Current happenings in the Internet governance context October to December 2018:
The fourth quarter of 2018 was decisive for the further evolution of Internet Governance. Numerous high-calibre international conferences were held during this period at which all aspects of global Internet Governance were discussed, and the course was set for the future. Internet Governance was increasingly perceived as an issue of political and economic or, in short, first of all general societal importance instead of a primarily technical matter. This became obvious in particular at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (October to December 2018), but also at meetings of the G20, G7, BRICS, NATO and other intergovernmental bodies. Also in the private sector, awareness of this aspect has grown, as the Microsoft initiatives “TechAccord” and “Digital Peace Campaign”, Siemens’ “Charter of Trust” or Tim Berners-Lee’s “Contract for the Web” show.
The “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace” initiated by the French President Emmanuel Macron in November 2018 can be considered to symbolise this “turnaround” at the highest level. Being signed already by more than 100 governments and nearly 1,000 non-state players, it has the potential to trigger a new phase in the development of the global Internet governance ecosystem that will extend far into the 2020s.
The changed perspective on the new complexity of Internet Governance has far-reaching political consequences. This becomes particularly evident in the fact that a consistently increasing number of players supports the view that not only freedom is required in cyberspace but that it also needs stable political and legal framework conditions.
The Internet Governance discussion of the 1990s and 2000s culminated in the “Tunis Agenda” of the UN World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005. The global consensus specified in this document requests to reduce intergovernmental regulation of Internet-relevant issues to a minimum and instead foster a multistakeholder discussion (e.g. within the framework of the IGF) that will lead to a sort of self-management by private players. Vint Cerf‘s argument: “If it isn´t broken, don´t fix it”, then met with general approval. However, in view of the growing complexity of the matter, it is increasingly being questioned if simply sticking to this attitude still is the right solution. A flexible system also needs stabilising components to develop sustainably.
The “Tunis Agenda”, complemented by the NETmundial Declaration (2014), is still considered the fundamental political guideline ruling the behaviour of state and non-state players in cyberspace, last but not least because the WSIS resolutions of 2005 have established the basis for numerous positive developments: They created space for innovation and creativity. Today, four billion people use the Internet. Economic growth, new jobs and participatory cyber democracy have made the world richer. Therefore, the Tunis Agenda is neither devaluated nor questioned. If, however, you place it into a historical context, it must clearly be assumed today that the WSIS outcomes of 2005 only represented a first step towards order in cyberspace in the 21st century. In view of the Internet Governance’s new complexity to be expected for the 2020s, complementary steps are now required.
Against the background of the evolution the Internet has experienced since the early 2000s – with the social networks, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and the like – limits, weaknesses and contradictions of the current global Internet Governance arrangements become ever more evident. They will lead to increased abuse of the freedoms and the rights on the Internet that were granted and enabled by the WSIS.
Cyberspace has become a space of military conflict between the superpowers. The development of new autonomous and Internet-based weapons systems and government-sponsored cyber attacks bear the potential to seriously threaten peace and international stability. Organised cybercrime has developed exponentially. The platform economy has created new economic monopolies with significant political implications with regard to the well-functioning of democratic societies. Individual human rights are endangered by mass surveillance, censorship, fake news and hate speech. The Internet is not “broken”, but some elements of it are “breaking” and definitely need a touch-up.
Given this situation, it is not surprising that the calls for a “New Deal” are getting louder as the 2010s are coming to a close. However, the current ideas for a “New Internet Governance Deal” are still very vague, subject to controversial discussion, and far away from turning into a package ready to be negotiated. However, initiatives like the “Paris Call”, the “Tech Accord”, the “Singapore Norm Package” or the “Contract for the Web” clearly indicate that the time is getting ripe for a new approach to global Internet policy.
First contours of such a “New Deal” for Internet Governance are already emerging: The core issue will be to strengthen the principle of the rule of law. In this context, rule of law means better protection of political and economic rights and freedoms as codified in existing international law on the one hand, and improved defence of abuse of these freedoms by means of national and international regulations that must be developed, implemented and governed not only by the state but also by non-state players.
In his speech at the IGF in Paris on 12 November 2018, the French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of an “innovative multilateralism” that involves non-state players in the process of negotiating global regulations at an equal footing. He opposes the models of a state-governed Internet (“China”) and of an Internet governed exclusively by the free market (“California”) to the European model with an Internet based on the rule of law, where both individual rights and freedoms as well as the freedom of competition and innovation are protected through obligations and responsibilities of all players involved.
Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, also requested at the annual Freedom Online (FOC) conference in Berlin on 29 November 2018 to counter the “authoritative” and “libertarian” excesses of global Internet evolution.
Negotiating a “New Internet Governance Deal” at global level, based on but going beyond the Tunis Agenda of 2005, will take much time and even more political will of constructive cooperation by all the stakeholders involved. This attitude, however, is currently rather not prevailing. Instead, the political Internet Governance discussions in Q4 of 2018 painted a very contradictory picture.
On the one hand, there is the call for a new innovative multilateralism for Internet Governance, as requested by Macron in his speech, a “rainbow coalition of the willing”, to strengthen trust, security and freedom in cyberspace. On the other hand, increasing efforts can be observed that strive to tackle Internet issues primarily unilaterally and by means of national legislation. This unilateral approach either ignores potential negative impacts on the global Internet Governance ecosystem or accepts them approvingly.
The neo-nationalism in relation with Internet Governance is practised mainly by the governments of Internet superpowers, like the USA (that has not signed the “Paris Call”), China (that, with the Wuzhen Conference and the “Digital Silk Road”, is pursuing an expansive Internet strategy guided exclusively by national interests) and Russia (that has adopted new laws in December 2018 for a Russian Domain Name System). The keywords are “My country first”, “Cyber sovereignty” and “national Internet segment”. But also other governments that are member states of the G20 or the European Union, such as Turkey, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, are pursuing a neo-nationalistic Internet policy, independent of the global developments and their obligations. This trend caused the authors of the annual report published by the non-governmental watchdog organisation Freedom House in November 2018 to choose the title “The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism” for the document.
At the end of 2018, it is difficult to forecast the outcome of this new global conflict between “innovative multilateralism” and “ne-nationalistic unilateralism” in cyberspace. Apparently, we are about to enter into a new phase of global Internet evolution. The zeitgeist has changed.
The most significant events of the global Internet Governance debate in Q4/2018 were:
- The 13th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) with its speeches by French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the adoption of the “Paris Call on Trust and Security in Cyberspace” on 11 November 2018 in Paris;
- The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York in December 2018: A total of six resolutions relevant to Internet policy were adopted, which, among other things, led to the formation of two new UN working groups dealing with the subject of cyber security;
- The G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence held in Montreal on 6 December 2018: Studies on four separate topics were presented that will be followed up on in 2019 under French G7-chairmanship;
- The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, which adopted an extensive consensual closing document in Dubai on 14 November 2018;
- The 5th World Internet Conference (WIC) organised by the Chinese government in Wuzhen at the start of November 2018; a World Internet Development Report was published at this conference.
- The annual Freedom Online Coalition conference in Berlin at the end of November 2018 featuring a speech by the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas.
At the inter-governmental level, the following major activities in Q4/2018 are particularly worth to be mentioned:
- The 73rd UN General Assembly adopted a total of six resolutions in December 2018 that are relevant to Internet policy: two resolutions concerning cyber security and one resolution respectively concerning the WSIS follow-up, the Internet and sustainable development goals (SDGs), the “Right to Privacy in the Digital Age” and cyber crime;
- The G20 Summit in Buenos Aires at the end of November 2018 confirmed the “G20 Roadmap for Digitalization” but did not make any new farther-reaching arrangements. However, Japan that will take over the G20 chairmanship in 2019 already announced that it planned to further enhance the roadmap decided in 2016 in Hangzhou and complemented in 2017 in Düsseldorf/Hamburg with new proposals.
- The G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Montreal in December 2018 produced a number of recommendations for the continued political discussion. A G7 AI Expert Group was founded as a result of a Canadian-French initiative. France will take over the G7 presidency in 2019 and announced that artificial intelligence was going to be a focal issue under French presidency.
- The four-yearly ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai was closed on 15 November 2018 with a comprehensive consensual outcome document that includes a number of resolutions relevant to the Internet. The political confrontation some had expected did not occur because the outcome document remains within the framework of the current ITU mandate. The proposals of some ITU member states to extend this mandate in the ITU constitution to areas of responsibility like cyber security, artificial intelligence and Internet Governance were not supported by a majority. The conflict with ICANN did not flare up again either. For the first time in the history of the ITU Plenipot, a CEO of ICANN – Göran Marby – delivered a keynote on the opening day.
