The GovLab SCAN – Issue 52

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 52nd edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at [email protected]. Due to Thanksgiving holidays in the U.S., the 53rd SCAN will be published the week following the next.

This week’s highlights:

  • The Internet Society (ISOC) Board this week expressed concern regarding the recently launched NETmundial Initiative, especially with regards to the principles of its founding and its role in the larger decentralized Internet governance ecosystem. The NETmundial Initiative released a blog post expressing that it does not seek to occupy a central or centralized role in Internet governance.
  • China this week held its first global Internet conference – the World Internet Conference – in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province, spawning much commentary that China intends to promote its own domestic Internet rules as a model for global Internet governance.
  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) this week held a cyber defence exercise involving 400 experts who aimed to “test the ability of the participating nations to coordinate a defence against a series of targeted cyber incidents involving a NATO mission network”.


Chehadé, Fadi. Monitoring the Health of the Organization. ICANN Blog. November 10, 2014.

  • On Thursday, November 20, ICANN will hold its first Quarterly Stakeholder Call. According to Chehadé – CEO and President of ICANN – the call will evaluate ICANN’s results “in relation to our mission as the coordinator of technical parameters, Internet Protocol address space and the Domain Name System”. The Call will provide “updates on the latest policy and implementation developments”, “the organization’s operational achievements and financial standings for this period”, and will leave time for questions and answers.

Namazi, Cyrus. ICANN Clears the Way for Two-character Second-level Domain Names. November 12, 2014.

  • Following a Board Resolution in October, ICANN “has been working to develop a more efficient procedure enabling the release of two-character labels for new gTLDs.” To this end, ICANN plans to release a new authorization process by December 1 “that no longer requires Registry operators to reserve number/letter (2a), letter/number (a2), or number/number (22) labels at the second-level.” As a transparency mechanism, a Request for Authorization to Release Process will involve posting registry operator requests for comment for 30 days, following which “if there are no relevant and reasoned objections to the request, ICANN will authorize the requested letter/letter two-character labels to be released.”

Swinehart, Theresa. IANA Functions Stewardship Transition & Strengthening ICANN Governance and Accountability: Monthly Update. ICANN Blog. November 17, 2014.

  • Swinehart –ICANN’s Senior Advisor to the President on Global Strategy- begins this update by pointing out “a distinct shift in conversation over the past month from process to substance”. The IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) has published its Request for Proposals; Swinehart provides links to the progress made on the development of proposals by the three operational communities of IANA: Names, Numbers, and Protocol Parameters. All three of the community proposals should be submitted by January 15, 2015. With regards to ICANN’s “Accountability Enhancement” process, a Cross-Community Working Group (CCWG) has been set up; its Charter can be found here. The numerous community discussions surrounding ICANN accountability can be found here.

Internet Governance

Curtis, Sophie. US court rules Google’s search results qualify as free speechThe Telegraph.  November 18, 2014.

  • A San Francisco court recently ruled that Google is allowed to decide how it displays its search results  as a matter of free speech. The case involved a website called CoastNews, which accused Google of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by demoting its site in search results. This ruling is in stark contrast to recent events in Europe, where regulators imposed a series of measures to protect competition, including requiring Google to display rivals’ ads in prominent places.

Downes, Larry. Why Obama’s plan to save the Internet could actually ruin it. The Washington Post. November 11, 2014.

  • Downes discusses the history of “net neutrality” debates in the United States as well as what impact legislation surrounding “net neutrality” would actually have on Internet users. Downes points out that, historically, the engineering of the Internet has never been “neutral” – for example, the delivery of voice and video traffic tend to be prioritized, and large content providers have developed methods to “replicate the most requested content throughout the network to provide shorter paths across the Internet”. Downes observes that the main political battle behind “net neutrality” debates concerns transforming the Internet into a public utility, like power, water, or transportation. Downes further points out that through private investments, the Internet has grown to what it has become today, while public utilities tend to be subject to “slow, inefficient and often corrupt rules”. Downes concludes that the reclassification of Internet service as a public utility in the name of “net neutrality” is essentially “prohibit[ing] a practice no one offers with a legal framework that doesn’t prohibit it in any case”.

Fox-Brewster, Thomas. China Took Down a Chunk of the Web Ahead of a Major Internet Conference. Motherboard. November 18, 2014.

