The GovLab SCAN – Issue 55

Samantha Grassle and Shruti Sannon also contributed to this post.

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our 55th 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:

  • Last week, the United States House of Representatives approved the “2015 Consolidated Appropriations Package”, funding the U.S. government through 2015. Section 520 of the $1.1 trillion spending bill specifically prohibits the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from spending any funds on the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Functions stewardship transition.
  • The Pew Research Center has released its latest report, “The Future of Privacy.”
  • According to the United States government, Sony Pictures’ computers were hacked this week by North Korea, apparently in response to the release of “The Interview”, a Hollywood movie that depicts the assassination of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.


ICANN Targeted in Spear Phishing Attack | Enhanced Security Measures Implemented. December 16, 2014.

  • ICANN believes a “spear phishing” attack involving “email messages that were crafted to appear to come from [ICANN’s] own domain being sent to members of [ICANN’s] staff” was initiated in late November 2014. Aside from ICANN’s email systems, compromised credentials were also used to access the Centralized Zone Data System and the ICANN GAC [Governmental Advisory Committee] wiki.

Internet Governance

Bleiberg, Joshua, and West, Darrell M. The Future of Cyber Policy in China. The Brookings Institution. December 17, 2014.

  • According to the authors, “if China is to transform itself into an ICT powerhouse, the nation must institute large policy changes.” This article is written based upon an event marking the publication of Cyber Policy in China by Greg Austin, and discusses “the state of ICT in China”, “creating a generation of innovators [in China]”, and includes “four takeaways about the future of Chinese cyber policy.”

Brandom, Russell. Sony leaks reveal Hollywood is trying to break DNS, the backbone of the internet. The Verge. December 16, 2014.

  • Recently leaked documents reveal that the MPAA’s lawyers considered targeting the Domain Name System (DNS) as an anti-piracy measure, which would give the organization the ability to block sites from delivering content to the US. According to Brandom, this “represents a bold challenge to the basic engineering of the internet, threatening to break the very backbone of the web and drawing the industry into an increasingly nasty fight with Google.”  The strategy outlined in the leaked memo includes a takedown notice program that has never been tried before. The author worries that this approach would be “ripe for abuse” and that bad actors could apply this strategy to take down sites over bogus copyright claims. It could also do real damage to the DNS system as it currently functions, as new authentication measures like DNSSEC would be challenged under this plan.

Global Internet Policy Observatory. European Commission. December 18, 2014.

  • “In 2014, the European Commission launched a tender for the technical development of an online platform for the Global Internet Policy Observatory.” According to the European Commission, “the contract was signed on 17 December 2014. The winning entity is a consortium of three companies, P.A.U. Education, Fundacion CTIC and Open Evidence, which already carried out a feasibility study on the technological options and the possible ‘governance framework’ necessary for the deployment and management of the Global Internet Policy Observatory.” More details will be announced.

The Guardian view on the freedom of the Internet: it’s under attack around the world. The Guardian. December 11, 2014.

  • This editorial by the Guardian argues that Internet freedom around the world continues to be under constant attack, citing the recent Freedom House report which shows that governments are now using more sophisticated methods to ban or block access to information. The authors reference Russia, Turkey and Ukraine as examples of countries that have seen a dramatic deterioration in online freedom. Recently, many authoritarian regimes have used the Snowden revelations to introduce more online repression, serving as “an excuse for some governments to augment their own monitoring capabilities.” The authors conclude with a call to action, recognizing that “the struggle for freedom from repression online is in the end just a part of the wider struggle for freedom online.”

McCarthy, Kieren. Chinese responsible for 85 per cent of website scams. The Register. December 10, 2014.

  • According to a semi-annual report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), ”Chinese internet users are behind 85 per cent of fake websites.” According to the report “Apple headed the list [of targets] for the first time being used in 18 per cent of all attacks, beating out perennial favorite PayPal with just 14 per cent.” McCarthy points out that “the introduction of hundreds of new generic top-level domains has not led to a noticeable increase in phishing, according to the report.”

Mueller, Milton. U.S. Congress Man-In-The-Middle Attack on IANA Transition. Internet Governance Project. December 12, 2014.

