Monthly Report 02/2023 - Executive Summary

Monthly Report 02/2023 - Executive Summary

Current happenings in the Internet governance context in February 2023:

The UNESCO conference "Internet for Trust" ended in Paris on 23 February 2023. 4,500 experts discussed the regulation of Internet platforms. Keynote speakers were UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, who is also co-chair of the IGF Leadership Panel. The "Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms" are to be adopted at the 41st UNESCO General Conference in autumn 2023. The aim of the draft guidelines is to curb disinformation and hate speech on the Internet. The proposed framework is based on five principles: Platforms 1. respect human rights in content moderation and curation, 2. are transparent, 3. empower users, 4. are accountable to relevant stakeholders, and 5. conduct human rights due diligence. It defines the roles and responsibilities of governments, platform operators, civil society and the technical community. Further comments are invited by 8 March 2023. (Further Information)

Cybersecurity was a hot topic at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on 17 to 19 February 2023. Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) presented a study "Fog of War: How the Ukraine Conflict Transforms the Cyber Threat Landscape" and claimed that cyber operations have become part of modern warfare. Most prominent was a mixture of illegal intrusion into foreign networks and disinformation campaigns. The boundaries between state-sponsored attacks and the activities of criminal gangs are becoming increasingly blurred. Extortion software (ransomware) was drawn into geopolitical conflicts. Russia used private proxies such as Sandworm, APT28 and Snake to pursue strategic goals. (Further Information)

On 28 February 2023, the NGO Access Now published its annual report on attacks on Internet freedom: "Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022". With 187 Internet shutdowns in 35 countries the document reports a new record. The nature of Internet shutdowns is changing. Governments are no longer paralysing the Internet completely (and thus accepting counterproductive economic damage) but are using targeted shutdowns against certain user groups or during politically explosive periods (in the run-up to elections). The #KeepItOn coalition organised by Access Now has over 300 institutional members in 106 countries. (Further Information)

The new US cyber ambassador Nathaniel Fick outlined the cornerstones of the Biden administration's international cyber strategy at a German Marshal Fund (GMF) event in Washington on 2 February 2023. Fick advocated for a new "techno-industrial alliance" of like-minded democratic states as well as leading states of the global South to counter the growing "weaponization of cyberspace, digital authoritarianism and tech protectionism" with robust cyber diplomacy. (Further Information)

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton took a stand on the conflict between EU telcos and US platforms (big telco vs. big tech) in Barcelona on 27 February 2023. The EU is planning regulations to allow US platforms to participate in the financing of European infrastructures (5G & 6G)(sender pays). The Internet community has a critical attitude here and fears negative consequences for network neutrality and innovation. Breton spoke of the beginning of a new technical revolution (Web 4.0) and a convergence of the real and virtual worlds. Europe must play a leading role. Everyone must participate in the development of the necessary networks (fair share). We are experiencing a "Schumpeterian moment" (constructive destruction), he said. The European telcos are on the right track. "In a nutshell, we are seeing telco operators turning their business from being mere connectivity providers to becoming network-as-a-service providers or even innovative software providers". This is about the "highways of the future", not about grandfathering. (Further Information)

On 24 February, a multi-stakeholder conference on the social and humanitarian aspects of Internet-based autonomous weapons systems took place in San José/Costa Rica, with 30 countries participating. A communiqué called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons and regulation of semi-autonomous weapons. The organiser was the platform "Stop Killer Robots", which includes 160 NGOs

Wolfgang Kleinwächter

Professor Emeritus of Internet Policy & Regulation at Aarhus University