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Internet governance in November 2018

Published on 11 December 2018
Updated on 05 April 2024

An abundance of new cybersecurity declarations and resolutions, calls for ethical considerations in artificial intelligence (AI) systems development, and new rulings regarding the gig economy were among the main digital policy developments in November 2018.

These and many other developments, trends, and regional updates were covered during November’s just-in-time briefing on Internet governance – our monthly appointment on the last Tuesday of every month – which took place on 27 November 2018. They were also summarised in the Internet Governance Barometer for November, and in Issue 36 of the Geneva Digital Watch newsletter, published on 7 December 2018.

Mr Vladimir Radunović, director of cybersecurity and e-diplomacy programmes at DiploFoundation, highlighted some of the events held in November 2018, including the 13th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.

Next, Radunović enumerated main digital policy updates in November.

  • Internet governance in November 2018The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace was launched. 
  • The ‘Contract for the Web’ was proposed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published the ‘Bridging the Digital Gender Divide: Include, Upskill, Innovate’ report.
  • The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a new resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age.
  • Bitcoin Cash, the fourth largest cryptocurrency, was split into two new competing forks (versions).
  • Visa announced it will launch a blockchain-based digital identity system for cross-border payments in the first quarter of 2019.
  • Facebook and France have reached an agreement allowing the French government to appoint officials in Facebook offices.
  • The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved SpaceX’s plan to launch 7 518 Internet satellites to provide global Internet connectivity from space.

An overview of top trends in digital policy in November followed.

  1. New cybersecurity declarations and resolutions abound, Radunović explained.
  2. The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched by French President Emmanuel Macron at the beginning of the IGF outlines common principles of securing cyberspace.  It builds on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Tunis Agenda definition of the ‘respective roles’ of states and other stakeholders; supports the work of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) when it comes to the application of international law to cyberspace; and stresses the importance of the Budapest Convention as the key tool for combating cybercrime. It highlights the responsibility of the private sector for the security of products and calls for broader digital cooperation and capacity building. It invites signatories to prevent damaging the general availability or integrity of the public core of the Internet, foreign intervention in electoral processes, ICT-enabled theft of intellectual property for competitive advantage, and non-state actors from ‘hacking-back’.
  3. Two new resolutions on cybersecurity issues were adopted by the First Committee of the UNGA. The resolution proposed by Russia establishes an open-ended working group, to initially convene in June 2019, which will involve all interested states holding intersessional consultations with business, NGOs, and academia; and report to the UNGA in autumn 2020. The group is mandated to, on a consensus basis, further develop the 11 norms of the 2015 report of the UN GGE. The US resolution calls for the establishment of another GGE, mandated to further study norms, confidence and capacity building measures, taking into account effective implementation; and to report to the UNGA in autumn 2021. It also invites the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) to conduct consultations with regional organisations (namely the AU, EU, OAS, OSCE, and the ASEAN Regional Forum), and the UN GGE chair to organise two open-ended informal consultative meetings with all interested states.
  4. The Global Commission on Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) has come up with six new proposed norms for state and non-state behaviour, the so-called ‘Singapore package’. The norms focus on tampering with products, vulnerability disclosure and responsibility, botnets, cyber-hygiene, and conduct of offensive cyber operations by non-state actors.
  5. The European Commission adopted an updated version of the EU cyber defence policy framework, focusing on the development of cyber defence capabilities, protection of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), communication and information networks, training and exercises.
  6. ASEAN countries signed multiple statements on deepening co-operation in cybersecurity, and supporting the development and elaboration of existing norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace.
  7. Sir Tim Berners-Lee launched a call to sign the ‘Contract for the Web’, appealing to governments, companies, and ‘netizens’ to improve Internet accessibility, privacy, confidentiality of user data, and to keep the Internet free and safe by respecting ‘civil discourse and human dignity’.

2. Calls for ethical considerations in AI development were explained by Ms Sorina Teleanu, curator of AI for GIP Digital Watch observatory.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron stated ‘There can be no AI […] if reflection with an ethical dimension is not conducted’ during his speech at the 13th IGF. He noted his intention to create an intergovernmental initiative on AI which should co-operate with civil society, scientists, innovators, and international organisations. One of the issues the initiative should consider is the relation between AI and ethical principles and concepts.
  • Many IGF sessions reflected on the need for ethical principles to be considered in the design and use of AI. Discussions stressed that AI applications must be ‘pro-people’ in order to benefit the society, which is why ethical challenges and legal frameworks have to be carefully considered.
  • The UN Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights drew attention to the limitations of ethical frameworks, as there are no generally agreed definitions of ethical concepts, unlike human rights which are actually law. This is why the use of AI ‘needs to be bound by the rule of law and not just an ethical code’.

3. Gig economy is in focus again, explained Ms Marilia Maciel, digital policy senior researcher at DiploFoundation. The gig economy is characterised by a labor force that has different types of contracts which are temporary, regulating a very flexible relationship of work. There is a growing realisation that current labor laws are not fit to protect workers in the gig economy.

  • The OECD published a report on the future of social protection for online gig workers. The report shows that work patterns are increasingly moving from long-term employment towards short-term and self-employment or the ‘gig worker’ pattern; and that traditional protection systems are not designed to protect workers in this new context.
  • The UK is expected to publish new rules, applying some traditional rights in the context of the gig economy to protect workers. For example, workers will have the right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months of uninterrupted work for a company. Another proposal aims to reduce the extreme flexibility in which gig workers operate; for instance, workers may receive compensation for cancelled shifts.
  • The Australian Fair Work Commission ruled that a rider for Foodora was working for Foodora itself, and not as an independent contractor, therefore entitled to receive compensation in the form of salaries and unpaid wages. The ruling  might have a larger impact on workforce classifications in gig economies around the world.
The next Internet governance briefing is on 29 January. Registrations are open.

Radunović spoke about the upcoming events in December, including the G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence, the Africa eCommerce Week: Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era, and the OECD Global Forum on Digital Security for Prosperity.

Radunović also gave an overview of the GIPDigital Watch observatory and DiploFoundation activities in November. The GIP Digital Watch observatory published the IGF Final Report. The observatory also provided just-in-time reporting from the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. The GIP and the Swiss Directorate of International Law (DIL) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) organised the ‘Public International Law Day, on International Law 2.0: Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity’. The Introduction to Digital Policy and Diplomacy course continues.

Regional perspectives

Shita Lakshmi provided an overview of updates from Asia, including the signing of the ‘ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce’ by ASEAN leaders to create a conducive environment for e-commerce in the ASEAN region; research conducted by the BBC indicated that nationalism is behind disinformation in India.

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Grace Mutung’u provided updates from Africa, focusing on the African IGF 2018, the activities of the African regional group during the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018, and the first data protection summit for Africa organised by the Mauritian Data Protection Authority .

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Updates from the Caribbean region were provided by Wanda Perez, and included Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court introducing an electronic litigation system for the electronic management of cases in courts of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and initiatives for improving digital education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Noha Fathy provided updates from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, covering the improvement and decline of Internet freedom in the MENA region per the ‘Freedom on the Net 2018’ report, and EU officials being urged to address Turkey’s freedom of expression crisis during the EU-Turkey high-level political dialogue.

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