  • In last week’s consolidated appropriations bill funding the U.S. government through fiscal year 2015, a rider was attached that “defunded any attempt by the NTIA [U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration] to set the domain name system free of government control until October 2015.” Mueller points out that “the action does not stop ongoing community efforts to develop a plan for the IANA transition. But it does prevent the NTIA from spending any time on completing the process.” Mueller further points out that, “if NTIA is to ensure that the transition meets its own criteria – such as not allowing intergovernmental control, having widespread support, upholding the ‘multistakeholder model’ and maintaining the openness, stability and security of the Internet, NTIA needs to review and approve the plan submitted to it by the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group.” Mueller concludes that “if indeed the NTIA is disabled, and this disabling includes an inability to renew ICANN’s contract, then the contract will expire and the Internet community will have to take charge of the process itself” and that, therefore, “the U.S. Congress may have just taken a more radical approach to the end of U.S. control.”

NTIA’s Role in Root Zone Management. U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration. December 16, 2014.

  • The U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) – an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce – has published “a slide presentation outlining NTIA’s role in the management of the Internet’s root zone file, which includes the authoritative listing of information related to all top-level domains (TLDs), and the root WHOIS database, a separate database that contains contact information associated with each TLD and other registry information.”

Sanger, David E., and Perlroth, Nicole. U.S. Said to Find North Korea Ordered Cyberattack on Sony. The New York Times. December 17, 2014.

  • “American officials have concluded that North Korea was ‘centrally involved’ in the hacking of Sony Pictures computers” this week. Sony Pictures’ computers were apparently hacked by North Korea in response to the release of a new movie, “The Interview”, “a movie that depicts the assassination of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un” – scheduled for a Christmas Day release that Sony has cancelled. The authors point out that “it is not clear how the United States determined that Mr. Kim’s government had played a central role in the Sony attacks.” The authors also point out that “what is remarkable in this case is that after three weeks of pressure, the attack forced one of Hollywood’s largest studios and Japan’s most famous companies to surrender.” The authors conclude that there is an “[open] question of what to do about the Sony attack” and that “Mr. Obama has been hesitant to use the country’s cyberarsenal for fear of retaliation.”

Scola, Nancy. How U.S. net neutrality could be an international human rights fight. The Washington Post. December 10, 2014.

  • Arthur G. Carrillo and Dawn Nunziato –human rights professors of the George Washington University Law School– argue that if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does anything less than ban all forms of paid prioritization, the U.S. would violate international human rights laws and trade agreements. In a filing made to the FCC, Carrillo and Nunziato cite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the recent resolution that extended freedom of expression rights to the digital world. This measure protects the ability to “receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Additionally, Carrillo and Nunziato argue that World Trade Organization agreements include the principle that all participating nations should have “‘non-discriminatory access’ to telecommunications networks in member countries.”

Singh, Rajnesh. Localising Internet Governance. Internet Society Blog. December 4, 2014.

  • Singh expresses recent observations from the Asia Internet Symposium (AIS) Chennai meeting hosted by the ISOC India Chennai Chapter. Singh says that it stood out to him how there are a select few “who either have a deep interest in, or have the resources (be it personally or professionally with their work) to partake in such fora.” Singh also remarks that although the majority of India’s population resides in rural areas with connectivity issues, individuals from urban areas are the ones mostly participating in Internet governance conversations. Singh concludes that “localising Internet governance will help us with better informed interventions at all levels, be they national, regional, or global.”

Tung, Liam. Microsoft files fresh appeal against handing over email in Irish datacentre. ZDNet. December 9, 2014.

  • This week, Microsoft filed an appeal challenging the US government’s warrant to turn over the contents of a customer’s email stored in Microsoft’s data center in Ireland. The warrant was issued by a New York Magistrate last year under the Stored Communications Act. Microsoft believes that US warrants should not extend beyond US borders, and their chief legal counsel Brad Smith says that Congress’s intent in passing the Stored Communications Act is “at the heart of this case.” Smith argues that typically, “courts presume that federal statutes do not apply extra territorially unless Congress expresses a clear intent for them to do so. And Congress expressed no such intention here.”

Vara, Vauhini. Spain Versus the Internet. The New Yorker. December 13, 2014.

  • Vauhini covers the Spanish government’s recent decision to require Spanish publishers to charge aggregation services like Google News to repost sections of their articles. Under this new law, publishers face a fine of around seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars if they do not comply. In response, Google News announced that it “would remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and would shut down the aggregator in Spain early next week.” The law is intended to protect revenues for publishers who aren’t compensated when individuals read articles, or portions of them, in aggregators. Electronic Frontier Foundation President Jeremy Malcolm worries that this law is following a troubling European trend of restricting expression online, and sets a dangerous precedent for those who want to prohibit other sort of linking (for example for political reasons).

Internet Technology

de Looper, Christian. Google Project Loon Teams with French Space Agency to Develop Next-Generation Internet Balloons. Tech Times. December 15, 2014.

