The GovLab SCAN – Issue 43

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our 43rd 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 International Telecommunications Unions (ITU)’s Plenipotentiary Conference is fast approaching (October 20 – November 7, 2014). This is a key event in which ITU Member States decide on the future role of the organization –including the ITU’s remit regarding Internet governance.
  • The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has received a record 3 million comments in response to its Open Internet ruling (regulating net neutrality and “paid prioritization”).


Mondini, Chris. Back to the Future – ICANN51 is Just Around the Corner. ICANN Blog. September 15, 2014.

  • ICANN’s 51st annual meeting will take place from October 12 – 16 in Los Angeles. Significantly, the meeting will include a session “in which the leaders of ICANN’s various advisory committees and supporting organizations will gather to explore the hot issues facing the ICANN community”, as well as focus on “Enhancing ICANN Accountability” and the “IANA Stewardship Transition Process”. Registration for the meeting is available here.

Internet Governance

Dougherty, Conor. Google Report Shows Governments’ Increasing Demands for Users’ Data. New York Times. September 15, 2014.

  • Dougherty discusses Google’s 10th transparency report (the report is “a tally of all the times a government has used its legal authority to demand that Google hand over internal data about the people who use Google products like Gmail, YouTube or its namesake search engine”) pointing out that “each time, the number of requests has risen sharply – reflecting Google’s growth as a company as well as governments’ increasing use of the company’s data in criminal investigations”.

FCC Receives Record 3m Comments About “Net Neutrality” Issue. The Guardian. September 15, 2014.

  • The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has received 3 million comments in response to proposed rules that would prohibit Internet Service Providers “from blocking users’ access to websites or applications” while allowing them to charge content providers for “quick and reliable delivery of their traffic to users”. This is the record amount of comments the FCC has ever received on a specific issue.

Holland, Byron. Bringing Order to Chaos. CircleID. September 17, 2014.

  • Given the IANA transition and the ICANN accountability processes currently underway, the Internet governance world is currently in flux. In this article, Byron Holland presents a slide deck to show “the inputs into the processes leading up to the September 2015 deadline for a proposal to be submitted to the NTIA for the IANA transition, as well as the known processes on ICANN accountability and governance. The two additional slides show the timeline for this work, and the capacity needs to participate on the various committees and working groups.”

Lam, Oiwan. Who Says You Can Block Google? Chinese Citizen Sues Telco, Demands Answers. Global Voices. September 15, 2014.

  • A Chinese citizen is suing China’s second biggest telecom operator for not being able to access Google’s services. He has stated that while “he was unlikely to win the case, [he] wanted to make a point that citizens have the right to challenge these decisions.” At the hearing, the telecom provider’s lawyer hesitated when asked why websites were inaccessible, highlighting the fact that “even the mere mention of government accountability for web blocking is a sensitive, practically unspeakable topic.” The court’s decision is still pending, and “while most Chinese netizens appear not to expect the lawsuit to clear people of their doubt and explain the legal ground for the blocking, they are still applauding Wang Long’s effort to pursue government accountability for infringing citizen’s right for free Internet access.”

MacDonald, Reagan. Blanket data retention: Law enforcement wants it, but they don’t need it. Access. September 15, 2014.

  • The European Court of Justice has released a decision on the Data Retention Directive, stating that “the blanket surveillance mandated by the Data Retention Directive is neither necessary nor proportionate” and is a violation of fundamental rights. MacDonald stresses the importance of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which have been endorsed by more than 400 civil society organizations. The Court’s ruling is also significant because it questions “the necessity and proportionality of data retention as a whole,” and means “any future proposals should take a completely different and more targeted approach to combat terrorism and serious crime.”

Milan, Stefania. The Fair of Competing Narratives: Civil Society(ies) After NETmundial. CGCS Media Wire. September 10, 2014.

