. The Internet’s Vulnerable Backbone. Slate Future Tense. August 12, 2014.

  • Wolff discusses how the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) –which allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to direct traffic between each other’s networks—was used to “redirect the online activity of several bitcoin mining groups and steal the bitcoins that they mined during those periods”. Wolff points out that the “heist demonstrates how old ways of exploiting the Internet’s architecture continue to be recycled and reused for new purposes as the Internet itself takes on new functions” and that these security problems “arise not from Internet weaknesses but instead from Internet strengths—or rather, from the fundamental design of the Internet”. Wolff concludes that a fundamental re-imagining of the Internet’s design is necessary to prevent such problems from arising.

Zevenbergen, Ben, and Penney, Jon. Monitoring Internet Openness and Rights: Report from the Citizen Lab Summer Institute 2014. The Policy and Internet Blog, Oxford Internet Institute. August 12, 2014.

  • The Citizen Lab Summer Institute “brought together academics, business representatives and regulators to discuss information control research and practice in the fields such as censorship, circumvention, surveillance to private sector and governmental adherence to human rights”. Zevenbergen and Penney discuss “Internet-related corporate transparency reporting” and “ethical guidelines for the protection of privacy with regards to Internet measurements” in an analysis of the political and commercial uses of the control of “information flows” on the Internet.

Internet Technology

The IANA Functions. ICANN.org. August 11, 2014.

  • This infographic describes the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions and how they allow users to access the Internet. IANA’s history, stewardship transition, root zone management partners, and relationship with number resources, protocol parameters, and domains names are covered.

Papers and Reports

Chertoff, Michael. The Strategic Significance of the Internet Commons. Strategic Studies Quarterly, Volume 8, Issue 2. Summer, 2014.

  • Chertoff argues that cyberspace is both a “critical strategic resource” and a “global commons” and that it “requires a universally supported code of conduct that preserves its freedom and openness while enhancing its security”. Cyberspace is the “newest global commons” and “managing it presents a unique challenge”. Further, “too much or too little protection can damage the balance between security and economic stability”. Thus, protecting cyberspace as a global commons requires “international cooperation and respect”, with “standards to preserve continued global exploration, access, and information sharing”. Chertoff considers what global rules are needed to “preserve the balance between protection of privacy and national security while safeguarding against cyber theft, hacking, and spam”, and emphasizes that these rules will need enforcement mechanisms. Critically, Chertoff points out that “the Internet cannot be governed by one. Safeguarding the global commons demands a code of conduct universally supported by a global community”.

Taneja, Harsh, and Wu, Angela Xiao. The Rise of the Global South on the World Wide Web: Bridging Internet Policies and Web User Behavior. Internet Policy Observatory. August 12, 2014 (published July 25, 2014).

  • Taneja and Wu “examine the relationship between internet governance and internet user behavior, empirically investigating web user behavior on a global scale”. Their analysis “revealed a number of ‘clusters’ of websites, whereby sites within the cluster had more users in common than they did with sites outside the cluster”. The “most salient means upon which websites clustered together were both language and geography (and not content type)” and “the authors interpret such clusters as online expressions of place-based cultures, or “regional cultures”, with data suggesting a de-Americanization and rise of the Global South on the WWW since 2009”. The full report is here.

Zuckerman, Ethan. The Internet’s Original Sin. The Atlantic. August 14, 2014.

  • In this extensive article on the effects of online advertising business models, Zuckerman argues that our current model of using advertising as the “default business model on the web” is “bad, broken, and corrosive”. While an ad-supported web supports Internet “free riders” and “has been key in opening the web to young people and those in the developing world”, it has also come with costs. For example, advertising generates surveillance; creates “incentives to produce and share content that generates pageviews and mouse clicks” but little engagement; tends to centralize the web; and leads to content-personalization to the degree that individuals become isolated in their own web experiences. Zuckerman argues that in the midst of global discussions about the “Web We Want”, we must “consider how we want the web to make money, as these decisions have powerful unintended consequences”. As we consider moving away from an ad-supported web, it’s “time to start paying for privacy, to support services we love, and to abandon those that are free, but sell us—the users and our attention—as the product”.

Events

(See The GovLab’s Master Events Calendar for more Internet Governance events)


Vyorst, David. Net Neutrality in Europe: Lessons for the US? Internet Policy Hub. August 11, 2014.

  • This discussion took place on August 6th and compared net neutrality issues and regulation in Europe and the U.S., looking at definitions of net neutrality; how net neutrality raises concerns; how quality of Internet service can be differentiated; how price is differentiated; U.S. and EU market structures; competition laws; and regulations. This article contains a video of the event as well as the presentation deck.

 

 

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