The GovLab SCAN – Issue 48

Shruti Sannon and Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our 48th 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 Union (ITU) is currently holding its Plenipotentiary Meeting in Busan, South Korea. See the live webcast here. The ITU meeting will be held from October 20 – November 7; topics of significance include ITU’s role in Internet governance and cybersecurity, ITU’s constitution and transparency, and the selection of a new Secretary-General for the ITU.


Abusitta, Nora. Public Responsibility: A Year in Review. ICANN Blog. October 13, 2014.

  • Abusitta provides an overview of ICANN’s new Development and Public Responbility Department (DPRD) one year since its inception, inspired by the ICANN Strategy Panel on the Public Responsibility Framework. The Panel defined the public interest as “ensuring that the Internet becomes, and continues to be, stable, inclusive, and accessible across the globe so that all may enjoy the benefits of a single and open Internet”. The DPRD’s role is to “better serve and broaden the community, and facilitate participation through specific and measurable tracks”, for example through: localization and language services; education and academic outreach; supporting the next generation through ICANN’s Next Generation program and Fellowship Program; and participation in global Internet cooperation and development.

DelBianco, Steve. ICANN in Hollywood: Foreshadowing a Happy Ending? CircleID. October 14, 2014.

  • ICANN has proposed a new process that will provide the ICANN community with a leadership role in improving the organization “far more in keeping with a bottom-up, consensus-based policy development process.” However, DelBianco points out that these recommendations must still be approved by the ICANN board, who have thus far been skeptical of the need for stronger accountability measures. DelBianco states the hope “that the Board, like the staff, will recognize the deficiencies of the previous approach and the vital need to put the community in the director’s chair throughout this production.” He also states that the “accountability mechanisms that give the community real leverage over the ICANN corporation must be in place before the ICANN community loses its last remaining leverage — the IANA transition.”

McCarthy, Kieran. The future health of the Internet comes down to ONE simple question… The Register. October 23, 2014.

  • In this extensive article, McCarthy discusses ICANN’s accountability and oversight mechanisms and argues that these concerns and the decisions that are made about them “will likely decide the future health of the internet itself”. McCarthy provides an overview of the history of ICANN’s relationship with the U.S. government; explains the IANA functions and their significance; and discusses the history of the accountability of ICANN’s Board of Directors as well as possible future directions in which ICANN Board accountability might be headed, arguing that the creation of an oversight mechanism that can reverse Board decisions is critical to developing more accountability at ICANN.

Mirani, Leo. The Internet’s best known body wants everybody to stop asking it to do things. Quartz. October 13, 2014.

  • There were 3000 attendees from around the world at the 51st meeting of ICANN in Los Angeles, California earlier this month. Mirani provides a brief overview of the three main topics of discussion: the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) program, the transition of the U.S. government from its role as steward of the IANA functions, and finally, “to figure out how to keep reminding the public that ICANN actually has a very limited role to play in running the internet.” Fadi Chehadé, President of ICANN, has stressed that ICANN’s role is limited to technical coordination, and that its remit does not include several issues such as takedowns or cybersecurity.

Internet Governance

Budde, Paul. UN Broadband Commission 2.0. CircleID.  October 14, 2014.

  • At the end of 2014, Houlin Zhao will become the new Secretary General of the ITU, kicking off Broadband Commission 2.0. In this new phase, Budde recommends that the ITU focus on improving national broadband government policy-making. In one of his recommendations, Budde suggests that national government leaders should use ICTs to better address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) starting in January 2016. Budde concludes that the new Commission must also work on creating better communication between the telecom and internet industries ,with a particular focus on changing telecom regulations into what should be broader ICT government policies.

China says US must change ‘mistaken policies’ before deal on cyber security. The Guardian. October 19, 2014.

  • Yang Jiechi, a state councillor overseeing foreign affairs, has stated that the US “should take positive action to create necessary conditions for bilateral cyber security dialogue and cooperation to resume” between China and the US. The statement quoted Yang Jiechi as saying that cybersecurity cooperation is currently difficult due to “mistaken US practices”, but did not elaborate on this point. China shut down a bilateral working group on cybersecurity in May, when the US charged five Chinese military officers with hacking US firms.

Engelhart, Kate. Who has the right to be forgotten on the Internet? Vice. October 21, 2014.

  • In this article, Engelhart discusses the Right to be Forgotten law passed by the European Court of Justice in May, and Google’s attempts to enforce it. Google is holding seven public town-hall style meetings across Europe, the first of which was held last Thursday in London. Engelhart describes the factors that Google must consider when faced with any request to be forgotten: “how ‘relevant’ online data is, taking into account factors like ‘time passed,’ the ‘purpose’ of the information, and the role that the data subject plays ‘in public life.’ Google must balance ‘sensitivity for the person’s private life’ with ‘the public interest.’ And it must determine if linked-to data is ‘inadequate’ or ‘excessive.’” Not only is Google faced with a “logistical nightmare” hiring lawyers and paralegals, but advocates on both sides of the right to be forgotten law are pushing for these decisions to be made in the European Courts rather than by Google, and for Google’s decisions to be subject to external review.

