Current happenings in the Internet governance context January to March 2019:
The focal issue of the Internet Governance discussion in the 1st quarter 2019 was Artificial Intelligence (AI). By now this topic has been taken up by nearly all major international organisations and is being worked on from most diverse perspectives.
- UNESCO and the Council of Europe put ethical and human right issues in the focus, whereas the OECD, WIPO and ITU rather concentrate on technical, copyright or economic aspects. The ILO is discussing the impacts of AI on the future or work. The GGE LAWS deals with the military dimensions of the topic, i.e. it investigates the use of AI-based autonomous weapons systems. France has announced that AI will be a key topic under French G7 presidency in 2019. The European Union strives for a more holistic approach.
- Despite the large number of conferences, studies and action programs it is not yet evident what the outcome of this discussion will be and how the overall topic relates to Internet governance. Opinions vary in particular with regard to political and legal framework conditions to be established for the development and application of AI. Those who consider regulations at the present time premature and fear that they might curb innovation and creativity are opposed by those who think that a development of AI without universally accepted guidelines will be accompanied by incalculable risks and side effects with a potential for “digital disaster”.
The second focal issue was cyber security. The annual Global Risks Report issued by the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2019 puts instability in cyberspace and the risk of cyber attacks second after climate change. At the Munich Security Conference in February 2019, the issue also had high priority.
- Much is expected of the two new UN Working Groups (Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and Open Ended Working Group (OEWG)), which will take up work in summer 2019. The “Norm Package Singapore“ adopted by the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) in September 2018, and in particular the “Call to Protect the Public Core of the Internet” it contains, are considered important groundwork. The Paris Call on Trust and Security in Cyberspace initiated by the French government in November 2018, which has been signed by about 500 state and non-state players by now, is key in this context. The Paris Call also comprises the “Call to Protect the Public Core of the Internet” as an integral part. The two cyber security projects initiated by private companies – the “Tech Accord” by Microsoft and the “Charter of Trust” by Siemens – are still continuously gaining support. Both initiatives have signed the Paris Call. On 30 March 2019, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, too, advocated new rules of the Internet in an article in the Washington Post.
- Next to a continued discussion of codes of conduct for state and non-state players in cyberspace and related “confidence-building measures”, certifications based on security standards for IT hard- and software and a cyber hygiene comprising codes of conduct that were also binding for individual Internet users have become an issue of increasing importance. The risks inherent in digital services are requested to be made more transparent and education and training to be adapted to the complex challenges of the digital age, starting from nursery school and extending to life-long learning.
Digital trade and the future of work were the third issue in the focus. At the World Economic Forum held in January 2019 at Davos, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe proposed to start a new “data governance” process under Japanese G20 presidency at the G20 Summit in Osaka in June 2019.
- The “Osaka Fast Track” suggested by Abe is intended to lead to a global agreement on digital trade under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), guided by the motto “Free Data Flow on Trust” (FDFT). The proposal was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At the same time, 76 of the 160 WTO members agreed in Davos to start concrete negotiations for a global agreement on eCommerce. The developments will be accompanied by the OECD, which also intends to propose modalities by 2020 for tackling taxation of cross-border data flows.
- The closing report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work of the ILO (January 2019) points out the drastic consequences digitalisation will have for the labour market of the future. The report is going to be discussed at the ILO’s general meeting in summer 2019. The OECD, too, found at its digital summit in March 2019 that 50 percent of the current jobs will change profoundly in the next 15 years due the digital revolution. This is opposed, however, by only 31 percent of the population being adequately educated to be able to cope with the changes.
The fourth focus was on the guarantee of human rights. Especially at the conferences of the UNESCO (Paris) and the Council of Europe (Helsinki), participants explicitly requested to ensure that new technological developments such as AI, but also measures to guarantee cyber security, did not undermine the very substance of the universal human rights. This also applied to the evolution of new business models through Internet platforms or the further development of the so-called gig economy. Internet companies and groups were bound by the so-called “Ruggie Principles” (United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)). The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy in the digital age, Joseph Cannataci, therefore regularly give recommendations not only to governments but also to enterprises. The freedom of the Internet further is a key issue with regard to EU projects combating disinformation and dealing with the copyright reform.
At the inter-governmental level, the following major activities in Q1/2019 are particularly worth to be mentioned:
- On 1 January 2019, Japan has taken over the G20 presidency. The G20 Summit will take place at Osaka in June 2019, where the Japan presidency intends to give priority to the issue of data governance. At the World Economic Forum held in January 2019 at Davos, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe proposed to start an “Osaka Fast Track” under the motto “Free Data Flow on Trust” (DFFT), which is meant to serve as a basis for preparing an international agreement on digital data trade under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- France has taken over the G7 presidency on 1 January 2019. The G7 Summit will take place in Biarritz in August 2019. The French G7 presidency intends to give top priority to artificial intelligence.
