The GovLab SCAN – Issue 68

This is our 68th edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at SCAN@thegovlab.org.

Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.

Highlights:

  • The annual RightsCon conference was held on March 24th-25th in Manila in the Philippines, and brought together people from over 50 countries who were “committed to extending the digital rights of users around the world, and fighting for the open internet.”
  • The Indian Supreme Court struck down a law that criminalized several forms of online expression in a “defining moment for freedom of expression for the country.”

ICANN and IANA

Naimark, Marc. Will ICANN’s Dotgay Do-Over Be Done Well? Slate. March 23, 2015.

  • Naimark reviews the recent history of the .gay domain space. Several months ago, dotgay LLC applied for to manage the .gay top level domain. The approval process was overseen by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), which  carried out a community priority evaluation for .gay and “determined that dotgay LLC did not earn enough points on the CPE scorecard”- meaning it did not earn community status over its commercial competitors.  After public outcry, ICANN instructed the EIU to conduct another evaluation. According to the author, this ongoing process highlights the problem of a “one-size fits-all” concept of community when applied to the top level domain name system.

.VOTE Solves Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz’s Domain Name Problem. CircleID. March 24, 2015.

  • In this sponsored post by Afilias, the author points out that new top level domains could solve Ted Cruz’s domain name problems. Last week, after his announcement to run for President, Internet users found a number of websites (e.g., TedCruzForAmerica.com, TedCruz.com, etc.) were connected to negative or unrelated content. The new .VOTE and .VOTO generic top level domains from Monolith Registry are dedicated to offering protection in the political space. This top level domain has restrictions to ban deceptive names, requires an obvious connection between the domain name and the registrant’s activities in the democratic process, and prohibits anonymous registrants.

Internet Governance

Brock, Joe. Battle for African Internet users stirs freedom fears. Reuters. March 24, 2015.

  • Africa’s internet penetration is growing rapidly, and Facebook and Google both aim to offer  free “zero-rated” access to their sites and services in these markets. While these companies state that this plan aims to bridge the digital divide and connect populations without internet access, critics argue that “big service providers and Internet companies are luring African users into using their services, giving them opportunities for greater advertising revenue.” Critics fear that such plans may stunt innovation and and limit opportunities for African entrepreneurs, while locking people into “corporate digital prison.”

Denmeade, Amy. Australia on verge of passing new data retention bill. Access Now. March 22, 2015.

  • On March 19, the Australian House of Representatives passed a new data retention bill that “requires companies providing telecommunications services in Australia to keep a prescribed set of telecommunications data for two years.” According to the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, “the bill is intended to introduce common industry standards for data retention practices” and to “prevent the further degradation of the investigative capabilities of Australia’s law enforcement and national security agencies.”

Gibbs, Samuel. Leave Facebook if you don’t want to be spied on, warns EU. The Guardian. March 26, 2015.

  • This week the European Commission warned that EU citizens should “close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services.” These comments were in response to the finding that EU Safe Harbour framework possibly does not protect Europeans citizen’s data outside of the US. Recently, Poland and a few other member states joined in arguing that “the Safe Harbour framework cannot ensure the protection of EU citizens’ data and therefore is in violation of the two articles of the Data Protection Directive.”

Hattem, Julian. Tennessee sues feds for blocking Web law. The Hill. March 23, 2015.

  • The state of Tennessee sued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “over its attempt to block a state law limiting the growth of government-run Internet providers.” The state’s action is a response to a ruling made last month by the FCC “to nullify laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevented Internet services run by local municipalities from expanding beyond their borders.” According to Tennessee officials, the FCC’s  ruling exceeds its authority and violates states rights.

India: Historic Supreme Court ruling upholds online freedom of expression. Amnesty International. March 24, 2015.

  • According to Amnesty International India, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down “a vague and overly broad law on online expression is a defining moment for freedom of expression in the country.” This week, India’s Supreme Court ruled that Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act was “unconstitutionally vague” and “arbitrarily, excessively, and disproportionately” invasive of the right to free speech. Section 66-A “criminalized several forms of online expression, including sending information that was ‘grossly offensive’ or persistently cause ‘annoyance, inconvenience, obstruction, insult, injury, enmity, hatred or ill-will’.

Ruiz, Rebecca. F.T.C. Addresses Its Choice Not to Sue Google. The New York Times. March 25, 2015.

  • Three commissioners at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a joint statement on the decision to not sue Google for anticompetitive practices during its antitrust investigation of the company. This statement comes after an internal FTC document came to light earlier this month, indicating that some central staff had wanted to sue Google for anticompetitive practices. According to the statement, “All five Commissioners (three Democrats and two Republicans) agreed that there was no legal basis for action with respect to the main focus of the investigation — search.” The statement goes on to state that staff attorneys “raised concerns about several other Google practices. In response, the Commission obtained commitments from Google regarding certain of those practices. Over the last two years, Google has abided by those commitments.”

Weissman, Cale Guthrie. Here’s Microsoft, Google, and Apple’s letter to lawmakers demanding NSA reform. Business Insider. March 25, 2015.

  • This week, several major US tech companies and privacy organizations joined under the umbrella organization the “Reform Government Surveillance” coalition to publish “an open letter to President Obama, the director of the NSA, and other important lawmakers demanding major changes in how the country conducts its domestic surveillance program.” The letter concerned Section 215 of the Patriot Act, “an oft-contested provision that gave the government a seemingly unfettered ability to spy and collect data on citizens without needing to show probable cause.” The portion of the Bill will expire on June 1, and requests that lawmakers consider “a clear strong and effective end to build collection practices” as well as better transparency.

Events

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


RightsCon. Access. March 24-25, 2015.

  • Access’s annual conference was held in Manila this year and brought together people from over 50 countries who were “committed to extending the digital rights of users around the world, and fighting for the open internet.” You can read the live blogging sessions and view the recorded sessions here.

 

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