Q1/2022 - Executive Summary

Q1/2022 - Executive Summary

Developments in the Internet Governance Environment January to March 2022:

The war in Ukraine has arrived on the Internet. Both sides run cyber attacks. Russian hackers attack critical infrastructures in the Ukraine. The Ukraine has established a "cyber army of volunteers" composed of IT specialists. The Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, asked ICANN to remove the TLD zone files .ru, .rf (Cyrillic) and .su from the root server and to block Russian IP addresses. ICANN, RIPE NCC and ISOC condemned the Russian war, assured Ukraine of their solidarity but rejected the demand. They argued that such action was not compatible with ICANN's neutral stewardship role in managing a global resource in the public interest.

No progress has been made in the UN negotiations aimed at strengthening international cyber security.

  • At the start of March, a new Ad-hoc Committee (AHC) started negotiations for drafting a UN convention to combat cyber crime.
  • At the end of March, the UN "Open-ended Working Group" (OEWG) met in New York for their second session. The OEWG deals with norms for state behaviour in cyber space.
  • The negotiations on Internet-based lethal autonomous weapons systems (GGE-LAWS) were continued in mid-March in Geneva. UN Secretary-General is requesting a ban under international law, similar to that existing for chemical weapons. China, Russia, the US, Turkey and Israel reject the proposal.

The four-yearly ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) was held in Geneva in March without a confrontation taking place. Controversial proposals, such as the idea of China to develop a new Internet Protocol (New IP) or Russia's proposal to have the domain name system (DNS) governed by an international treaty and managed by ITU were not discussed.

Even though it is slow, progress is made with the proposals of UN Secretary-General António Guterres to reform the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). At a UN expert meeting in New York at the end of March 2022, three proposals for a IGF+ were discussed in particular:

  • The appointment of a UN Technology Envoy as the right hand (for Internet matters) of the UN Secretary-General was well received. Not yet clear, however, is the future relationship to UNDESA, which has previously been responsible for the IGF.
  • The appointment of a high-level "IGF Leadership Panel" is welcomed. Such panel could help the IGF to gain greater political relevance. Not yet clear, however, is the relationship to the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), the actual governing body of the IGF.
  • Parliamentarians shall play a more important role in the IGF (Parliamentarian Track). Not clear, however, is whether their involvement shall be organised by the IPU in Geneva (top down) or by a self-organised Informal IGF Parliamentarian Group (IPIG) (bottom up).

The "Alliance for the Future of the Internet" proposed by US-President Biden, remains a controversial topic. Still unclear is which role non-state stakeholders shall assume, what the relationship to the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) shall be like and which potential side effects like the fragmentation of the Internet may occur.

The European Commission has further developed its strategy of writing the "code of law for the Internet" and being a "norm maker" rather than a "norm taker" for the Internet and supported it with projects such as the Digital Market Act (DMA), Digital Services Act (DSA), Data Governance Act, NIS 2, AI Regulatory Package.

At a meeting in Djakarta on 18 February 2022, the G20 finance ministers have underpinned the agreement in principle on a global digital tax reached at the G20 summit in Rome (December 2021) with an implementation plan. The new digital tax system is scheduled to come into force in January 2023.

At a virtual meeting in Berlin on 11 March 2022, the G7 heads of state and government condemned Russian disinformation campaigns and censorship of the Internet in Russia and reaffirmed that the Russian people have a right to free and uncorrupted information.

Wolfgang Kleinwächter

Professor Emeritus of Internet Policy & Regulation at Aarhus University