Calling a Bluff? Internet Governance Poker Heats up

CGCS Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Ben Wagner discusses the upcoming NETMundial conference in Brazil and questions whether ‘global forums’ actually impact the wider geopolitics of the internet.

With the coming ‘Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance’ NETmundial conference in Brazil, the debate on internet governance is heating up again. Less than two years after the ITU’s WCIT summit in Dubai and less than a year after revelations about mass NSA spying, a new attempt will be made to change the way the internet is governed. The NETmundial conference is both an attempt by the Brazilian government to find an answer to U.S. surveillance practices and an attempt to properly democratize and globalize internet governance.[1]

Recent statements by the U.S. government about changes to the IANA function, however, alter the regulatory environment and in so doing put in question the relevance of the Brazil conference as well as, such authority the conference has tried to accumulate. The U.S. government is changing the terms of the debate about global control over ICANN by, itself, soliciting proposals about the future of multistakeholder governance. The NETmundial conference was asking participants to contribute a “roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.”  What such proposals should be shift and alter as the internet governance ecosystem has already changed.

The U.S.’s decision also demonstrates, with startling effectiveness, how little such ‘global forums’ actually matter in the wider geopolitics of the internet. Particularly when the whims of the U.S. are concerned, there…

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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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Internet Governance and Free Expression in Latin America: A Panel Discussion with Experts

On January 22nd, as part of the Price Media Law Moot Court Americas Regional Round, CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) sponsored a panel discussion entitled “Internet Governance and Free Expression in Latin America.”

Against the background of discussions about the role of the press in Latin America, including issues of regulation and free expression in Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador and elsewhere, this Panel focused on emerging attitudes toward Internet Governance in Latin America. Panelists analyzed and discussed the most recent regional shifts in narratives and policymaking with regard to privacy, free expression, and the internet. This seminar also focused on the upcoming international NETmundial summit to be hosted in Brazil that will bring government, industry, academia, and leaders to discuss these issues. Additionally, the conversation discussed the Marco Civil da Internet (which may or not be enacted into law), its implications, as well as other changing approaches to regulation of the internet.

Panelists Eduardo Bertoni (Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information), Carolina Rossini (New America Foundation), Marcel Leonardi (Google Brazil), and Erika Watanabe Patriota (Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations) discussed issues such as…

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