Regulationsf for a neutral and open internet at the age of online platforms

13 Nov 2018 15:00h - 16:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]

In order to keep the Internet open and neutral, regulation is necessary. However, it should not be hasty and stifling to innovation. With new technologies, new methods of regulation are needed. These methods should be democratic, transparent, and inclusive and keep the needs and safety of the end-user at their centre. Regulation rests on legislation, but often regulators do not understand how to implement the law. Open regulation between the regulator and the public is the best step forward.

The discussion on regulation for a neutral Internet was moderated by Mr Lucien Castex, Internet Society FranceMs Paula Forteza, Member, Assemblée Nationale, talked about the importance of the concept of open regulation or regulation by the society. People need to have the tools and resources such as data, access and legal rights, to work with regulators. According to Forteza, regulation needs to modernise. New ways are needed to make the regulatory process more open; regulators should work more with the technology ecosystem. Another approach to modernisation would be data driven regulation, and enabling the regulators to understand algorithms. Forteza pointed out that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe is a good example of this. Other useful tools include the concept of portability, addressing public opinion, and mobilising different kinds of actors.

Going deeply into the example of a legal framework, Mr Chérif Diallo,Director, Telecommunication Ministry, Senegal, presented the regulatory principles in Senegal. First, the principle of net neutrality is clearly stated in the law for end users, Internet service providers, operators, and content providers. Second, some specialised services are allowed but under strict supervision so as to prevent emergence of a multispeed Internet. Third, the net neutrality definition is broad in order to be applicable beyond physical networks. Fourth, interoperability of standards is guaranteed. Finally, the end user and transparency remain central.

Tackling the topic, Mr Sébastien Soriano, President, Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (ACREP), agreed that the end goal is to empower the society and not make it a passive recipient of regulation. ‘We have to disrupt regulation’, Soriano said. The acceleration of innovation and the worldwide scale of the market player are key factors in this. Following Forteza, he supported the data driven regulation approach but added that it might not be enough. Soriano explained that the role of the regulator today is to play with the nudge, and be the architect of the choice of consumers.

Mr Luca Belli, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, Brazil, focused on explaining the potential of collaborative and democratic regulation. The so-called Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights is a relevant example because it defined the rights and obligations online, particularly in regards to platforms, and was produced through a participatory process. However, legislation itself is not enough. Belli noted that often we see ‘distributed regulation’ where the regulator does not implement the law or does not know how to implement it. It is becoming very lucrative to own personal data which leads to platforms subsidising access to a given application. This is negative for the user as it is a way to extract this data. Regulation should prevent this. 

Mr Theodore Christakis, Professor of Law and member of the French Digital Council, gave the legal perspective on regulation. He emphasised that platforms have done good, but they have also raised a numerous array of issues around privacy, fake news, market manipulation and other human rights issues. Christakis noted the New Digital Regulation Convention adopted earlier in 2018. The document is aimed at re-thinking regulation and exploring different methods, tools and competencies, principles of transparency, audit of algorithms and building cooperation between regulators, citizens and researchers. ‘Regulation must be wise, not wild’, Christakis said. The community should be aware of too much regulation. Wise regulation is business and innovation friendly, protects human rights, is participatory and based on democratic legitimacy.


By Jana Mišić