- On 1 January 2019, the BRICS presidency was assumed by Brazil. Given the severe political differences between the new president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro and the Chinese president Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Russia, it remains to be seen if the cyber security projects being performed under the auspices of BRICS will be continued in 2019. On 28 February 2019, the foreign ministers of three BRICS countries (China, Russia and India) met in the Chinese city of Wuzhen and agreed an extended trilateral cooperation under the new acronym RIC (Russia, India, China), which shall comprise also areas that are relevant to Internet governance.
- The EU was busy in the 1st quarter of 2019 with implementing the Council’s resolutions on cyber security (December 2018) and the “Code of Practice on Disinformation” (October 2018) in view of the upcoming European elections. A key issue was the vote on the copyright reform in the European Parliament. For the period from 2021 to 2027, a budget of 9.2 million Euros was granted for the “future of digital transformation”, which is to be invested in particular in the fields of super computing, artificial intelligence, cyber security and education and training.
- When he presented NATO’s annual report 2018, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out new dimensions of collective defence in cyberspace. Security concerns in building 5G networks were being carefully investigated by NATO.
- The Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (GGE-LAWS) decided at the end of March 2019 in Geneva that the discussion on political-legal instruments to control lethal autonomous weapons systems was going to be continued. At a conference on 14 March 2019 in Berlin, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas requested international rules for autonomous weapons.
- 76 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced on 25 January 2019 in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos the start of negotiations to develop a multilateral agreement on e-commerce.
- In March 2019, the OECD held a Digital Summit in Paris. The issues on the agenda included artificial intelligence and taxation in the digital age.
- The 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva in March 2019 received a report from the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy in the digital age.
- On 4 March 2019, UNESCO organized a high-level conference on artificial intelligence in Paris. It insists that the development and application of AI must be consistent with the universal Internet principles ROAM (Rights, Openness, Access, Multistakeholder) promoted by UNESCO.
- The Council of Europe organized a high-level conference on artificial intelligence in February 2019 in Helsinki and adopted a twelve-item guidance for the development and application of AI.
- The ITU Council's two working groups on WSIS-SDG (World Summit on the Information Society - Sustainable Development Goals) and on Internet Governance met in Geneva in January and February 2019. No concrete decisions were taken. The further discussion of new proposals for regulations, e.g. with relation to OTT (Over the top), were postponed. ICANN has applied for membership in the ITU-D sector. The WSIS Forum organised by the ITU is to be combined with a high-level ministerial conference (WSIS+15) in 2020.
- The Global Commission on the Future of Work presented its final report for public discussion in Geneva in January 2019.
At the multistakeholder level, the following major activities in Q1/2019 are particularly worth to be mentioned:
- The “High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation” established by UN Secretary General António Guterres held its second meeting on 21 and 22 January 2019 in Geneva. A third meeting is scheduled in Helsinki at the start of April. The final report is expected to be submitted by 31 May 2019.
- The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron has gained further support.
- On 1 March 2019, the chairmanship of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) for the period 2019/2020 was passed from Germany to Ghana. The new chair is Ghana’s Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful.
- Preparations for the 14th Internet Governance Forum from 25 to 29 November 2019 in Berlin were started with a meeting of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) on 30 and 31 January 2019 in Geneva.
- The conference for preparing the EURODIG 2019 was held on 15 January 2019 in Den Haag. The overarching topic will be “Cooperating in the Digital Age”. The EURODIG 12 will take place on 19 and 20 June in Den Haag.
At the non-state level, the following major activities in Q1/2019 are particularly worth to be mentioned:
- At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, cyber security and digital trade were the focal items of discussion.
- At the Munich Security Conference in February 2019, the risks of instability in cyberspace as an increasing threat to peace and global security were on the agenda.
- The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) held a public hearing on its “Norm Package Singapore” in Geneva in January 2019. In March 2019, GCSC consulted with ICANN in Kobe on the standard “Call to Protect the Public Core of the Internet”.
- After “Tech Accord” and the “Digital Peace Campaign” Microsoft now announced to establish a Digital Peace Institute in summer 2019. The new institute shall help state and non-state players to better protect themselves against cyber attacks;
- In the margins of the Munich Security Conference Siemens draw a positive balance as of the first anniversary of the “Charter of Trust” and announced to extend the circle of supporters.
"When I look at the web, it's clear that the web is a fantastic instrument for all of us. It's clear that we have the dark web and the deep web and all the problems of cybersecurity. And the question of regulation is a very complex question in relation to this. My feeling is that there is no way to use the traditional mechanisms of intergovernmental regulations through conventions that are approved. I think that this is the kind of situation in which we need soft mechanisms. We need to bring together all stakeholders - governments, the business community, the scientific community, the civil society - and create mechanisms that allow for a permanent following of what's happening; for the consensus in creating some norms, some protocol, but not with rigid forms of bureaucracy of regulation. It is clear to me this cannot be only an intergovernmental process."
UN-Generalsekretär António Guterres, Weltwirtschaftsforum Davos, 23. Januar 2019