To assist diplomats in grasping the complexity of this multidisciplinary and multistakeholder political environment, and to bring them up to speed on what to follow, when to follow it, and how to follow it, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), hosted by DiploFoundation, offers a monthly Geneva Briefing on Internet Governance, besides other activities. The briefing webinars take place online on the first Tuesday of every month at 13:00 hrs (CET). Each briefing discusses the main developments in previous months and looks at those envisaged along with global events scheduled for the coming month.
March surprised us with some (un)expected developments such as the announcement of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) by the US Department of Commerce that the USA intends to transition key domain name functions. Currently, the NTIA oversees the performance of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions which includes maintaining the registries of global IP addresses and domain names, among other critical parameters; the NTIA also authorises changes in the root zone file (a global Internet ‘address book’), thereby holding a ‘safety-stop mechanism’. This was understood by many as a US decision to relinquish control of the Internet, which coincidently came soon after the NSA affair, even though the transition has been discussed for many years. Nevertheless, the NTIA was clear that the decision would not mean transitioning the authority to another government or intergovernmental organisation, but rather to a ‘global multistakeholder community’, and has asked ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) - which currently performs the IANA functions - to initiate the transition process that should follow certain principles (including multistakeholder dialogue and maintaining the security, stability, and resilience of the domain name system (DNS)). The transition should be done before September 2015 when the IANA contract expires; yet the NTIA noted that the contract may be extended for another two years should more time be needed for a proper transition.
A related development was the release of confidential documents from the Clinton administration, including many files of Ira Magaziner, who was in charge of electronic commerce and deeply involved in setting up ICANN back in 1998. The files related to the history of IG might give a better view of the future of Internet, including the IANA transition.
Positioning of the main actors has continued, with India coming closer to the side of Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran by calling for the establishment of a global agency to manage the Internet, something along the lines of the UN’s ITU (International Telecommunication Union). In the meantime, the ITU reconfirmed its position for NETmundial, with its Secretary General welcoming the announced transition of the IANA function while reiterating that the Internet is a global public good and inviting ‘all nations and peoples to have an equal say in its running and development’. ICANN’s Panel on Global Internet Cooperation & Governance Mechanisms has met for the second time and has submitted its contribution to NETmundial based on 11 principles (including an unfragmented Internet, inclusiveness, diversity of interests, equitability of stakeholders, human rights, and accountability) and several roadmap steps, such as support for national and regional IG structures, ICANN globalisation, and the strengthening of stakeholder capacity.
The Council of Europe hosted a high level event in Graz to discuss its upcoming Internet Governance Strategy for 2016–2019.
Marilia Maciel updated us on another somewhat surprising development: the final success of Brazil’s Marco Civil da Internet - legislation regarding Internet access and rights. It outlines the protection of human rights and privacy, and has made provision for global companies, such as Google or Facebook, that are subject to Brazilian law (even though it dropped the provision that would have forced global Internet companies to store data on Brazilian servers inside the country). Most interestingly, it clearly outlines the protection of network neutrality, adding a heavy weight to the trend of defending this principle by law (along with the Netherlands, Chile, Slovenia, and some others). With its ‘Internet constitution’, Brazil has become a leader in the legal environment for protection of user rights, and has also strengthened its position and credibility ahead of NETmundial.
ICANN’s regular meeting that took place in Singapore was expectedly overwhelmed with the discussions about the IANA transition, including the panel of the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC). The accountability of ICANN, as a separate issue, was also debated. The Government Advisory Committee (GAC), instead of having an easy workload, exploded around the ICANN Board’s ‘go-ahead’ decision for .wine and .vin new gTLDs that came just day before the Singapore meeting. The issue of ‘geographical indications’ was raised once again after the .amazon debate held at the Buenos Aires meeting last year, with several European and other countries strongly opposing .wine and .vin approval without discussing special provisions.
BitCoin was in the news again: Japan decided to put it under its tax system, while Goldman Sachs stated it is not a currency but is ‘on the boundary between currency, commodity and financial asset’. Turkey was even more prominent in the news, due to the battle between government censorship of the Internet (on both DNS and IP levels) and activists avoiding censorship through advanced tools such as Tor - a free service that provides anonymity online and bypasses filtering.
The GIP was visible in March as well: Dr Jovan Kurbalija participated at the well-visited panel on cyber surveillance ‘Yes We Scan’ at the Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights. At the same time, the participants of the online course in IG for diplomats discussed the infrastructure basket and related issues, with a special interest in network neutrality. You can now follow the GIP activities via Twitter at @GenevaGIP.
Several important events lie ahead of us in April. The one we expect the most expect from is NETmundial, taking place 23-24 April in São Paolo. A digest and video recording of our recent special webinar on NETmundial provides details and updates on preparations and expectations. The ITU World Telecom Development Conference (WTDC) started on 30 March in Dubai and will last till 10 April; the initial reports mention discussions around cybersecurity, content diversity, and multilingualism, as well as broadband and access. The Freedom Online conference takes place in Tallinn, Estonia, 28-29 April, and will focus on openness and human rights, with an emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of the IT industry.
April will be intensive within the GIP as well. The official launch of the GIP will take place on 8 April in Geneva, during which an Internet bazaar will be organised, offering the opportunity to present the IG-related work of many Geneva-based organisations. An ‘Internet Governance Landscape’ exhibition will be set up on the GIP premises to map the main Geneva-based and global institutions involved in IG. Most interestingly, the initial results of an ongoing research project will be presented: data-mining and emotional and discourse analysis of the NETmundial contributions will enable the outlining of the positions of the main actors in this meeting, as well as drafting an early outcome document based on the research results. The GIP will also be present at the NETmundial meeting, and will provide updates about the event.
The video recording of the webinar is available here:
The next Geneva Briefing on Internet Governance webinar will take place on Tuesday, 6th May 2014. For more information and to apply, please follow the link.