The GovLab SCAN – Issue 59

Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our 59th 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:

  • UNESCO launched a new series of publications on Internet freedom. “Fostering Freedom Online: the Role of Internet Intermediaries” is the first issue in this series, in a joint initiative with the Open Society Foundations, the Internet Society, and the Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. The study examines “this recent historical phenomenon and how it impacts on freedom of expression and associated fundamental rights such as privacy.”
  • U.S. President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech, in which he laid out his plan to increase access to high-speed broadband. The President’s address also reiterated his commitment to a free and open Internet, and announced new proposals to “better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”


Cooper, Alissa. IANA Transition Planning Proceeding in Fine Internet Style. Circle ID. January 20, 2014.

  • In this article, Cooper discusses the great progress made by three “operational communities” in developing plans for the IANA transition in September 2015. After highlighting the groups’ specific achieved milestones and upcoming deadlines, Cooper concludes that the process is working just as it should in a “bottom-up, multistakeholder process of decision-making that has characterized the Internet’s development.”

MacCarthy, Mark. Keeping the Internet free means letting go of ICANN. Infoworld. January 15, 2015.

  • In this piece, MacCarthy argues that the Department of Commerce must move forward with the ICANN transition. Currently, the transition depends on the establishment of a new governance plan by various ICANN working groups that will “increase ICANN accountability without government control” with a deadline of September 2015. While the Commerce Department has the ability to renew the contract with ICANN, delaying the transfer, the author argues that the US will lose momentum in its fight for a truly open Internet and face increased diplomatic pressure to adopt intergovernmental control.

McCarthy, Kieren. Confusion, fear, and growing pains: ICANN bigwig spells out GTLD headaches. The Register. January 13, 2015.

  • This article highlights the recent reactions of the President of the ICANN’s global domains division to the slow growth in sales of gTLDs. Attalah claims this is occurring due to  “big brands watching and waiting for others to enter the domain market – for example, there’s little point in snapping up if few others buy into the gTLD.”

Internet Governance

Arce, Nicole. State of the Union Address: Obama Pushes for Broadband Internet Access, Defends Net Neutrality. Tech Times. January 21, 2014.

  • This week, President Obama’s State of the Union address placed a big emphasis on access to high-speed broadband Internet. The President called for an expanded American broadband Internet, and referred to a plan unveiled by the White House last week on YouTube which encouraged “municipalities to build their own broadband networks through a series of grants and incentives.” These remarks build on President Obama’s statements last week, when he “called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use its power to override state laws that limit the construction of municipality-built broadband networks.”

Badii, Farzaneh. Europe in Two Internet Related Battlefields. Internet Governance Project. January 21, 2015.

  • In this post, Badii considers the threat of “Europeanization” of the Internet, and highlights two specific battles he calls “the Battle of European Digital Champions and the Battle of European Internet Governance.” In the former,the author mentions how the EU has aspired to create “European Champions” aka digital companies who can compete with major US companies like Amazon and Google. In reality, the author makes the case that European regulation has thwarted innovation and put a huge burden on small and medium sized businesses. In the second battle, Badii highlights European attempts to take more control of Internet  governance with outdated proposals that could “fragment Internet services along regional lines.” In the end, plans for European networks will “guillotine the current Internet and make a European one.”

Bellovin, Steven. Software Insecurity: The Problem with the White House Cybersecurity Proposals. Circle ID. January 15, 2014.

  • In this piece, Bellovin argues that the White House’s new cybersecurity proposal is a missed opportunity that will “expend political capital to no real effect.” Bellovin states that the amendments to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) increasing penalties for attackers won’t be effective because most attackers are never caught.  After suggesting a range of changes to liability law, like tax breaks for certain kinds of software development practices, Bellovin concludes that deterrence doesn’t work, and “the goal should be prevention of attacks, not punishment after the bad guys have succeeded.”

China shuts 50 websites and social media accounts. Reuters. January 13, 2014.