  • While China commonly blocks websites by ordering domestic Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove access to websites one-by-one, this week China “shut off reams of websites in one fell swoop by blocking companies that run content delivery networks (CDNs)”. Fox-Brewster notes that this action comes at “an odd time”, considering China is hosting the World Internet Conference this week. Fox-Brewster also points out that “hitting CDNs in the interest of targeting only certain websites is a dangerous game, as it leads to collateral damage that could infuriate masses of Chinese web users.”

Geneva Internet Conference’s first edition delivers powerful recommendations and questions for the future of Internet governance. Geneva Internet Platform. November 20, 2014.

  • This press release highlights the first day of the Geneva Internet conference. The meeting aimed to bring together major actors in Internet governance to discuss the future of the Internet, and a number of speakers shared their views on recent developments in the Internet governance space. Philipp Metzger, the Director General of the Swiss Federal Office for Communications (OFCOM), compared Internet governance to a building under construction with multiple layers. Jovan Kurbalija, the Head of the Geneva Internet Platform discussed how the City of Geneva, with its range of experts and organizations, can play a big role in the unfolding Internet governance process.

Gracie, Carrie. World Internet Conference: Has China overcome paranoia? BBC News China. November 20, 2014.

  • Gracie discusses the World Internet Conference held this week in Wuzhen, China, arguing that the Conference is evidence that “China now feels able to claim a stake in governing international cyberspace.” Gracie goes on to discuss China’s model of Internet censorship and information controls as well as its rationale for implementing these controls and how the controls work, pointing out that “China’s view is that the web can and must be controlled.” Gracie concludes that “the scale of China’s cyber economy and the momentum of its big internet players” means that the world will have to contend with China’s growing influence in global Internet governance.

Harris, Shane. The Mercenaries: Ex-NSA hackers and their corporate clients are stretching legal boundaries and shaping the future of cyberwar. Slate. November 12, 2014.

  • In this article, Harris profiles Endgame Inc., a startup in the global cyber arms business. The company offers governments and corporations information called “Zero Days’, which are “flaws in computer software that have never been disclosed and can be secretly exploited by an attacker.” Companies and governments use this information to identify where its own systems are vulnerable to attack and set up defenses, but they also gain access to a database that shows the location and IP addresses of hundreds of millions of vulnerable computers around the world. Endgame does not control what these companies do with this information. Harris explores the legal implications of acting on this information for both businesses and companies, and highlights a famous example from 2010 when Microsoft teamed up with the FBI to launch a counter cyber attack against Citadel, a company that was stealing account credentials and funds from millions of people.

Hintz, Arne. NETmundial’s promises of grassroots governance leave a lot to be desired. The Conversation. November 11, 2014.

  • Hintz discusses the NETmundial Initiative and points out that while the Initiative claims to “promote citizen participation”, it “more resembles an attempt by governments and large corporations to maintain their hold on power”. The involvement of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is a big cause for this concern, and in particular that the WEF is to be one of five “permanent members” on the Initiative’s “Coordination Council”, which some have suggested is modeled after the UN’s Security Council. Hintz concludes by arguing that “civil society groups, internet organisations and activists are faced with a conundrum” as, on the one hand, working with the Initiative “offers a way to be a part of the governance process and push for a new policy direction”, while, on the other, doing so “may offer legitimacy to a return to elite-driven, business-as-usual politics” and “attempt to draw a line under the many important debates triggered by the Snowden revelations.”

Internet Society Statement on the NETmundial Initiative. Internet Society. November 16, 2014.

  • The Internet Society (ISOC) Board of Trustees issued a statement this week stating that “the Internet Society cannot agree to participate in or endorse the Coordination Council for the NETmundial Initiative”. The ISOC Board is particularly concerned that the NETmundial Initiative is not consistent with bottom-up, decentralized, open, transparent, accountable, and multi-stakeholder principles, and also emphasizes that “the main priority facing the Internet community right now is the IANA Functions’ Stewardship Transition”.

Korea Continues to Deliver Its Position on Internet Governance. BusinessKorea. November 14, 2014.

  • South Korea will form the Korea Internet Governance Alliance (KIGA), which will be “an organization to mediate Korea’s position on Internet governance and respond to problems from now on”. The article suggests the impetus for the formation of KIGA is partly due to a lack of consensus at the recent International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, South Korea. The KIGA will “hold conferences by sector in five areas; public sector (Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, KISA, etc.), academia, businesses (Naver, Daum Kakao, etc.), civil organization, and technology.”

