The 12th annual symposium of the global internet governance academic network (GigaNet)

17 Dec 2017 09:00h - 18:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The 12th Annual Symposium of the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) ran all day featuring paper presentations and posters on hot issues in digital policy, showcasing innovative research, methodology and data on a wide range of issues, dissecting the Internet Governance institutions, practices and trends. The conference started with a panel on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) regime, touching on international domain names and language rights, the multistakeholder model and complex hegemonic practices, including in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) stewardship transition. The papers on digital trade and governance of personal data brought current initiatives and legislative proposals under investigation. A paper on trade policy-making exposed the contested meanings of inclusiveness, accountability and transparency among regulators, the private sector and civil society, making the coordination of positions even within the same group of interests difficult to achieve. 

While governance by private actors was an underlying theme for this symposium, dedicated papers looked at Internet firms as global regulators, governance by code and cyber-norm entrepreneurs. For the latter, the role of Microsoft and its new norm proposals was investigated. The notion of a ‘beyond compliance regulation’ was highlighted as a combination of state coercion and private, third-party regulation. It was shown that the position of powerful Internet firms as regulators across the board on behalf of intellectual property owners, goes contrary to the accountability principles and circumvents the democratic process. 

The final session zoomed in on national regimes, with presentations on the Brazilian and Chinese models. An institutional analysis of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (Comite Gestor da Internet no Brasil, CGI Brazil), a historical overview of the construction of the global Internet, as well as the informal collaboration in the Chinese networked governance were discussed: on the one hand, the challenges faced by the multistakeholder model in internal governance structures, and on the other hand, the multilateral Internet linked to Internet sovereignty and the sharing of intangible resources. 

Overall, the symposium provided fresh insights onto both historical and current developments in the evolution of Internet governance, presenting a mature, interdisciplinary academic discussion.  Many nuances were added in regard to the control of online rumours, the internal governance of organisations, and global policy-making, the role of states in the digital field, but also the increasingly more powerful role of business actors and the continuous search for legitimacy, accountability and global norms. The GigaNet annual symposium was followed by a business meeting discussing updates and activities of the community this year. 

By Roxana Radu