  • 50 websites and social media accounts have been shut down by authorities in China due to reasons ranging from pornography to “publishing political news without a permit.” The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) will regularly publish a blacklist of violators. According to XinHua, ¨the cyberspace watchdog had closed nearly 1.8 million accounts on social networking and instant messaging services since launching an anti-pornography campaign earlier in the year.¨

Gelles, David. Executives in Davos Express Worries Over More Disruptive Cyberattacks. The New York Times. January 22, 2015.

  • Executives at the World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos were “broadly pessimistic” that the coming year would be even worse than 2014 in terms of cyber attacks on businesses. Attendees discussed the attacks on Walmart and Target, as well as the recent Sony hack that “was particularly alarming not because it was aimed at stealing data for a profit, but because it was apparently intended to humiliate and debilitate an entire company.” Many companies are ramping up their security efforts in an effort to protect themselves: for example, Infosys is being more vigilant, Imax has established a series of internal firewalls, and Cisco is aiming to become the leader in digital security by creating security products for public clouds, private clouds, wide area networks and devices.

Gorodyansky, David. Privacy and Security in the Internet Age. Wired. January 20, 2014.

  • In this article, Gorodyansky outlines two key events between 2015 and 2020 that will have critical consequences in terms of privacy and security online. First, as the next 5 billion come online, including ¨those in developing countries who regularly fight for Internet freedom and access, a breach in privacy or censorship to access critical information could be life-threatening.¨ Second, the advent of the Internet of Things will require greater emphasis on security and privacy protection, and efforts to make these solutions more accessible for the average user by including privacy at product inception through development.

Hirschler, Ben. Davos bosses fret over threats to Internet free trade. Reuters. January 23, 2014.

  • At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, representatives from governments, technical groups, and industry convened in a closed door meeting to discuss governance. Industry executives “appear to agree that informal moves are not up to that task of keeping the Internet open, but that neither is a U.N.-style top-down approach.” The topic is receiving much attention at Davos, which is serving as “a platform for debate over ways to maintain an open, cross-border Web in the face of pressures for national regulation.”

Internet Society Approach to Cyber Security Policy. Internet Society. January 22, 2015.

  • In this article, the Internet Society outlines its concern regarding the danger of legitimate policy responses to go too far in addressing security challenges” and government overextending its powers in ways that are not effective and undermine privacy. The Internet Society emphasizes the need to balance security with privacy, and points to several strides in the technical community to secure core aspects of the Internet as well as protect individual Internet users through encryption technologies. The article also lists the key considerations that the Internet Society has taken into account in developing its approach to cyber security policy initiatives, including the “essential need to ensure international cooperation and cross-border collaboration.”

Murphy, Helen and Acosta, Luis Jaime. Facebook’s Zuckerberg brings free Internet to Colombia, mute on China. Reuters. January 15, 2014.

  • Facebook has launched a free Internet application in Colombia in partnership with local mobile phone provider Tigo. Colombia is the fourth country in the world to receive the new service as part of an initiative to bring populations in developing countries online and is primarily aimed and low income and rural users. Facebook “has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new app is the first that has added services beyond its own website.”

Parker, Clifton B. Greater regulation not necessary for Internet, Stanford public policy expert says. Stanford News. January 21, 2015.

  • According to a new policy brief by Bruce M. Owen, the Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor in Public Policy, Emeritus at Stanford University, too much Internet regulation ¨may repeat a policy error that causes harm to consumers and fails to promote innovation and competition.¨According to Owen, ¨imperfect regulation may easily be worse than imperfect competition,¨ and that similar regulation in other industries has not worked and ïnstead, ¨has caused the consumer more harm than good.¨ Owen argues that common carrier regulation, such as Title II regulation, ¨stifles competition and innovation.¨

Peterson, Andrea and Brian Fung. Your guide to Obama’s tech policy State of the Union. The Washington Post. January 21, 2015.

  • On Tuesday night, President Obama included several tech-specific proposals in his State of the Union address. He reiterated his commitment to protecting a free and open Internet, and announced new proposals to “better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.” The President also took aim at tax loopholes that allow major tech companies like Apple to “pay lower taxes by keeping their money abroad.”