Maney, Kevin. An Open Internet Doesn’t Equal Freedom. Newsweek. November 15, 2014.

  • Following U.S. President Obama’s recent statement supporting net neutrality and an open Internet, Kevin Maney makes the case that “an open and widely accessible Internet can be harnessed for harm as well as good.” To demonstrate, Maney points to ISIS’s use of social media to recruit fighters and publicize beheadings, and the Russian government’s attempt to collect information about pro-Ukraine protesters on the social media site VKontakte. Maney cites University of Michigan psychologist Richard Nisbett, who makes the case that global connectedness can make it easier to build silos and create eco-chambers because it is easier to exclusively connect with like-minded people. Maney concludes with a reminder that “technology is always neutral.”

Meyer, David. Swedish ISP protects customers from surveillance with free VPN. Gigaom. November 17, 2014.

  • Bahnhof is a Swedish Internet Service Provider (ISP) that is “resisting the country’s revival of its data retention law” by “mitigat[ing] the effects of storing customer data for the benefit of spies and law enforcement” by “giving all those customers a way to anonymize their traffic, in the form of free access to a virtual private network called LEX Integrity”.

Morris, Sarah. Missed (Inter)connections: Why consumers are the big losers in ISP fights. Slate. November 14, 2014.

  • Morris – senior policy counsel for the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute –  discusses why interconnection disputes are extremely important for Internet users. To illustrate, Morris highlights the network slowdown that occurred in late spring 2013 and into the following year due to an interconnection dispute between ISPs and Cogent, a “last-mile” transit provider. Just recently, the Measurement Lab Research Consortium or M-Lab released a technical report revealing that millions of customers “experienced Internet speeds less than the 4Mbps that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines as the “minimum standard for broadband”, and for many people the speed was at about 1Mbps. Morris concludes that the FCC should exercise oversight over negotiations surrounding last-mile connection points, and be prepared to step in when interventions are needed.

Multistakeholder Advisory Group Renewed to Prepare Internet Governance Forum Meeting in João Pessoa, Brazil, 10-13 November 2015. National Journal (announcement issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Council). November 12, 2014.

  • The membership of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) has been renewed, comprising a total of 55 members, of whom 25 are new. According to ECOSOC, the main task of the MAG is “to provide advice on the preparations for the tenth meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, which is scheduled to take place in João Pessoa, Brazil, on 10-13 November 2015.”

Largest ever NATO cyber defence exercise gets underway. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). November 18, 2014.

  • This week NATO “launched its largest ever multinational cyber defence exercise, ‘Cyber Coalition 2014’”, a three-day training event that “will test the Alliance’s ability to defend its networks from the various challenges that exist when operating in the contested cyber domain.” According to NATO, “the exercise involves over 400 technical, government and cyber experts operating from dozens of locations from across the Alliance and partner nations” and aims to “test the rapid sharing of information about cyber incidents” as well as “test the ability of the participating nations to coordinate a defence against a series of targeted cyber incidents involving a NATO mission network”.

NETmundial Initiative: Answers to Common Questions. NETmundial Initiative. November 19, 2014.

  • The NETmundial Initiative Secretariat has released a blog post of questions and answers that “address the key themes that have emerged from the various community dialogues since the Initiative’s official launch on 6 November 2014.” The post clarifies the formation of the Coordination Council and points out that the Initiative is not a centralized organization; does not seek to replace other initiatives and projects; has no decision-making powers; will not hold physical meetings; and has no restrictions to participation.

Pokemner, Dinah. Dispatches: US Needs To Recognize Privacy Rights – For Everyone. Human Rights Watch. November 13, 2014.

  • Pokemner argues the U.S. should make a greater effort to respect the privacy rights of people living outside of its borders. Pokemner compares the US positioning on privacy to torture, where the American government only recently acknowledged that in places where it exercises “governmental authority” the U.S. is “bound by international law not to ill-treat or torture detainees.” Pokemner concludes that if the U.S. can admit it “has some duties with regard to a few foreigners it physically captures abroad”, then this could lead to a greater admission that there is a duty to respect the privacy rights of millions of foreigners who communicate digitally.

Post, David. Law enforcement on the Internet – the role of the domain name registrars. The Washington Post. November 16, 2014.

