Some takeaways from the Internet & Jurisdiction Conference, held in Paris, France, from 14 to 16 November 2016
The transborder nature of the Internet has posed considerable challenges to the territorially based concept of national jurisdictions. There is a mismatch between the global Internet infrastructure, which naturally cuts across borders, and the plurality of legal approaches that countries adopt with regard to issues such as content removal and access to personal data. Conflicts of jurisdiction could contribute to the fragmentation of the Internet, as recognised by the report commissioned by the World Economic Forum. In 2014, participants of the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (NETmundial), urged the prioritisation of jurisdiction as a key topic for discussion in years to come.
In this context, the international conference organised by Internet & Jurisdiction (I&J), the global multistakeholder policy network addressing the tension between the cross-border Internet and national jurisdictions, was timely. Discussions clustered around three parallel workstreams: data, content, and domain names. The first examined cross-border requests for access to personal data. How to harmonise them with data protection was discussed, as well as the criteria that could possibly be used to fix jurisdiction, such as nationality or residency of the user, for example. The second workstream discussed procedures to enable authorised public authorities to request the removal of illegal content hosted in foreign countries. The third focused on cross-border requests for domain name suspension, which usually aim to make a website unavailable, based on the alleged illegality of its content or activities. A background paper produced by I&J as an input to the conference proposed questions to be discussed in each of the workstreams.