- The readiness of the BRICS countries to jointly develop projects relevant to the Internet and to cooperatively push them on the international stage is apparently decreasing. Here too, neo-nationalism is dominant. China is pursuing its two big interlinked projects, the “World Internet Conference” and the “Digital Silk Road”, without consulting the other BRICS states in greater detail. Russia complements its national legislation, so that it fits in with the so-called Russian Internet segment. “Digital India” is also primarily designed for the national Indian and less for the international stage. South Africa’s President Ramaphosa co-chairs the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work, but in other fields of Internet policy South Africa is rather passive. It remains to be seen to what extent the new President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, will use the country’s BRICS presidency in 2019 to start a political Internet initiative.
- At their meeting in Brussels in October 2018, the NATO defence ministers enhanced the cyber strategy adopted at the NATO Summit in June 2018. Next to setting up a NATO Cyberspace Operations Centre, Counter Hybrid Support Teams will be launched.
- The EU continues to build up the Single Digital Market (SDM). They discussed about directives to combat fake news, on ePrivacy and on the taxing of international Internet companies. A strategy for artificial intelligence is being prepared.
- The Global Commission on the Future of Work has more or less concluded its work and will present its final report in January 2019. It is planned to be the focal topic of the 100-year-anniversary celebrations of ILO in summer 2019.
- On 13 and 14 November 2018, the OECD Working Party on Security and Privacy in the Digital Economy discussed in Paris a revised version of the “Recommendation on the Protection of Critical Information Infrastructures” that was adopted in 2008. The new draft shall be subjected to further discussion by the OECD Committee on Digital Economy in the first half of 2019 and be submitted to the OECD Council in September 2019 for resolution.
At the multistakeholder level, the following major activities in Q4/2018 are particularly worth to be mentioned:
- At the Paris Peace Forum, the political summit on 11 November 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War,a “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace” initiated by the French President Emmanuel Macron was published. Within a few days, more than 100 governments and roughly 1,000 non-state players had signed the paper.
- The agenda of the 13th Internet Governance Forum held in Paris on 12 to 14 November 2018 did not only feature the speeches of President Emmanuel Macron and UN-Secretary General António Guterres but also new types of IGF output. Next to the traditional outcome report by the Chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), IGF messages were adopted, thus taking up the innovative medium introduced at the IGF 12 in Geneva in December 2017.
- At the annual conference of the Freedom Online Coalition at the end of November 2018 in Berlin, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, delivered a keynote that took up the fundamental elements of the speech held by the French President Macron at the IGF in Paris.
At the non-state level, the following major activities in Q4/2018 are particularly worth to be mentioned:
- Following the “Tech Accord”, Microsoft has started a “Digital Peace Campaign”, which had been signed by more than 100,000 signatories by the beginning of December;
- On 6 December, a roundtable talk took place at the Munich Security Conference in Doha that investigated the role of standards in strengthening global cyber security;
- The Global Commission on Stability of Cyberspace held a public hearing on the “Singapore Norm Package” at the IGF 13 in Paris on 13 November 2018;
- At the Web Summit in Lisbon on 5 November 2018, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, presented a new version of his project “Contract for the Web”.
- Freedom House published its annual report on Internet freedom in November 2018 under the title “The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism”.
"I believe that the Internet we take for granted is under threat. … In the name of freedom, we have allowed so many enemies of freedom to advance in the open, we have allowed them to enter all our systems, giving them the impression that they had the same right as the others just as they trampled over what brought us together. And what allowed Internet to develop. … I deeply believe regulation is needed. That is the condition for the success of a free, open and safe Internet, the vision of the founding fathers. … If we do not regulate Internet, there is a risk that the foundations of democracy will be shaken; … That is also why I believe we need to move away from the false possibilities we are currently offered whereby only two models would exist: that on the one hand of completed self-management without governance and that of the compartmented Internet entirely monitored by strong and authoritarian states. … We therefore need, through regulation, to build this new path where governments, along with Internet players, civil societies and all actors are able to regulate properly. … We need to invent – innovate – new forms of multilateral cooperation that involve not only states, but also all of the stakeholders, you represent.”
Emmanuel Macron, President of France, IGF Paris, November 12, 2018