  • Milan discusses the importance –especially in the context of the NETmundial Meeting and NETmundial Initiative— of recognizing that there is “no such a thing as ‘a’ civil society, but rather a large group of actors with a number of competing views and values”. Milan argues that “this internal variety has not been reflected thus far in discussions surrounding the set up of the NETmundial Initiative” and that differing “civil society narratives ought to play a role in the way civil society as a whole engages (and is included)”.

Reynolds, Emma. China’s internet censorship machine has become even more advanced to cope with social media. September 12, 2014.

  • A new experimental study suggests that given the proliferation of social media, the Chinese government “has had to become more sophisticated when it comes to what it deletes and what it allows through.” Censors allow many negative posts through, and the government may act on criticisms by removing officials from office or making them into scapegoats. While bloggers can criticize top leaders, “any mention of an ongoing protest, or a rally in favour of a popular policy or leader, will be censored.”

Rosenzweig, Paul, Schaefer, Brett D., and James L. Gattuso. Should Governments Control the Internet? The Heritage Foundation. September 18, 2014.

  • This article outlines three reasons to reject ICANN’s plan “to change its bylaws to require its board to accept recommendations from governments.” The authors argue that “the proposed change would enhance the power of governments, many of which are hostile to an open and free Internet, within ICANN. Therefore, it poses a threat to Internet security, stability, and openness.” First, the GNSO should be given higher standing than governments as the advice is “the product of bottom-up development from multiple stakeholders.” Second, “the proposal would increase the power of governments in determining Internet policy.” Finally, the plan would be inconsistent with the move away from governmental control in the form of the US government handing over management of the domain-name system to ICANN, and would instead enhance the authority of governments and make it harder for the board to reject GAC advice.

Russia won’t disconnect from global internet, works on cyber security – Kremlin. RT. September 19, 2014.

  • Russia’s presidential press-secretary has said that Russia is working on improving its cybersecurity, and that media reports that Russia intends to disconnect from the global Internet are untrue. A security source has stated that the goal is not to shut down riots like in Turkey or to have a closed Internet like North Korea, but “to ensure that if the US government uses its emergency powers to cut Russian IP addresses from service, then backup servers would be ready to step in.”

Sepulveda, Daniel. Preparing for Busan: Regional Unity in Inter-American Proposals to the 2014 International Telecommunications Union Plenipotentiary Conference. U.S. Department of State Blog. September 17, 2014.

  • Sepulveda discusses the formulation of 46 “Inter-American Proposals” for the upcoming International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference in October in Busan, South Korea. Sepulveda points out that “delegates [from the U.S. and regional partners] formed a sensible center on some of the most controversial issues that the ITU conference will face, including those surrounding Internet governance”, and that agreement was achieved on issues such as “the ITU’s role on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that avoids a call for a new Summit and focuses the ITU’s attention on the implementation of WSIS Action Lines for which it is the lead facilitator”.

Tying up the Internet. Financial Times. September 16, 2014.

  • This article provides an extensive discussion of “Internet fragmentation” and argues that, today, “dreams of a borderless medium capable of connecting humanity in a frictionless way are on the retreat”. The article particularly argues that innovation is threatened by laws that regulate data storage, pointing to a new Russian law “requiring internet companies to keep all personal information about its citizens on servers located inside the country” and to instances of censorship around the globe (and “not just in authoritarian countries”). The article concludes that even while “the internet for people in different countries around the world will inevitably become more distinct”, this trend should not preclude the potential for innovation through the Internet.

Vara, Vauhini. The Speed of Internet Slowdown Day. The New Yorker. September 11, 2014.

  • Thousands of sites participated in the Internet Slowdown, a protest meant to symbolize what the Internet would look like with fast and slow lanes. Several large tech companies including Google and Wikipedia took part in a coordinated online protest against the SOPA and PIPA bills in 2012, but some big players did not take part in the Internet Slowdown. However, this hasn’t impacted awareness of the Internet Slowdown since “people use the Internet differently from how they did even in 2012. We still visit individual Web sites, of course, but we get much of our information through sharing on social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter.” According to Fight for Future, “twice as much traffic was coming to the campaign Web site from social media as from direct links from affiliated sites.”

