NETmundial: only a landmark event if ‘Digital Cold War’ rhetoric abandoned

//Researchers Francesca Musiani and Julia Pohle explain what stands in the way of genuine multistakeholder internet governance as all eyes are turning towards Brazil and its NETmundial meeting. The full article can be found on the Internet Policy Review.

Over the last year, the continuous revelations by Edward Snowden about the massive surveillance data mining programmes of the US National Security Agency (NSA) have led to what can be considered a “wake-up call” for global internet governance. They have entailed, among several of their important consequences, an exacerbation of the differences between the more or less established actors in today’s internet governance landscape. While privacy and its transposition to the internet context has been a central concern for quite a long time, the Snowden revelations have highlighted the extent to which it is a core political issue, with intense national interests, as well as individual ones, taking shape around it. Around this tension, challenges to offshore internet governance from the United States and to assume local or regional control of data fluxes have multiplied, coming most notably from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The privacy-surveillance controversy has prompted what is perhaps the most prominent and ambitious call in internet governance history to break the dominance of United States control on internet infrastructure and to move the internationalisation and the globalisation of internet governance1 to the next level: the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, or NETmundial. Scheduled for April 23 and 24 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the meeting is set to focus on “crafting Internet governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem”2— with a very thinly veiled objective to undermine US predominance, and a newly found legitimacy prompted by the Snowden revelations. Recently, the expectations of the global internet governance community about this meeting were additionally fueled by the United States government’s declarations that it is time to take a “step back” in its control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) (DoC, 2014).


While, as internet governance scholar Milton Mueller has noticed, “the US government’s attempt to position itself as the standard-bearer of Internet freedom, always dubious, was finished off” through the disclosure of the NSA surveillance programmes (Mueller, 2013a), the PRISM scandal was maybe the last, but surely not the only recent event that challenged the status quo of the…

This article by Francesca Musiani and Julia Pohle, originally published on the Internet Policy Review ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany (CC BY 3.0 DE) license.

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Reflections on Multistakeholderism and Internet Governance

CGCS Director Monroe Price comments on Alexander Klimburg, Philipp Mirtl and Snezana Gjorgieva’s paper “Mapping Internet Terrain” which examines the ongoing power shifts between state and non-state actors in internet governance and uses linguistic analysis to map evolving meanings of terms such as multistakeholderism.

In February, CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) received a preliminary study by the Austrian internet scholar Alexander Klimburg and his team about the evolving meanings of critical internet governance terminology.  This paper is relevant for our IPO project as we are interested in examining key words and phrases within policy discourses, such as “multistakeholderism,” to map how the definitions and usages of these terms change over time to reflect shifting narratives and agendas. The challenge is to find interesting and original ways to do this. There has been lots of writing about multistakeholderism; however, encouraging work that is original, significant and capable of being completed in a manner that can illuminate ongoing debates can be a major task.

The fount of this particular debate could be the Working Group on Internet Governance, which, as the Klimburg study reminds, defined internet governance as, “the development and application…

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Security, Internet Rights and Principles: Power Shifts and Implications for Internet Policy-Making in India

Colin Agur, Valerie Belair-Gagnon and Ramesh Subramanian are undertaking a research project about internet policy in India as part of the CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory.[i]

Of the South Asian countries, India alone has a record as a strong democracy that protects free expression in its law and constitution.[ii] Nevertheless, its record on internet free speech has been uneven, with a history of overt censorship and blocking of sites. A 2007 report by the OpenNet Initiative tested several internet service providers (ISPs) in India and found evidence of government filtering for sites whose contents related to national unity or national security. Other incidents include: the blocking of all Yahoo Groups in September 2003 after Yahoo refused to block access to a the group Kynhun, which promoted the secession of Meghalaya from India; the blocking of the extremist web site in April 2004; and the blocking of seventeen web sites, including blog sites, after the 2006 Mumbai bombings.

Government attempts to filter and block sites have usually encountered strong resistance from activists and the media. However, in December 2008, in the weeks following the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Indian lawmakers hurriedly passed an amendment to the IT Act of 2000 with little debate or…

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Mapping the Internet Terrain

Alexander Klimburg (Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School), Philipp Mirtl (Affiliated Researcher, Austrian Institute for International Affairs), and Snezana Gjorgieva (PhD Candidate, University of Vienna) examines the ongoing power shifts between state and non-state actors in Internet governance, presenting some research notes on the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance. This paper is part of CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO).

The rise of the Internet has had a marked effect on how we view political power.[1] Around the turn of the millennium, the nation-state as a political factor seemed to be in retreat, and was described as being “under siege”.[2] Giving individuals instant and affordable access to vast amounts of information, the Internet “has collapsed the world, transcending and blurring political boundaries.”[3] As everyday lives have been perceived as being significantly transformed by the Internet, so, too, were traditional concepts of territoriality and state sovereignty. It was even claimed that “[t]he new technologies encourage noninstitutional, shifting networks over the fixed bureaucratic hierarchies that are the hallmark of the single-voiced sovereign state.”[4]

However, while there is no doubt “that significant deterritorialisation has taken place in human affairs, territory remains a crucial factor for many key aspects of humankind’s social, economic and especially political structures.”[5] In our near future, the pre-eminence of the state will thus…

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