The GovLab SCAN – Issue 61

Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.

As part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project, this is our 61st 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:

  • In preparation for ICANN 52 which will be held in Singapore from February 08-12, information has been released on the agenda and sessions, including the schedule for the Global Domains Division (GDD) Sessions; also see notes from the pre-ICANN 52 Policy Update Webinar.
  • Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission,  put forth his stance on net neutrality, proposing that the FCC ““use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections.”


Gross, Robin. A Proposal for Creation of “Community Veto” Process on ICANN Board’s Key Decisions. CircleID. February 3, 2015.

  • ICANN’s Cross Community Work Group on Accountability (CCWG-ACCT) released a proposal to “create a community veto process over certain key decisions of ICANN’s board of directors.” According to Gross, the proposed bylaw amendments “could provide significant teeth to the presently unempowered ICANN community to oversee key decisions of the organization’s board of directors.” The proposal was prepared in advance of the ICANN#52 meeting in Singapore next week.

Kirsch, Tony. .cancerresearch – Can a New TLD Beat a Global Disease? CircleID. February 3, 2015.

  • Kirsch describes the new Top Level Domain (TLD) .cancerresearch and its potential in the worldwide fight against cancer. According to Kirsch, .cancerresearch is the first TLD “to be launched with a network of websites that provide reliable and trusted information to the global community.” He describes the process of developing this TLD, which began in 2011 as a working partnership between ARI Registry Services and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. The author concludes that while there have been significant inroads since 2013, the TLD industry needs a better marketing approach, and major players like Google have a “responsibility to help the program by taking a lead on this.”

Internet Governance

Abelson, Reed and Matthew Goldstein. Anthem Hacking Points to Security Vulnerability of Health Care Industry. New York Times. February 5, 2015.

  • This article highlights the recent cyberattack on Anthem, one of the United States’ biggest healthcare providers. According to security specialists, the American healthcare industry is behind other sectors in “protecting sensitive personal information.” It appears that Anthem did not take necessary precautions, like protecting personal data through encryption. It is unclear who was behind the attack, but some suspect that the hackers worked with backing from a foreign government.

Berners-Lee, Tim. Net Neutrality is Critical for Europe’s Future. European Commission. February 2, 2015.

  • In this guest blog post for the European Commission, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, argues that “a key element of the openness that underpins the Web and the broader Internet is under threat.” In an overview of net neutrality, Berners-Lee raises the issue that companies and governments are increasing their arguments against net neutrality, and the 2014 Web Index by the Web Foundation shows that in a study “across 86 countries, 74% lack clear and effective net neutrality rules and/or show evidence of price discrimination.” Berners-Lee concludes with a call for the European Union to pass binding net neutrality rules that could raise the bar for all EU countries to “harvest the full potential of the open Internet as a driver for economic growth and social progress.”

Borrud, Gabriel. German spy agency saves millions of phone records, says report. Deutsche Welle. January 30, 2015.

  • The German Weekly “Die Zeit”  revealed this week that “the German Intelligence Agency (BND) currently collects around 220 million pieces of metadata per day, far more than was currently thought.” Journalist Kai Biermann also revealed that “German spies provided ‘at least part’ of the data they acquired to the NSA.” This revelation sparked an international outcry from data privacy advocacy groups.

Dredge, Stuart. Tech pioneer Phil Zimmerman calls Cameron’s anti-encryption plans ‘absurd’. The Guardian. February 2, 2015.

  • This week, PGP founder Phil Zimmerman criticized David Cameron’s proposals to “limit the use of end-to-end encryption technology in the UK.” According to Zimmerman,  “It’s absurd. We fought the crypto wars in the 1990s, and that matter has been settled. End-to-end encryption is everywhere now: in browsers, online banking. If you have strong encryption between your web browser and your bank, you can’t have a man-in-the-middle from the government wiretapping that.”

GCHQ censured over sharing of Internet surveillance with US. BBC. February 6, 2015.

  • In the UK, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled for the first time against the GCHQ, Britain’s intelligence agency, claiming that the agency failed “to make clear enough details of how it shared data from mass internet surveillance” prior to December 2014. According to the tribunal, GCHQ did “contravene human rights law – until extra information was made public in December.” The Tribunal says that as of today, the agency is compliant.

Google leans towards EU-only ‘right to be forgotten’. Euractiv. February 4, 2015.

  • Following the “right to be forgotten” ruling handed down by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year, Google is at odds with the European Union’s data protection watchdogs about whether the ruling applies exclusively to European websites. Officials at Google argue that removing links from European sites, such as in Germany, fits with the ruling handed down last May. However, EU regulators disagree and believe that “users can easily circumvent the judgement by switching to” Following a series of public hearings across Europe, Google is expected to release a non-binding report in the next few days about how to implement the EU’s ruling.

Koebler, Jason. The FCC Says Your City Can Build a Public Internet, Even If Your State Says No. Motherboard. February 2, 2015.

