The Internet Policymaking Landscape in Pakistan

// 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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China’s Internet Governance under the Leadership of Xi Jinping

//Dr. Jian Xu, a visiting scholar with the Center for Global Communication Studies and the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, analyzes the government’s role in China’s internet governance and law-making, with a special focus on policy developments under Xi Jinping’s ruling.

Since Xi Jiping began his presidency in November 2012, the Chinese government has tightened their control of media — rather a surprise to those who expected political and judiciary reform.  In April, the New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos called Xi “the most authoritarian leader since Mao,” in regards to his treatment of internet governance, among other issues.  This blog post focuses on the role of the state in governing the internet, and does not focus on the roles other actors (corporate entities and civil society) play in internet governance. It will discuss various restrictions on the internet under Xi’s leadership, including key policies, regulations, and events, as well as the impacts of such actions.

Immediately after Xi took office, China started expanding its oversight of the internet. In December 2012, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued the Decision on Strengthening Network Information Protection, new rules requiring internet users to provide real identity information to internet service providers (ISPs) while signing a service agreement for internet access. The Decision also requires internet service providers to work more closely with the government’s internet regulations and censorship, including deleting politically sensitive postings, reporting those who post such material to relevant authorities, and providing necessary technical support to the government. On the surface, the Decision appears to protect users’ security and information. However, because a real name (or pseudonym) is required to access the internet, netizens are afraid to post critical information online.

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The contest of rules: US, China, Russia rival in setting the norms of behavior in cyberspace

//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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