Editor   13 Oct 2016   Internet Governance

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New events and developments in the field of Internet governance gave rise to different dynamics throughout the month of September. The IANA stewardship transition process moved into its final mile, while the 2016 World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum dominated this month’s discussions on e‑commerce and trade.  Developments also occurred in other Internet governance areas, such as taxation, net neutrality, and tackling extremist material online.

These and other developments, trends, and regional updates – summarised in the IG Barometer for September and in Issue 14 of the Geneva Digital Watch newsletter - were the subject of our latest Internet governance briefing, which took place on 27 September 2016. Leading the briefing, Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation and the Head of Geneva Internet Platform, gave an overview of the main trends observed during September 2016:

  • IANA stewardship transition and the final mile. In the lead-up to the expiration of the IANA functions contract between the US government and ICANN (set for 30 September), supporters and opposers of the transition intensively advocated for their positions. Uncertainty as to whether the transition would actually take place still loomed, with debates in the US Congress, statements by US presidential candidate, and concerns that the Congress might stop the transition.
  • E-commerce, trade, and innovation. E-commerce remained in focus, as it continued to be linked with development aspects, including reaching the sustainable development goals and reducing the digital divide in developing countries. Many sessions at the WTO Public Forum tackled issues related to e-commerce, digital trade, and innovation.
  • Taxation: sweetheart deals & unpaid taxes. The European Commission’s ruling ordering Apple to pay Ireland €13 billion in taxes over unlawful state aid led to concerns over possible effects on trade, investments, and job creation in Europe. Indonesia was also expected to launch an investigation into Google, for alleged unpaid taxes from advertising.
  • Net neutrality and the BEREC guidelines. The net neutrality guidelines adopted by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications – aimed to assist regulators in EU countries in implementing the EU net neutrality rules – were received with enthusiasm by civil society groups, and with a certain degree of reticence by telecom operators.
  • Tackling extremist content. The online distribution of extremist content continues to be a cause for concern for both governments and Internet companies. In the UK, the Home Secretary called on the industry to take action more quickly to stop terrorist propaganda online, while the Home Affairs Parliamentary Committee demanded for the adoption of a zero-tolerance approach.

The main Internet governance events held in September and planned for October were also presented during the briefing. More details are available in Issue 14 of the Geneva Digital Watch newsletter.

During the interactive section of the briefing, several issues were discussed: expectations regarding the upcoming meeting of the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation; the IANA stewardship transition and unforeseen circumstances that might lead to a delay; the trend of Internet governance issues percolating through the trade agenda of various intergovernmental organisations.

Regional perspectives from GIP hubs

GIP hubs from Jakarta, Rio, Tunis, and South Eastern Europe shared regional updates and perspectives.

Speaking on behalf of the Jakarta hub, Arko Hananto Budiadi, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, gave an overview of the recently adopted Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and spoke about the Indonesian tax authority’s investigation over Google’s alleged unpaid taxes from advertising revenues. Indonesia’s plans to hold a national IGF in November 2016 were also announced. More details can be found in an overview and a video of regional updates and perspectives from Indonesia.

The Rio hub, represented by Luca Belli from the Center for Technology and Society of the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Law, gave updates from Argentina and Brazil. In Argentina, a law was adopted granting access to public sector information to citizens and residents. In Brazil, two consultations were launched by the country’s Ministry of Development: one concerning guidelines on public tenders for software, and another one concerning Internet of Things. Intensive debate were held in the country on the recent updates brought to WhatsApp privacy policy; some observers expressing concerns over the fact that the new policy was not presented in a very objective manner, therefore not allowing users to understand the new options regarding sharing of WhatsApp data with Facebook applications. An overview and a video of regional updates and perspectives from Brazil are available.

The Tunis hub discussed the restriction of online freedoms in some countries in Middle East and North Africa. In Morocco, end-users cannot access Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services over their 3G and 4G mobile connections, following a decision of the country’s main telecom operators. This has determined users to refer to circumventing solutions such as Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. VoIP services are also blocked in the United Arab Emirates, but users cannot turn to VPN services because of legal provisions sanctioning the use of VPN or proxy servers to commit crimes or prevent their discovery. In Tunisia, efforts are made to make PayPal services available within the country. An overview and a video of regional updates and perspectives from Tunisia are available. 

A South Eastern European hub was launched with the occasion of the September briefing. The hub held its own meeting, after the Geneva briefing, and it discussed developments related to Internet governance and digital policy in the region. In Romania, a draft law was published by the Ministry of Communications and Information Society, requiring the mandatory registration of users of prepaid SIM cards.  In Serbia, the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications launched a public consultation on a draft law on electronic documents, e-identification, and trusted services, while the National Bank issued a statement clarifying that PayPal service are not licensed in the country and cannot be legally used in the framework of the national payment system. Several countries in the region raked high in a top of best programmers worldwide. More details are available in a summary of September developments and activities related to Internet governance and digital policy in South Eastern Europe. The recording of the South Eastern Europe hub meeting is also available.

The next Internet governance briefing is on 25 October. Registrations are open.

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