Whittaker, Zack. Microsoft Refuses to Hand Over Foreign Data, Held in Contempt of Court. ZDNet. September 10, 2014.

  • Microsoft has been ordered to hand over data held in Dublin by a US judge, and in its refusal to do so, has been found in contempt of court. Microsoft states that foreign data “cannot be accessed or retrieved by a U.S. search warrant.” Microsoft has agreed to be held in contempt of court and has been awarded a stay to appeal the case. The implications of this case are immense: the “only barrier in preventing an open season on international data from U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies is Microsoft sticking to its guns.”

Wolff, Josephine. NATO’s Empty Cybersecurity Gesture. Slate. September 10, 2014.

  • The 28 NATO nations have formed an agreement that “a cyberattack on any NATO member could trigger a collective response from all of the allies.” However, the alliance is influenced by “tension among NATO members themselves concerning the secrecy of each nation’s cyber capabilities and how those capabilities are wielded against one another.” Moreover, the gesture seems “largely symbolic because sufficiently severe cyberattacks would likely have been covered under the nations’ treaty regardless.” Wolff argues that the agreement “suggests a certain mindset in which cyberattacks were dismissed as less serious—less real, even—than other forms of attack by virtue of their virtual nature, and are only now being accepted as actual threats to the physical world” and that aid focused on “focused on reducing damage and restoring order” would be a more beneficial approach.

Papers and Reports

Fontaine, Richard. Bringing Liberty Online: Reenergizing the Internet Freedom Agenda in a Post-Snowden Era. Center for a New American Society. September 18, 2014.

  • In this report, Fontaine argues that, “despite the many complications arising from the Snowden disclosures, America still needs a comprehensive Internet freedom strategy and “lays out how revelations of mass surveillance by the U.S. government have over the past year transformed the global debate about Internet freedom.” In discussing how to “reenergize the agenda” of online freedom, Fontaine suggests that the U.S. “call on foreign governments to embrace surveillance principles”, “ensure that the U.S. government conducts comprehensive cost/benefit analyses of surveillance decisions”, “enhance the transparency of U.S. government data requests”, “seek corporate transparency”, “articulate the connection between Internet freedom and economic prosperity”, “employ trade agreements”, and “use public diplomacy”.

Mapping Digital Media: Global Findings. Open Society Foundations. September, 2014.

  • The Mapping Digital Media project covers 56 countries and “examines the global opportunities and risks created by new and digital media” as well as “assesses how these changes affect the core democratic service that any media system should provide—news about political, economic, and social affairs—and how they can help advance open society values”. The global findings reveal that “digital television and the internet have had a radical impact on media businesses, journalists, and citizens at large”, “digitization has brought no pressure to reform state broadcasters, less than one-third of countries found that digital media have helped to expand the social impact of investigative journalism, and digitization has not significantly affected total news diversity”.


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

The Evolution of the Internet Governance Ecosystem. Global Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers. October 2, 2014.

  • The event is a milestone in the Network of Centers (NoC)’s “globally coordinated research effort aimed at examining existing and potential models of distributed and collaborative governance with the goal of informing the evolution of – and current debate around – the Internet governance ecosystem”. The event will “discuss both research in progress and, more broadly, the role of academia in the debate about the next generation Internet governance ecosystem.” The event is also “intended as an initial contribution to the NETmundial Initiative”.

Internet Governance. Actors, Technology, Content. Alexander von Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft. October 9 – 10, 2014.

  • This event aims to “to further research and exchange of ideas around the field of Internet governance”, with sessions aiming “to evaluate the performance of the multi-stakeholder approach, especially with respect to questions of legitimacy” and “to understand the implications of private control of information and control of user-generated content”. The event will also investigate the “lost in translation” problem and the “ widespread use of black-box delegation” –”the former refers to interdisciplinary miscommunication by using the exact same terms yet with significant different meanings. The latter denotes the delegation of problems between disciplines in the form of black boxes, e.g. ‘privacy by design’ in the communication between lawyers and engineers.”

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