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TEN Main Internet Governance Developments in 2011

Published on 15 December 2011
Updated on 19 March 2024

Here is the provisional list of the main Internet governance developments in 2011 and we need your help to compile a final list. Please let us know your views by:  

  • Making comments and adding any other development you think should be on this list.
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1. The Internet gets highly political

2011 started with the continuance of the Arab Spring. Although there are very different views on the impact of the Internet on the Arab Spring phenomenon (ranging from minimal to key), one outcome is certain: social media is now perceived as a decisive tool in modern political life. In various ways, the Internet – and its governance – popped up on political radars worldwide this year.

2. Internet governance moves to the premier league of global politics

Internet governance is an increasingly important global issue: its policy relevance is now comparable to topics such as climate change, migration, and food security. This is illustrated by – among other developments – the numerous high-level events on Internet governance this year:  the e-G8 Forum, the London Cyberspace Conference, the Vienna Conference on Human Rights and the Internet, and the Hague Conference on Internet and Freedom. In parallel, Internet governance emerged in the mainstream of the UN General Assembly. The main global media (The Economist, IHT, Al Jazeera, BBC) are now following Internet governance developments more closely than ever before.

3. Clearer positioning of the main players

Previous vague national Internet governance approaches have started to crystallise. The USA re-affirmed its support for ICANN. The EU’s Digital Agenda is taking clearer international shape (EU’s Digital Diplomacy). After an attempt to form a joint approach, IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) moved on separately. In October, India submitted a proposal to the UN General Assembly regarding the formation of a UN Committee for Internet-Related Policies. In addition, Russia, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan proposed an International Code of Conduct for Information Security to the UN GA. 

4. A shift in Internet governance direction, from technology (IT, telecom) to political ministries (diplomacy, prime ministerial cabinets)

Another consequence of the growing political relevance of the Internet is the reconfiguration of national handling of Internet governance. Diplomatic services and the highest political authorities are more involved. Given the complexity of Internet governance issues, the main challenge will be to achieve policy coherence and informed decision-making.

5. Cybersecurity takes centre stage

An increasing number of security incidents and the fear of cyberwar put cybersecurity high on diplomatic agendas. Cross-border cooperation remains one of the main challenges in global cybersecurity cooperation. Some analysts argue that cybersecurity will become the first area where governments will support a global Internet treaty.  

6. Online human rights come into focus

Increasing interest in online human rights was triggered by two major developments: the Arab Spring, and concern that the focus on cybersecurity may endanger human rights (e.g. protection of privacy, freedom of expression). This strong interest has been particularly clear in the last few months with the Vienna and Hague conferences focusing exclusively on online human rights. Moreover, following the Swedish proposal, the UN Council on Human Rights will discuss freedom of expression on the Internet in its 2012 meeting.

7. ICANN’s soul-searching

Three main developments characterised ICANN in 2011: (1) implementation of management reform; (2) introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs); (3) the resignation of its CEO and the search for a new CEO. Policy discussions in ICANN in 2011 reflected different views and approaches to the way in which the Internet should be governed in the future.

8. Internet blackout in Egypt

On 27 January, Egyptian authorities cut the Internet in a vain hope to stop political protests. This was the first example of a complete country Internet blackout ordered by the government.  Previously, even in the case of military conflicts (former Yugoslavia, Iraq) Internet communication was never completely severed.

9. Avalanche of Internet principles

Internet principles were proposed by the OECD, the Council of Europe, the EU, and other players. There are many convergences among these principles which may constitute a future preamble of a global Internet declaration or similar document.

10. SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act)

US internet governance decisions tend to have global impact. If adopted, SOPA could introduce liability for intermediaries in the control of Internet content. The anti-piracy measures would shift from the final users to Internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, and financial institutions, among others. SOPA could be described as a battle between Hollywood (the entertainment industry) and Silicon Valley (the Internet industry: Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

12 replies
  1. Jovan Kurbalija
    Jovan Kurbalija says:

    Carlton, I can re-inforce
    Carlton, I can re-inforce your point on an importance to be “in the room” for many reasons. One is psychological, it is easier to challenge somebody is not in the room. Inclusion is not just ethical or democratic preference. It is a very practical aspect of global governance. It is in the interest of all negotiating parties (not realised very often). If we can para-phrase a famous saying: “There is no implementation (of global deals) without participation”. It makes particularly important to have small states and civil society “in the room”. Both Caribbean and Pacific can play highly important role in the IG-process. They can provide ethical and practical “glue” for the emerging IG policy architecture.

  2. Carlton Samuels
    Carlton Samuels says:

    Your #2 issue resonates
    Your #2 issue resonates because every other development is going to be impacted by this one. Some more pertinent details: 1) The Internet is now acknowledged as an enabler of economic and social development by every major trading bloc. 2) The Internet is declared a national security interest of the United States. Herein lies my anxieties. For unless we keep on top of the issues, somewhere along the line our collective interests will be compromised. For the most part, Caribbean civil society groups and governments are hardly attentive. And when we are not in the room or part of the discussion others will further marginalize us…or forget us altogether.

  3. Jovan Kurbalija
    Jovan Kurbalija says:

    Ariene, the Caribbean
    Ariene, the Caribbean perspective is highly relevant. Caribbean is close enough to the hub of digital world (USA), but far enough to have problems of developing countries. Caribbean has advantages and problems of the both worlds. Moreover, For Caribbean small island states, the Internet has additional relevance as a tool for overcoming geographical remotness. It will be interesting to follow the IG developments in small island states in both Caribbean and Pacific regions.

