Internet Governance 2015: Brazil and Beyond

Brazil 2014: Marco Civil and NETmundial

In April 2014, a Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, also known asNETmundial, was hosted by the Brazilian government in São Paulo. NETmundial brought together over nine hundred attendees from governments, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society and resulted in the adoption of a (non-binding) Internet Governance Roadmap. Following the meeting, a number of pieces reviewed and commented on NETmundial’s outcome and final documents. The Center for Global Communication’s Internet Policy Observatory, for example, published Beyond NETmundial: The Roadmap for Institutional Improvements to the Global Internet Governance Ecosystem to explore how sections of “NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement” could be implemented. The meeting also played host to a seriesdiverging narratives not only between governments, States, and civil society, but also among various civil society actors.

Symbolically, on the first day of NETmundial, President Rousseff signed into law the Marco Civil da Internet – a law which many see as a benchmark for a modern, freedom-oriented approach to internet regulation. The Marco Civil was developed through a consultation process which included the participation of civil society, and discussions and debates over online platforms. The legislation provides general safeguards for the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, as well as a guarantee of net neutrality. One much applauded provision of the law is that service providers do not hold liability for content. Providers have no responsibility for users’ actions, and there are only sanctions against providers if they do not fulfill court orders to remove content. The law also contains an obligation to adopt a multistakeholder model of internet governance at all levels.

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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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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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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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