Kampmark, Binoy. Internet Morality and Policing Harassment: Punishing the Trolls. Global Research. October 20, 2014.

  • The UK Government is pushing legislation to punish those accused of Internet “trolling.” In March, an amendment was proposed to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which would allow a Crown Court to try cases of online harassment and give out prison sentences of up to 2 years. In this article, Kampmark states that Internet trolls do not necessarily conform to the vicious loner stereotype, but may but also include various other types of individuals including those who are paid to spread propaganda or affect electoral politics. Kampmark points out various problematic aspects of such laws: they “risk being used by public figures to veil themselves in a protective layer,” place “internet service providers into the position of moral guardians and gatekeepers,” and are subjective in terms of degree of offensiveness.

Mueller, Milton. Cauldron Part 2: Is the Names IANA Compatible with the Others? Internet Governance Project. October 19, 2014.

  • This post focuses on the progress of the “names” community in the IANA stewardship transition process and is a continuation of Mueller’s previous IGP post on the status of the IANA transition, which focused on the “numbers” and “protocols” communities. Mueller points out that “the domain name market is where most of the money and politics of Internet governance are concentrated, and thus attracts the most attention from governments”. Mueller goes on to argue that “both ccTLDs [country-code top-level domains] and gTLDs [generic top-level domains] see the accountability of ICANN’s policy process as a life or death issue” and observes that because the names community interacts so differently with the IANA from the numbers and protocols communities, it is “likely that the IANA functions will split, with names separated from the protocol and numbers functions”. Mueller concludes that “trying to keep them all together in the same organization as ICANN’s policy process may be a threat to the stability of the former (protocols) and a nettlesome constraint on the solution set of the latter (names)”.

Roff, Peter. ROFF: China unrest and the future of the open internet. Washington Times. October 09, 2014.

  • Roff discusses openness and freedom on the Internet and observes that Internet openness “is a direct result of the influence of core American values on Internet governance.” As a result, the free flow of information on the Internet is perceived as a threat to power by authoritarian leaders. The influence of US values on the Internet may change with the withdrawal of the U.S. government’s authority from ICANN. Roff discusses a proposal to have ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC)’s policy-advice to be binding policy unless a two-thirds of the Board of Directors reject its. According to Roff, such changes would create “unacceptably low thresholds” in terms of openness and freedom, and would help other governments “take over the writing of the rules that govern the operations of the Internet.”

Scola, Nancy. Here’s how the U.S. plans to avoid a U.N. vote on the future of the Internet. The Washington Post. October 20, 2014.

  • Scola discusses the significance of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Meeting currently being held in Busan, South Korea, observing that “under the cover of a boring old technical meeting” are critical debates regarding the future of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance and whether governments (through the ITU) ought to have more responsibility in governing aspects of the Internet. The U.S. position at the Plenipotentiary Meeting will be to prevent any vote from happening and the goal is to convince “representatives of the other 192 member countries attending the conference that the 150-year-old U.N. technical body is the wrong forum for existential questions about how the Internet should work”. Scola points out that the NSA’s operations and the Snowden disclosures greatly complicate the U.S.’ diplomatic tactics in the matter.

Segal, Adam. Holding the Multistakeholder Line. Council on Foreign Relations. October 22, 2014.

  • Segal discusses the challenges and stakes of the ITU Plenipotentiary Meeting currently being held in Busan, South Korea, observing that the U.S. has two challenges with regards to developing the ITU’s involvement in Internet governance –on the one hand, “to make the multistakeholder model more transparent and inclusive, preventing further encroachment of multilateral institutions on Internet governance”, and on the other, “to protect against greater ITU involvement while not alienating potential partners in the developing world”. Segal discusses the “origin of the demands for increased involvement by the ITU”, the significance of the 2012 World Conference on Information Technology (WCIT), as well as the significance of the NETmundial Meeting held in April of this year in creating the context for the ITU Plenipotentiary Meeting.

Tanner, Adam. World’s Top Privacy Experts Worry About Internet Of Things. Forbes. October 20, 2014.

  • Data privacy commissioners from a range of countries met last week in Mauritius to discuss a variety of issues surrounding privacy and security. An issue that received special attention was the potential privacy and security risks engendered by the Internet of Things. The privacy regulators were concerned that data gathered through sensors and devices could be used to draw inferences that “are much bigger and more sensitive” and that “identifiability becomes more likely than not.” The privacy commissioners highlighted the need for transparency in collection, stating that “those who offer internet of things devices should be clear about what data they collect, for what purposes and how long this data is retained.”

Zhernov, Vadim. Russia, China prepare to sign unique cybersecurity treaty – report. Russia Today. October 21, 2014.

  • On November 10, officials expect that Russia and China will sign a treaty on cybersecurity cooperation during Vladimir Putin’s state visit to China. According to Kommersant,  the treaty outlines the two countries’ opposition to “the use of information technology to meddle in the internal affairs of independent states, to undermine national sovereignty as well as political, economic and social stability and public order.” News of this agreement comes after Chinese officials voiced their complaints about a stalled cybersecurity agreement with the United States.