  • Post expresses his concern after a German appeals court recently upheld a copyright infringement ruling against Key Systems, a domain name registrar. The ruling involves a case where Key Systems issued a domain name to an illegal “torrent-tracking” site called H33T. According to Post, this “secondary liability” ruling is the first copyright case in Germany where the intermediary held liable is “not the operator of the site, but the entity that issues the domain to the operator of the site.” According to Post, this is concerning for all Internet users, because it would make domain name registrars agents of law enforcement. Post is particularly concerned that this kind of ruling could be extended to ICANN, giving ICANN the power to police registrants and “take action against those they deem to be wrongdoers.”

Radunovic, Vladimir. Internet Governance in October 2014: The dance of the Titans. DiploFoundation. November 15, 2014.

  • Radunovic highlights two major meetings on Internet governance that occurred in October, namely the ICANN51 meeting in Los Angeles and the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, South Korea. At ICANN51, the IANA transition was the main point of discussion, with conversations set to continue at the ICANN52 meeting that will take place in Singapore in February 2015. At the ITU Plenipotentiary, Houlin Zhao of China was elected as Secretary General and several resolutions passed related to the Internet.  Radunovic also mentions other major Internet governance developments that occurred in October, including the re-launch of the NETmundial Initiative and the Hungarian government’s attempt to introduce Internet taxation. In November, the IETF91 meeting was held in Hawaii, and this week marked the beginning of the Geneva Internet Conference. The results of this event will be reflected at the next Geneva Briefing on Internet governance on December 2.

Reed, David. Does the Internet Need “Governance”?. CircleID. November 13, 2014.

  • According to Reed, the Internet does not need governance because “the Internet is not an application or ‘service’”; it is not a “‘vertically integrated’ concept, that starts with applications, and is supported by a variety of gear that the ‘service providers’ pay for, and resell to users in the form of services”. Reed observes that the Internet is a “network of networks”, and the way that packet switching works (i.e., unifying many other communications media) means that “this design avoids the need for any governance whatsoever” as there is nothing to “govern”. Without the burden of regulation, the Internet grew beyond international and corporate boundaries, incorporating new and more advanced technologies along the way. Reed concludes that instead of a new system of governance, the Internet “needs a little help from the Law”, particularly when running across monopoly platforms.

Timm, Leo. Obama’s Comments on Open Internet Meet Heavy Censorship in China. Epoch Times. November 13, 2014.

  • At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing on November 11, Barack Obama made a statement calling for an open Internet, saying “steady, sustainable growth requires promoting policies and practices that keep the Internet open and accessible.” The Propaganda Department of Chinese Communist Party immediately censored the statement, forbidding Chinese websites from posting or publishing it.

Williams, Oscar. Sir Tim Berners-Lee: we need more MPs who know how to code. The Guardian. November 17, 2014.

  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee –inventor of the World Wide Web- said this week that “more politicians need to be able to code if they are to legislate effectively on technology” and that “you need to be able to understand what people can do with a computer to make laws about it.” Berners-Lee also emphasized the importance of teaching computer programming skills in early education.

Papers and Reports

Saldías, Osvaldo. Coded for Export! The Contextual Dimension of the Brazilian Marco Civil Da Internet. Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society. November 17, 2014.

  • Saldias argues that “Marco Civil da Internet has an implicit global ambition in that it was conceived as a possible template for global regulation. Despite this unifying aspiration, there has been no reflexion so far on how Marco Civil would impact upon foreign legal systems. Moreover, there has been no debate about the regional implications of Marco Civil da Internet.” This article “claims that any regulatory unifying project should seriously consider the relevance of contextual elements; a point blatantly neglected in the debate on Marco Civil da Internet. This work attempts to tackle the problem, offering a first outline of the transnational and regional context that will most probably determine the diffusion of Marco Civil da Internet. Using analytical toolkits offered by comparative legal studies and the diffusion of ideas, it sketches the current regional legal patchwork, of which Marco Civil is part. In doing so, it uncovers upcoming challenges and frictions; solving such tensions, the article suggests, is an inherent task of democratic institutions.”


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

Preserving a Global Internet. Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. November 24, 2014

  • On Monday, November 24, President and CEO of ICANN, Fadi Chehadé will discuss challenges facing the global Internet at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). The event will be moderated by the Dean of SIPA, Merit Janow, and it will be followed by a discussion with Gordon Goldstein, Managing Director and Head of External Affairs at SilverLake, and Andrew McLaughlin, Senior Fellow in Cyber-security at the School of International and Public Affairs.



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