Roberts, Jeff John. GOP calls for open internet, but more in symbol than substance. GigaOm. January 19, 2014.

  • A new bill has been introduced by Republicans that, according to a press release on Friday, promises “open and unfettered access to the Internet.” While the bill states that Internet service providers “may not throttle lawful traffic by selectively slowing, speeding, degrading, or enhancing Internet traffic,” it gives them ¨broad latitude to offer ‘specialized services,’ a term that, as Public Knowledge notes, could quickly come to stand for “fast lanes” by another name.¨ The bill also removes some of the key oversight powers held by the Federal Communication Commission, which will vote on new rules for the Internet on February 26. Roberts states that the bill is likely to be a symbolic gesture as President Obama would be almost certain to veto it were it to pass.

Solaker, Gulson and Jonny Hogg. Turkey proposes tighter internet law, pursues Twitter critic. Reuters. January 22, 2015.

  • Turkey proposed new legislation that would allow ministers to temporarily ban websites that are “deemed to threaten lives, public order or people’s rights and freedoms by committing a crime.” In compliance with a court order, Twitter began blocking tweets from “Fuat Avni”, an account that recently shared information on government corruption.

Trujillo, Mario. Booker unveils municipal broadband bill after SOTU. The Hill. January 21, 2015.

  • Senator Cory Booker announced that he will introduce new legislation that would “block any state statute regulation, or other legal requirement that restricts cities from providing their own Internet network.” Booker’s plans for the Community Broadband Act fit into his recent push to focus on technology issues. His interest in this area is based on two principles, “One is making government an active role-player in fostering environments where innovation can thrive, and the other one is for government to keep up with the pace of innovation and not slow it down.”

Papers and Reports

Carr, Madeline. Power Plays in Global Internet Governance. Journal of International Studies. January, 2015.

  • The multi-stakeholder approach to global Internet governance ¨is not only regarded by many as the best way to organise around this particular issue, it is also held up as a potential template for the management of other ‘post-state’ issues¨ and has received ¨little critical attention.¨ In this paper, Carr ¨examines the issues of legitimacy and accountability with regard to the ‘rule-makers’ and ‘rule-takers’ in this model and finds that it can also function as a mechanism for the reinforcement of existing power dynamics.¨ Carr argues that ¨contrary to one of the key claims about it, multi-stakeholder Internet governance serves largely to reinforce existing power relations rather than disrupt them.¨ Carr concludes that ¨greater respect for diverse voices and approaches to Internet governance will be essential¨ in order to disperse power to a range of actors,¨ a much broader cross-section of private sector actors needs to be empowered in the process and, perhaps most crucially, a role for civil society that is representative and can make a meaningful contribution needs to be developed.¨

MacKinnon, Rebecca, Hickok, Elonnai, Bar, Allon, Lim, Hae-in. Fostering Freedom Online: the Role of Internet Intermediaries. UNESCO. January, 2015.

  • This case study was conducted by 16 international researchers and 14 members of International Advisory Committee, as a joint initiative between UNESCO, the Open Society Foundations, the Internet Society, and Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. According to the research, “internet intermediaries are heavily influenced by the legal and policy environments of states, but they do have leeway over many areas of policy and practice affecting online expression and privacy. The findings also highlighted the challenge where many state policies, laws, and regulations are – to varying degrees – poorly aligned with the duty to promote and protect intermediaries’ respect for freedom of expression. It is a resource which enables the assessment of Internet intermediaries’ decisions on freedom of expression, by ensuring that any limitations are consistent with international standards. The research also recommends specific ways that intermediaries and states can improve respect for internet users’ right to freedom of expression,” including promoting transparency of governance and accountability in self-regulation.


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


State of the Net. Internet Education Foundation. January 27, 2015.

  • The State of the Net conference offers opportunities ¨to network and engage on key policy issues. It is also the only Internet policy conference with over 50 percent of Congressional staff and government policymakers in attendance.¨

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

  • The DiploFoundation’s first webinar of the year will sum up the main developments of 2014 and discuss predictions for 2015. It will be held at 12:00 UTC (13:00 CET). Attendance is free; registration is required.

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