Current Happenings in the Internet Governance Context in April 2024

Current Happenings in the Internet Governance Context in April 2024

"Zero Draft" of the Global Digital Compact (GDC)

The "Zero Draft" of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) was published on 1 April. In the consultations the parties involved welcomed the fact that the GDC contains a clear commitment to human rights, sustainable development, the IGF and the multistakeholder approach to internet governance. Proposals for new processes and institutions such as a committee for artificial intelligence or an independent GDC review process were criticised. The formal GDC government negotiations are to be concluded by June 2024. Further consultations with non-governmental stakeholders were announced.

UN Security Council formulates eleven principles on cyber security

On 5 April, the UN Security Council held a special session on cyber security in New York. It dealt with new threats in cyber space from blackmail software, cryptocurrencies and covert state-sponsored cyber attacks against critical infrastructure. US ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said that the "cyber world" could no longer be separated from the "real world". Korea's ambassador Hwang warned "the more connected we are, the more vulnerable we become". Japan's ambassador Kazuyuki said, "international cooperation is not an option but an absolute necessity for all of us." 60 states made statements. The eleven principles formulated for responsible behaviour of states in cyber space (GGE 2015) were supported. The conference did not adopt any resolutions.

Policy manifesto and G7 foreign ministers' statement on cyber security

On 12 April, the "Charter of Trust" published a "Cybersecurity Policy Manifesto". It contains nine recommendations for governments for a more secure digital world. The members to the Charter include 14 major companies, such as Siemens, Microsoft, Allianz, Bosch, IBM, Infineon and the Munich Security Conference (MSC)

The G7 Foreign Ministers' Statement (17 April, Capri) contains chapters on cyber security and disinformation. State cyber attacks, criminal activities (ramsonware) and disinformation campaigns (Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference/FIMI) undermine international stability. "While relying on the leadership of governments and international organisations, we recognise the importance of the multistakeholder model, with the invaluable contribution of the private sector in promoting technological development and of civil society in advancing a common understanding of threats and providing solutions to improve cybersecurity." The Budapest Convention against Cybercrime, the Tallinn Mechanism for the Application of International Law in Cyberspace, the GFCE Accra Call for Cyber Resilience and the UN Resolution on Artificial Intelligence initiated by the USA (March 2024) are supported. GDC and WSIS+20 should contribute "to protect an open, free, secure and inclusive Internet for future generations, governed through multi-stakeholder processes, and by protecting the ability for all to share information and communicate freely and securely, making sure the voices of younger generations, emerging economies and developing countries are properly heard.”

Cyber security in the BRICS countries

The BRICS working group on cyber security met in Moscow on 16 and 17 April. It called for an "open, secure, stable, accessible, and peaceful digital environment based on the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of states."It agreed on the creation of a mechanism for exchanging information in the event of cyber attacks. Russia called for a UN convention on cyber security. Exchanges with the technical and academic community are to be intensified.

The anti-TikTok law and its consequences

US Secretary of State Blinken's visit to China on 25 April has not eased the controversies in the cyber area. US President Biden signed the anti-TikTok law on 22 April. ByteDance, the Chinese parent company, must sell the service by 29 February 2025. In return, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) banned the meta services "WhatsApp" and "Threads" from platforms in China. On 19 April, President Xi ordered the creation of a new "Information Support Force" of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), which is to deal specifically with information and cyber operations. No progress has been made on the AI consultations agreed at the XI Biden Summit (San Francisco, November 2023).

Autonomous Weapons Systems

On 29 April, Austria's Foreign Minister Schallenberg warned at an expert conference on autonomous weapons systems in Vienna that "in future conflicts, machines will make the difference between life and death". Negotiations within the framework of the GGE LAWS have been at a standstill for ten years. A UN report is expected in June 2024. UN Secretary-General Guterres is calling for a treaty under international law by 2026.

NetMundial+10 adopts 13 implementation guidelines

Around 1000 experts from all over the world and all stakeholder groups took part in the NetMundial+10 conference online and offline on 29 and 30 April in São Paulo. The core piece of the multistakeholder statement "Strengthening Internet Governance and Digital Policy Processes", which was adopted by acclamation, are 13 guidelines explaining "how" to implement multistakeholder cooperation on the basis of the Tunis Agenda (2005) and the São Paulo Declaration of Principles (2014). In future, these "São Paulo Guidelines" will serve as criteria for measuring how "multistakeholder" digital policy processes, including multilateral government negotiations, actually are. The IGF will be strengthened. New processes are not necessary. Coordination between existing institutions is to be improved.

Wolfgang Kleinwächter

Professor Emeritus of Internet Policy & Regulation at Aarhus University