Local interventions, global impacts: How can international, multistakeholder cooperation address internet disruptions, encryption, and data flows

18 Dec 2017 10:00h - 13:00h

Event report

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

The main session was opened by Mr Thomas Schneider, Ambassador and Director of International Affairs at the Swiss Federal Office of Communication (OFCOM), who welcomed the participants on behalf of the Swiss Confederation, the host country of the IGF.

The moderator, Dr Tereza Horejsova, Director of Project Development at DiploFoundation, explained that the session will have three segments: Internet disruptions, encryption, and data flows. Each segment gave the perspectives of various stakeholder groups, and elaborated on the global impact of actions on a local level.

The first segment concentrated on the issue of Internet disruptions. Introductory remarks were delivered by Ms Anriette Esterhuysen, Director of Global Policy and Strategy at the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), who emphasised the increase of shutdowns over time. As she stated, the debate on Internet disruptions evolved from a human rights debate, to calculating the actual costs of shutdowns. The shutdowns and disruptions have a profound effect on user’s lives. Esterhuysen stressed the power of governments and the imbalance it causes in the multistakeholder discussions.

When it came to the perspectives of the stakeholders groups, Ms Melody Patry, Advocacy Director at Access Now, gave the civil society perspective. Patry introduced the #KeepItOn coalition, a membership coalition from 60 countries working to combat the voluntary Internet disruptions through advocacy, norm building, detection, and mitigation. She confirmed the alarming increase of the voluntary Internet disruptions and emphasised the need to act on the local level. As examples of normative interventions against the Internet disruptions, she mentioned the UN Resolution on Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet, as well as the statement of 30 governments against the Internet shutdowns.

The government perspective of the Republic of Indonesia was presented by Ms Farida Dwi Cahyarini, Secretary General at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Republic of Indonesia, who explained the challenges of preventing Internet disruptions in her country, due to its geographic position. She also explained the necessity of affordability and connectivity in light of Indonesia being situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Indonesian government is currently dealing with infrastructure improvements, as well as policies improving connectivity.

The Brazilian perspective was presented by Mr Demi Getschko, CEO of NIC.br., where the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee has existed since 1995, and the Internet is considered to be a part of infrastructure. Multiple initiatives over the years led to establishing the rights of Internet users. With regards to the Internet disruptions, Getschko explained the spillover effects of the disruptions over the country boundaries, and the collateral effect on the non targeted users. He explained that the civil law framework in Brazil is based on the protection of privacy, neutrality of the network, and the responsibility of the intermediaries.

Mr Christoph Steck, Director of Public Policy & Internet at Telefonica, presented the perspective of the providers on the Internet shutdowns, stressing that the shutdowns are a lose-lose situation for all the participants. Shutdowns prevent operationality as well as causing damage to the reputation of the provider. Steck specified that full network shutdowns are not sustainable for the future, but that disruptions to service are on the rise. Steck emphasised the necessity for the transparency of shutdown processes, and of adequate oversight and redress mechanisms.

The Q&A part of this segment touched upon normative guidelines for access to the Internet, accountability for disruptions of public and private sectors, and the necessity of net neutrality.

The session then continued with a segment on encryption. Horejsova asked Ms Riana Pfefferkorn, Cryptography Fellow at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, to set the stage of the segment. Pfefferkorn stressed the role of encryption as a security tool in the protection of human rights, the crossborder impacts of strong encryption and the lack of it, and the impacts of current rules on encryption for the future of cybersecurity. In many parts of the world, encryption saves lives.

Stakeholder group perspectives were provided by Mr Raúl Echeberría, Vice President of Global Engagement at ISOC, who explained the importance of encryption for the protection of personal data, data of the companies, and government information.

Mr Moctar Yedaly, Head of the Information Society Division at the African Union Commission, stressed the need of a framework for the protection of personal data in order to develop digital policies related to encryption.

Mr Luis Fernando García, Executive Director of R3D in Mexico, gave examples on the importance of encryption for the personal security of digital journalists, and the need for companies to adopt encryption in order to protect users’ personal data.

Mr Paul Nicholas, Senior Director of Global Security Strategy and Diplomacy at ‎Microsoft, brought in a corporate perspective on encryption. Nicholas explained that the rapid developments in connectivity and cloud computing cause some governments to block or weaken encryption, as well as the need to find mechanisms for accountability for human rights violations.

The Q&A session dealt with technologies supporting the encryption tools, the need for multistakeholder discussion, lawful hacking and cybersecurity, as well as the need for normative regulation.

The third segment was dedicated to the problem of data flows. Introductory remarks were delivered by Mr Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, who emphasised the ability to interconnect as the core of the evolution of the Internet is based on technology. He further stated that the inhibition of data flows would cause the fragmentation of the Internet.

Mr Andre Laperriere, Executive Director at the ‎Global Open Data Initiative (UN), explained that free data is the key tool for innovation, food security, and safety for all. He gave an account of free data flow helping less developed countries to advance rapidly. Laperriere touched on privacy and data, the curation of data, and the problem related to chasing data.

Academia’s perspective was presented by Ms Stephania Milan, Associate Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam, who tackled the role of digital platforms and their rise as the economic and infrastructure models, as well as their role in data markets. She emphasised the need for more transparency, literacy, and accountability.

The perspective of the technological community in Kenya was presented by Ms Fiona Asonga, Chief Executive Officer of TESPOK, who explained the need for the private sector, business, technical community, and government to co-operate in order to enable the use of data.

Mr Stefan Schnorr, Director General of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, stated the need for the free flow of data for the viability of civil society, environmental protection and the role of the European general data protection regulations. He also stressed the importance of balance between the data flow and data protection.

Questions and comments tackled the issues of compromised data, data protection and encryption, anonymity of metadata, and net neutrality.

The full session wrap-up was provided by Ms Anne Carblanc, Head of Division for Digital Economy Policy of the OECD, who elaborated on the openness of the Internet in the technical, economic, social and legal sense. Carblanc stated that the issue of Internet disruptions should be tackled on the local, national, and global levels.

Mr Bertrand de la Chapelle, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network, summarised the discussion and the necessity to reconcile competitive objectives by having a multitude of actors around the same table.

Horejsova then concluded the session by thanking the MAG facilitators, namely Professor Flavio Wagner and Ms Virginia Paque, all the speakers and participants, and encouraged the audience to take the opportunity to discuss issues related to Internet disruptions, encryption and data flows in the upcoming dedicated sessions at the IGF.

by Pavlina Ittelson