  4. Arlene
    Arlene says:

    From a Caribbean perspective,
    From a Caribbean perspective, I think number one is most important. Caribbean politicians have begun to recognise the power of the internet for shaping opinions and reaching people; first born out of the Obama campaign and blossoming with the Arab spring.
    Hopefully this realisation will lead to number two and we would fully wake up to the issues of IG and take our place in shaping the future.

  5. Jovan Kurbalija
    Jovan Kurbalija says:

    Karim, it is a very
    Karim, it is a very interesting division on “internal” and “external” politization of Internet governance. As you indicated, they have different dynamics. Let us observe them.
    De, I realised I missed WikiLeaks. Wikileaks supports the first point (IG getting highly political). On the media, yes I mentioned media and newspapers I follow. We should see with our community about media in other countries. What about media in the Caribbean region?

    Thank you Fahd for adding these important points to ICANN “soul-searching”.

    Nnenna, Is there any specific IG-aspect of Google Plus. Steve Jobs was so great for any Internet/computer development, but I tried to stay more within IG-framework. AfIGF, Open Data, .xxx and Lol/OMG are missing.

    Many thanks!

  6. Nnenna
    Nnenna says:

    I think that the arrival of
    I think that the arrival of Google Plus in the Social Media arena should be somewhere there.. and the departure of Steve Jobs. Maybe add “shifts in social media landscape”. In point 4, the launch of the Africa Internet Governance Forun (AfIGF) should be in, seeing that a ministerial vote of African ICT ministers has voted for and the initiative is now being tabled for the next Summit of heads of states!

    Where is Open Data? It appears to me to be one of the the big things. Then dotXXX too.

    And the integration of Lol and OMG into the English language dictionary..

  7. Fahd A. Batayneh
    Fahd A. Batayneh says:

    Thank you Jovan, quite a
    Thank you Jovan, quite a comprehensive list.

    I would like to add to point 7 entitled “ICANN’s soul-searching” two extra points:

    4. The introduction of the .xxx gTLD after years of controversy and court cases. The application was finally approved with many – mainly the GAC – opposing it”
    5. The IANA contract negotiations and the transparency within the process. The question is “Will the NTIA be transparent once the bidding process results are out?”

  8. De
    De says:

    Perhaps I’m being too
    Perhaps I’m being too specific?? but – the whole Wikileaks ‘thing’ continuing this year, including the attempts by Julian Assange to avoid extradition from the UK and the beginning of the hearings about Bradley Manning is something that should surely be remembered, also the apparent ‘redefinition’ of issues like privacy and plagiarism, also the reported successes in tackling child pornography online seem to me to be ‘of importance’. And a question, from #2, ‘The main global media (The Economist, IHT, Al Jazeera, BBC) are now following Internet governance developments more closely than ever before.’ – I know that list is intended as a sample of prominent titles, but it leans rather heavily towards an English speaking, western, world. What are they reading (and reading about) in India and China? Perhaps there’s another ‘digital divide’ in the works – East West this time instead of North South.
    I’m very much looking forward to Tuesday 🙂


    I think that the politization
    I think that the politization of IG can be surrounded in two categories: from outside acts and by internal. I don’t have much comments for the outside acts from various countries through UN GA but for me the most important that need pay attention is coming by internal. Countries affirmed theirs position through the GAC and we can identify some recurrent invocations of UN concepts (UN consensus in the GAC, …) that introduce another dimension in the debates. It’s quiet interesting to see the multi-stakeholderism movement borned from WSIS (an UN initiative), that become or affirmed itself independent and in some time in opposition by work and policy development process with the UN model. Today we see a sort of coming back to a mixture of govs, IGOs, NGOs, Civil Society, industries, universities, ect as all parties realized what is Internet and who are concerned by what can be channeled by (wikileak, industrial spy, public censoring, ect). I think that we should applaud for the wakeup of all actors as I think this is the right balance for a multistakeholder model that each actor affirms and play his role! Now the evidence is that how each stakeholder will understand others and continue to sustain the IG movement.
    (Sorry for my english!)

  10. Jovan Kurbalija
    Jovan Kurbalija says:

    the Internet is getting
    the Internet is getting political in many ways. Politicians perceive that the Internet can make them loose power or/and elections. Is it reality? Probably not. The Internet is not – yet – decisive factor. But the perception of the importance of the Internet matters. Since the Internet is perceived as important for politics, it has to be either controlled or influenced (depending on the political approach).

    Discussion on online human rights reflects discussion on “normal” human rights. I expect the similar dynamics (e.g. positions, divisions, blockages).

    2012 will be the year of “focusing”. IG-cameras will start zooming in on specific issues.

  11. Ginger Paque
    Ginger Paque says:

    No. 1–the Internet gets
    No. 1–the Internet gets highly political–I wonder about that. I do know what you mean, but is it the Internet that got highly political? Or did politics start using the Internet to raise issue profiles? Yes, the Internet is on political radars… but for the Internet to be political, we would have to be discussing IG policies of real importance.

    Although No. 6 implies that human rights issues are coming into focus, I do not think that we are really tackling them yet. Some of the major players are still blocking HR from the agenda. This contention supports my point about No. 1. I think maybe we are still looking for the focusing device–but we have not yet started to focus. We might actually still have to invent the focusing device.

  12. Mary Murphy
    Mary Murphy says:

    For me, the key issue here is
    For me, the key issue here is No. 2 – that IG is finally moving into the premier league and becoming a global fixture in its own right. It is interesting to see this mirrored in mainstream media channels. Couple that with your No. 4 (the reconfiguration of the national handling of IG), and I envision a change in public perception of IG-related issues as having a broader reach and wider influence than previously anticipated.


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