Just before the official opening of the 2015 UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on November 10, 2015, the core of the current challenges of internet governance were laid out by a panel in a Scene Setting session. Speakers’ interventions corresponded with the sub-themes of this year’s IGF under the overarching topic “Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development.” Check out the following infographic to explore the eight challenges outlined during this session.
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Content for the infographic was provided by Christian Möller.
// Usama Khilji, a research associate at Bolo Bhi, discusses Bolo Bhi’s recent study analyzing internet policymaking in Pakistan which makes suggestions for crafting ideal internet policy. Click here to learn more about Bolo Bhi.
Internet policymaking in Pakistan has been an uphill task for all stakeholders involved, a process whereby the government justifies proposals for greater control over internet activity with language about security and counter-terrorism while other stakeholders, especially civil society and technology-related businesses, mobilize campaigns to resist such attempts. Through our research on the internet policymaking landscape in Pakistan, our team at Bolo Bhi has interviewed key internet policymaking stakeholders to identify the main drivers of Pakistan’s incoherent internet policy: these issues include lack of expertise on technology related matters in the government, a lack of transparency in policymaking processes, ad hoc censorship policies, and failure to have a multi-stakeholder forum where input from stakeholders is taken for the laws and policies under consideration.
The near three-year YouTube ban in Pakistan epitomizes this tense relationship and the push and pull between government, civil society, the private sector, and other actors. The website was banned to appease violent protestors after a video that was deemed blasphemous appeared on YouTube in September 2012 The lifting of the ban has become an ego tussle between Google and the Pakistani government; with academia and civil society criticizing the restriction of access to the website.
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//Alexandra Kulikova, program coordinator at the PIR Center in Moscow, discusses implications of and processes for creating soft law on ICT governance.
The shift of cyberspace governance discussions towards a normative framework demonstrates states’ efforts to formulate ‘rules of the game.’ Recent multinational and bilateral agreements on cyberspace governance fall under the domain of non-binding soft law, in which norms agreed upon are not set in stone. As fundamental differences exist amongst individual state’s visions of cyber governance (for example views on state sovereignty in cyberspace), and with the uncertainties a rapidly developing cyberspace brings, hard laws often imply commitments that are difficult to honor. Non-binding agreements and norms leave room to maneuver as seen in the recent UN Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security report and talks between the US and China.
While the United Nation’s bureaucracy is typically perceived as ill paced for dynamic ICT governance, in June 2015 a major breakthrough occurred. Representatives from twenty countries formed the fourth Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security. The GGE agreed on a range of non-binding norms for state behavior as well as confidence and capacity building measures in cyberspace – something many were skeptical about. The agreements, reflected in the report published in August, outline some important commitments which states have refused to recognize since the late 1990s when the Russian Federation started promoting the norm building process through the creation of the UN GGE. These include, inter alia, the commitment to not attack each other’s critical infrastructure and cyber emergency response systems (CERTs and CSIRTs); to not knowingly allow illegal third party cyber activity from within their territory; to carry out due investigation on malicious activity before counteractions are taken; to assist in investigations of cyberattacks and cybercrime launched from the country’s territory; and to commit to peaceful use of ICTs as a cornerstone of peace and security in cyberspace and beyond. Building on the success of the previous UN GGE in 2013, which acknowledged the applicability of international law to cyberspace and encouraged future elaboration of norms and confidence building measures (CBMs), the current GGE managed to build upon and agree on some minimum conditions for international cyber stability.
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//A new report published by the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), with support from the CGCS Internet Policy Observatory, highlights the practice of mobile network shutdowns in Pakistan and the wider implications for human rights of such practices by governments around the world. Click here to read the full report.
While many States recognize the economic and social benefits of investing in and improving access to Information and Communication Technology (ICTs), some are reaching for the communications “off” switch at times of civil unrest, or in the name of national security. Although country-wide network shutdowns on the scale of Egypt during the Arab Spring in 2011 are extremely rare, shutdowns may target a specific geographical area of mobile coverage, internet access, or a specific service such as Facebook or WhatsApp. This can potentially impact millions of people, as happened in the Gujarat state in India recently.
However, network shutdowns adversely affect a range of human rights, and in the view of many experts, such shutdowns are neither necessary nor proportionate responses to potential violent activities. Experts are concerned that network shutdowns are becoming the norm, rather than an exception. They say shutdowns are being utilized as the main strategy to curb terrorism, when instead states can do much more to improve other methods of investigation.
Network shutdowns indeed affect freedom of expression, but they also impact other rights, including life, access to health services, education, and work. In particular, IHRB’s report stresses the importance of ensuring access to emergency services (ambulance, police and fire) even at the time of a shutdown so that these services can continue to operate. The report also highlights how disruption has a wider impact on companies, schools, universities and colleges, and online commercial and public services.
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