  • “Google has partnered with the French space agency, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, or CNES, with a goal of reaching higher ground with its Project Loon initiative.” Project Loon is “a program by Google to bring free Internet to developing countries through low-flying weather balloons that project Wi-Fi signals.”

Papers and Reports

2014 Internet Monitor Annual Report: “Reflections on the Digital World”. Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University. December 16, 2014.

  • This report is “a collection of roughly three dozen short contributions that highlight and discuss some of the most compelling events and trends in the digitally networked environment over the past year”, covering “a broad range of issues and regions, including an examination of Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten,’ a review of the current state of mobile security, an exploration of a new wave of movements attempting to counter hate speech online, and a speculative fiction story exploring what our increasingly data-driven world might bring.” The report “focuses on the interplay between technological platforms and policy; growing tensions between protecting personal privacy and using big data for social good; the implications of digital communications tools for public discourse and collective action; and current debates around the future of Internet governance.” The report is accompanied by a “Year in Review” interactive timeline, highlighting “the year’s most fascinating Internet-related news stories, from censorship to Heartbleed to the Pirate Bay raid just last week.”

Dutton, William H., et al. Mobile Communication Today and Tomorrow. Quello Center, Michigan State University. December 4, 2014.

  • This report “identifies emerging patterns of mobile communication and the factors that are shaping its future, including its societal implications. This analysis is used to speculate on alternative scenarios for the future of mobile communication and key developments on which these futures depend. The analyses of trends, and the emerging scenarios they support, are based on a critical overview of existing literature, empirical data on mobile adoption and use, and interviews with experts in mobile and related technologies, communication, and information services. While this review is limited, both with respect to the data available and the range of interviews conducted, it suggests fruitful directions for further research on the future of one of the most important areas of innovation in our digital world.”

Rainee, Lee, and Anderson, Janna. The Future of Privacy. Pew Research Internet Project. December 18, 2014.

  • According to the report, “the terms of citizenship and social life are rapidly changing in the digital age. No issue highlights this any better than privacy, always a fluid and context-situated concept and more so now as the boundary between being private and being public is shifting.” This report “is a look into the future of privacy in light of the technological change, ever-growing monetization of digital encounters, and shifting relationship of citizens and their governments that is likely to extend through the next decade.” The report finds, amongst other things, that “privacy and security are foundational issues of the digital world”; “people are living in an unprecedented condition of ubiquitous surveillance”; “people require little more inducement than personal convenience to disclose their personal information”; and “renegotiation and compromise will be a constant in privacy-security policy space.”

SSAC Advisory on Maintaining the Security and Stability of the IANA Functions Through the Stewardship Transition. ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC). December 10, 2014.

  • This is “an Advisory to the ICANN Board, the ICANN community, and the Internet community more broadly from the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) on Maintaining the Security and Stability of the IANA [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority] Functions Through the Stewardship Transition, as those functions move from the administrative control of an agency of the U.S. Government to some other yet-to-be-determined form.”  In the Advisory, “the SSAC considers issues that may affect the security and stability of the DNS [Domain Name System] both during and after the transition of the NTIA’s stewardship role for the IANA Functions” and makes a set of recommendations.

The Web Index 2014-15. World Wide Web Foundation. December, 2014.

  • The World Wide Web Foundation has released the 2014-2015 Web Index, which measures “the World Wide Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress in countries across the world” and “provides an objective and robust evidence base to inform public dialogue on the steps needed for societies to leverage greater value from the Web.” According to the FAQ, “scores are given in the areas of universal access; freedom and openness; relevant content; and empowerment”, and “the 2014-15 Index has been expanded and refined to include a total of 86 countries and features an enhanced data set, particularly in the areas of gender, Open Data, privacy rights and censorship.” The Index ranks the 86 nations “across four pillars: Universal Access, Freedom and Openness, Empowerment and Relevant Content.” See the report here.


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

[Webinar] Internet governance in 2015: a decisive year. DiploFoundation. January 27, 2015.

  • The DiploFoundation is hosting an “annual ‘crystal ball’ exercise with Diplo director Dr Jovan Kurbalija” to reflect on the previous year (2014) of Internet governance and “make predictions.” According to the event description, “the NETmundial meeting and the IANA transition process dominated most of the 2014 developments, bringing Internet governance (IG) to a crossroads. 2015 will be a decisive year in which stakeholders will agree on post-2015 agendas. What can we expect in the coming months, and which issues are likely to be a priority?”


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