  • Koebler highlights Chairman Wheeler’s decision to allow the cities of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina to ignore state bans against community-owned broadband networks. Wheeler’s decision stems from federal preemption power granted in Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the FCC will vote on his decision next month. According to Koebler, this decision is precedent-setting for Tennessee and North Carolina, but the extensive legal process could be burdensome for other small towns looking to apply for the preemption.

Lau, Mimi and Laura Zhou. China’s cyber regulator says all mainland internet users must register real personal details. South Morning Post China. February 4, 2015.

  • The Chinese government passed a new regulation that will require the country’s 649 million Internet users to register their identity details with website administrators for all online accounts, including blogs, instant messaging platforms, and forums. The regulation also mandates that “user names must not contain information that breaches the nation’s laws and constitution, threatens national security, leaks state secrets, damages the public interest and religious policies or incites ethnic disputes.” It is unclear how the policy will be implemented, and activists have voiced concern that this will lead to more self-censorship.

Meyer, David. Canada cracks down on zero-rating in two net neutrality rulings. Gigaom. January 29, 2015.

  • Meyer covers the Canadian government’s recent ruling that “zero-rating” is “a threat to the ‘open Internet.’ ” Last week, “the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued a decision against carriers Bell Mobility and Vidéotron, which were exempting their own Bell Mobile TV and mobile TV services from their regular data plans (for a small monthly fee of around $5) while counting traffic for rival services against those data caps.” In this move, Canada joins the Netherlands, Slovenia, Chile and Norway as countries who have recently made regulatory moves against zero-rating.

Wheeler, Tom. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: This Is How We Will Ensure Net Neutrality. Wired. February 4, 2015.

  • In this piece for Wired, Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) outlines the proposed Open Internet rules that he will circulate to the FCC this week. In a departure from his original views, Wheeler proposes that the FCC “use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections.” According to Wheeler, these are the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC, and will include “bright line” rules to ban paid prioritization, content blocking, and expand protections to mobile broadband. Wheeler also promises to “modernize Title II, tailoring it for the 21st century, in order to provide returns necessary to construct competitive networks.”

Zhao, Houlin. 150 Years of Innovating Together. ITU Blog. February 2, 2015.

  • 2015 marks the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) 150th anniversary, and in this blog post Secretary General Houlin Zhao outlines the commemorative events for the year. These include “activities marking the anniversary include exhibitions, publications and special commemorative stamps, which will not only help engage members but highlight the global impact of ITU’s work.” Zhou outlines a calendar of events, including the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) which marks the climax of the 150th year celebration.

Papers and Reports

Holcomb, Jesse, Mitchell, Amy, and Purcell, Kristen. Investigative Journalists and Digital Security: Perceptions of Vulnerability and Changes in Behavior. Pew Research Center. February 05, 2015.

  • This report “aims at understanding the attitudes of investigative journalists toward digital security, electronic surveillance and hacking.” Key findings include that “about two-thirds of investigative journalists surveyed (64%) believe that the U.S. government has probably collected data about their phone calls, emails or online communications, and eight-in-ten believe that being a journalist increases the likelihood that their data will be collected.”

Nisbet, Erik, et al. Benchmarking Public Demand: Russia’s Appetite for Internet Control. Ohio State University, the Center for Global Communication Studies, and the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. February 2015.

  • This report on Russian public demand for Internet freedom “seeks to uncover attitudes and opinions about internet regulation, censorship of online content, and the potential for citizen mobilization and protest.” Key findings include that “almost half (49%) of all Russians believe that information on the Internet needs to be censored” and “a plurality (42%) of Russians believe foreign countries are using the Internet against Russia and its interests. About one-quarter of Russians think the Internet threatens political stability (24%).”

Noman, Helmi. Arab Religious Skeptics Online: Anonymity, Autonomy, and Discourse in a Hostile Environment. Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2015-2. February 04, 2015.

  • This report “analyzes the content, discourse, and structure of three prominent Arab atheist web forums and examines the relationship between the networked information economy and the emergence of religious skeptics in Arab cyberspace.” One of several key observations is that “anonymity works as a tactical advantage for the Arab atheist community, helping members conceal their identities from exposure to religious, political, and social retaliation. Should the online atheist community become less anonymous in the future, this would likely signal more space and acceptance offline.”


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

ICANN 52. Singapore. February 8-12, 2015.

  • ICANN’s 52nd Public Meeting will be held in Singapore on February 8-12, 2015. There will be several ways to participate remotely as well as in person. See the Global Domains Divisions (GDD) Sessions schedule here.

[Webinar] Pre-ICANN 52 Policy Update Webinar. ICANN.

  • Read the transcripts and view slides from the recent pre-ICANN 52 webinar which details “information provided by ICANN’s Policy Development Support Staff pertaining to the Pre-ICANN 52 Policy Update Webinar in preparation for the ICANN Public Meeting in Singapore, including: links, background documentation, further details on specific sessions taking place in Singapore and relevant information for ICANN Community members.”


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