Papers and Reports

Eichensehr, Kristen. International Agreements –And Disagreements– on Cybersecurity. Just Security. October 24, 2014.

  • According to Eichensehr, until recently, “cybersecurity has been a rather agreement-poor area”. Now, there is an “increasingly complex landscape of international agreements related to various aspects of cybersecurity”. Eichensehr points to agreements including an African Union treaty and a NATO declaration, a Shanghai Cooperation Organization agreement on “Cooperation in the Field of Information Security”, and the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, arguing that, “on the one hand, development of a number of agreements could help build toward a broad international consensus”, and “on the other hand, regional agreements could lock states into divergent positions and render subsequent compromise on a single international agreement more difficult”. Eichensehr argues that “regional agreements like the NATO declaration may nonetheless provide helpful clarity about how particular countries and their allies view specific behaviors in cyberspace and how they will respond to cybersecurity incidents. In other words, although conflicting regional agreements may not foster broader agreement, they may at least help to promote clarity and avoid conflict”.

Gasser, Urs. 25 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Call for the Enhanced Engagement of Children in the Digital Rights Discourse. UNICEF. October, 2014.

  • Gasser discusses the 25th anniversaries of both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the World Wide Web and argues that a “renewed commitment” is needed for both. Gasser argues that the Web is critical for children to “seek and engage with information and knowledge” and to “build and maintain relationships”. Gasser argues for “globally coordinated action and collaboration among all relevant groups and stakeholders” in addressing “the gaps, divides, disparities and risks that children face both online and offline”.

Harbinja, Edina. Virtual Worlds Players – Consumers or Citizens? Internet Policy Review, 3(4), 2014. October 15, 2014.

  • This article “questions the preconceived notions that participants in virtual worlds are essentially consumers. Building on the existing scholarship around virtual worlds and notwithstanding the current character of virtual worlds, this paper explores aspects of End User License Agreements and notes the unfairness of their provisions, particularly the imbalance between user and developer interests governed by such contracts. It argues that the contracts cannot be regulated with consumer protection legislation, as interests such as property or intellectual property are beyond the scope of consumer protection regimes. Finally, recognising the phenomenon of constitutionalisation of virtual worlds, the article argues for stronger regulatory solutions in this domain, in order to strike a more appropriate balance between competing interests in virtual worlds.”

Richards, Eric, and Scott Shackelford, and Abbey Stemler. Rhetoric versus Reality: U.S. Resistance to Global Trade Rules and the Implications for Cybersecurity and Internet Governance. Minnesota Journal of International Law, 2015 Forthcoming. October 13, 2014.

  • This article “examines two parallel issues of vital importance to the United States and to the rest of the world — free trade and cybersecurity. In the free trade context, [it argues] that the U.S. government has voiced lofty ideals in theory only to ignore and sometimes openly flout its international obligations in practice. Not only is this harmful to the balance sheets of U.S. consumers and exporters, but simultaneously it threatens to undermine the U.S. leadership on a host of global policy issues, including Internet governance.”

Yilma, Kinfe Michael. The State of Internet Policy Making In Ethiopia: An Introduction. Center for Global Communication Studies. October 14, 2014.

  • Ethiopia has one of the lowest levels of Internet penetration in the world, and this has led to  delayed development in national Internet policymaking. Although the Council of Ministers (COM) instituted a comprehensive national ICT policy in 2009, it is clear that the current legal framework is insufficient in dealing with the technology policy challenges currently facing Ethiopia. In addition, Ethiopia is nearly absent from the global Internet governance system including ICANN,the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and sub regional forums like African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF). The author calls for Ethiopia to develop a  “requisite legal and policy framework that respects the rights of citizens while ensuring transparency and accountability within government processes for all internet activities.”


(The below includes both past and upcoming events. See The GovLab’s Master Events Calendar for more Internet Governance events)

How to overcome IG Policy Silos on Global and National Levels. Geneva Internet Platform. November 18 – 19, 2014.

  • On November 18 and 19, policy leaders will meet to discuss how to overcome policy silos in Internet governance at the Geneva Internet Conference. In order to create functioning Internet governance frameworks, it is critical that there is coordination and dialogue among stakeholders. The Geneva Internet Conference will be guided by a discussion on how to overcome policy silos  using three policy areas as examples: data protection and privacy; cybersecurity and cybercrime; and intellectual property rights.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Meeting 2014, Busan, South Korea. International Telecommunications Union. October 20 – November 7, 2014.

  • The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is currently holding its Plenipotentiary Meeting in Busan, South Korea. According to the ITU,  “the Plenipotentiary Conference is the key event at which ITU Member States decide on the future role of the organization, thereby determining the organization’s ability to influence and affect the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) worldwide… the Plenipotentiary Conference is the top policy-making body of the ITU. Held every four years, the Conference: sets the Union’s general policies; adopts four-year strategic and financial plans; and elects the senior management team of the organization, the members of Council, and the members of the Radio Regulations Board.” See the live webcast of official meetings here.

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