On the Geopolitics of “Platforms”

//Robyn Caplan is one of the ten 2015 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2015 Milton Wolf Seminar. Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2015 Seminar discussions.

In the last year, questions about the roles that both non-traditional and traditional media play in the filtering of geopolitical events and policy have begun to increase. Though traditional sources such as The New York Times retain their influence, social media platforms and other online information sources are becoming the main channels through which news and information is produced and circulated. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, and other micro-blogging services bring the news directly to the people. According to a study by Parse.ly, the era of searching for information is ending—fewer referrals to news sites are coming from Google, with the difference in traffic made up by social media networks (McGee, 2014; Napoli, 2014).

It isn’t just news organizations that are finding greater success online. Heads of state—most famously President Obama—have used social networks to reach…

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The (ongoing) quest for Latin America’s role in Internet Governance

//Carolina Aguerre and Hernan Galperin of UDESA discuss the results of their research into Latin American internet governance mechanisms. Click here to read the full report.

Since the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in November 2012, policy experts and scholars have demonstrated a more focused interest in understanding regional variations in internet governance preferences and organizational models. Yet many of these efforts have failed to fully grasp the complexity of a region such as Latin America. Part of the problem lies in the lack of a strong supranational political institution such as the European Union. Latin America is a patchwork quilt of various political and trade agreements, none of which provide a coherent framework for collective action on critical internet governance issues.

Our research (link to the paper) suggests that countries in the region should not be characterized as “swing states (Maurer and Morgus, 2014),” for many have a long-standing record of formal and/or tacit support for the current multistakeholder governance model. The analysis looks at three dimensions of governance…

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‘Dear Google’: An Open Letter from 80 Academics on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Internet Policy Observatory affiliate Christian Möller discusses the May 13th open letter to Google signed by eighty scholars. The letter asks Google for more transparency on how it processes ‘right to be forgotten’ (RTBF) requests. To view the complete letter click here.

A year ago, in March 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Google and other search engines function as ‘controllers’ of personal information as laid out in the European Data Protection Directive (DPD). Responsibilities of those controllers include an obligation to keep data that provides identifying information about individuals for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data were collected or for which they are further processed.

Search engines, according to the ECJ ruling, must remove links to outdated or irrelevant personal information from search results upon request. The Court found that individuals have a right to control their private data and that they have the right to request that information be ‘forgotten’ when the results show links to information that is no longer accurate or relevant. It also established that Google’s search engine results are fully subject to European data privacy law.

In an initial reaction after the ruling, Google called the judgment ‘disappointing,’ saying that it ‘went too far’. Following the ECJ ruling, however, the company followed the Court decision and has set up a form to submit removal requests. On the day of form’s release, Google reportedly received more than 12,000 removal requests. To date, Google says that it has received more than 250,000 requests to delist links and has evaluated more than 930,000 URLS  for removal. According to a Google transparency report, 41 percent of those URLs have been removed and 59 percent have not been removed. That sums up to roughly 380,000 URLs removed from Google search results because of RTBF requests.

At the same time, search engines are still struggling with the question of how to react to the Court ruling. Google has established an Advisory Council to help handle requests from Europeans claiming their ‘right to be forgotten’ and has published a transparence report and answers to frequently asked questions on the topic.

The Advisory Council published a report in January 2015 after…

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Reclaiming the Multistakeholder Approach

//Annenberg School for Communication PhD student Katerina Girginova discusses the origin and usage of the term multistakeholderism, as well as how the term could be reclaimed.

Multistakeholderism has become a staple concept in internet policy discourse. Too often, however, it is uncritically applied, which either leads to its ineffective adoption or to its outright dismissal. This blog argues that in both cases multistakeholderism is used as an oversimplified heuristic, which has become descriptive in nature rather than analytical. In an attempt to reclaim multistakeholderism as a critical and practical tool, this blog first explores the origins and evolution of the concept, paying close attention to its normative assumptions and promises. It then teases out a suggestion for how the idea of multistakeholders can be applied inquisitively rather than descriptively in policy contexts.

When did the term originate?

Multistakeholderism is the grandchild of stakeholder theory, or stakeholderism. Briefly, a stakeholder is “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the firm’s objectives (Freeman, 1984, p. 25).” Stakeholderism has its roots embedded in an industrial core; one of the first international bodies “to recognize the role of relevant stakeholders was the International Labor Organization (ILO), which in 1919 set a model for tripartite representation from governments, employers and unions (Hemmati, 2002, p. 36).” Similarly, some of the earliest academic works mentioning stakeholders emanate from…

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