[Briefing #61] Internet governance in January 2020


Event report

Optimising the interplay between natural and digital ecosystems; cybercrime resolution negotiations; and the increasing interest of regulators and banks in digital currencies were among the main digital policy trends in January 2020.

These and many other developments, trends, and regional updates were covered during January’s just-in-time briefing on Internet governance – our monthly appointment on the last Tuesday of every month – which took place on 28 January 2020. They were also summarised in the Internet Governance Barometer for January and in Issue 46 of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) Digital Watch newsletter.

The briefing was led by DiploFoundation’s Director of Cybersecurity and E-diplomacy Programmes Vladimir Radunović. He was joined by DiploFoundation’s Executive Director Jovan Kurbalija, Multimedia Co-ordinator Arvin Kamberi, and Digital Policy Senior Researcher Marília Maciel.

A look back to events in December 2019 and January 2020

Radunović spoke about the major Internet governance events in December, including: 

  • 2-4 Dec. Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) – Multistakeholder informal consultation, New York, USA
  • 5-6 Dec. UN GGE – Informal consultation for non-members, New York, USA
  • 9-13 Dec. UN GGE 1st session, New York, USA
  • 14-16 Jan. IGF 2020 First Open Consultations and MAG Meeting, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 20 Jan. Geneva Blockchain Forum, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 21-24 Jan. World Economic Forum (WEF), Davos-Klosters, Switzerland

Main developments in December 2019 and January 2020

Radunović underlined the main developments in the past two months. Microsoft released a patch for Windows 10 cryptographic vulnerability (reportedly disclosed by the NSA). Governments continue to be impacted by cyber-attacks: Turkish hackers claimed responsibility for cyber-attacks on Greek government sites; and the Austrian Foreign Ministry announced that its IT systems were targeted by serious cyber-attacks.

The 5G saga continues: The US House of Representatives passed the Bill 1 – Secure 5G and Beyond Act; Belgium security  services recommended stricter security measures for 5G deployment; the UK may allow Huawei to supply 5G equipment; and Germany is determined to allow Huawei to take part in the deployment of 5G infrastructure in the country. The USA and China signed the Phase One trade deal.

Plus: Uber will stop operations in Colombia from 31 January, and adapt the app to the new gig-work regulations in California, USA. Facebook launched the new Privacy Checkup tool. Google reaches US$7.5 million settlement in the USA after Google+ data breaches. Facebook will not police political ads. FBI seeked help from Apple to access iPhone in Florida, USA. Indian high court rules suspension of Internet services as illegal. The .org controversy continues. US White House proposes AI regulatory principles. Google CEO calls for reasonable regulation of AI. US Senate passes Developing and Growing Internet of Things Act.

Main trends in December 2019 and January 2020

1. Decade of action: natural and digital ecosystem

Kurbalija explained that January was the first month of the ‘Decade of Action’ for implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. In the 2020s, there will be increased focus on ways digital technology can be used as a tool for implementing SDGs. More specifically, how digital technologies can help reduce carbon footprints – from new types of online conferences that will reduce air-travels, to new digital policies to foster the role of data and artificial intelligence (AI) in addressing climate change and protecting the environment.

This link between climate/nature and the digital was already indicated in many statements at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos (including the speech of the president of the European Commission) and in the UN Secretary-General’s remarks to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 22 January 2020. 

2. Cybercrime resolution: towards global cyber treaties?

Radunović explained that in December 2019, the UNGA passed Resolution 74/247 – Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes. The resolution is based on a draft convention on countering cybercrime proposed by Russia in 2017, which would replace the Council of Europe (CoE) Budapest Convention of 2001. Voting in the UNGA for the resolution was divided, with 79 votes in favour, 60 against, and 33 abstentions. The voting could possibly signal the increasing appeal of a global cyber-treaty of some sort.

Reasons for this may include countries’ growing perception of the potential benefits of a regulated international cyber-environment, or that they see an international treaty as a way to strengthen their national sovereignty in cyberspace. Coupled with the UN slowly opening up its deliberations to other stakeholders, for example through the open consultations hosted by the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG); are witnessing a growing inclination of states to look for global treaties on cyber in a multistakeholder approach?

3. Digital currencies see increased interest from regulators and central banks

Kamberi noted that the WEF launched a Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance in January 2020 which will aim to set guidelines and principles to support public and private actors exploring opportunities offered by digital currencies. A group of central banks including the European Central Bank (ECB), Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the Sveriges Riksbank, the Swiss National Bank, and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) have announced that they will assess potential cases for central bank digital currencies. Initially reticent, central banks are now looking into the possibility of launching their own digital currencies.

Events in February

Radunović gave an overview of upcoming major Internet governance events, including: 

  • 6-7 Feb. Freedom Online Conference – Accra 2020, Ghana
  • 7-8 Feb. 3rd AAAI/ACM Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society, New York, USA
  • 10-14 Feb. Second substantive session of the OEWG New York, USA
  • 10-12 Feb. NANOG 78 San Francisco, USA
  • 11-12 Feb. 11th Smart Cities Summit World Forum – Dubai, UAE
  • 14-16 Feb  Munich Security Conference, Germany
  • 24 Feb.-20 Mar. Human Rights Council – 43rd Regular Session Geneva, Switzerland
  • 25-26 Feb. UNLOCK Blockchain 2020 Forum Abu Dhabi, UAE

Updates from GIP & DiploFoundation

Radunovic gave an overview of upcoming GIP and DiploFoundation activities: 

Regional perspectives

Amrita Choudhury gave updates from Asia, including the USA and China signing the Phase One trade deal, and the Indian high court ruling that indefinite suspension of Internet services is illegal.

Grace Mutung’u provided updates from Africa, about the UK-Africa Investment Summit and #LuandaLeaks – the major leak of confidential documents that led to an indictment in Angola.

Hanane Boujemi highlighted developments from the Middle East and North Africa, which included Dubai’s plan to launch the largest crypto-valley in the world, and the 5th edition of the Arab Internet Governance Forum held in Cairo, Egypt.

Wanda Perez provided updates from the Caribbean, including the creation of an interactive map of Puerto Rico’s vulnerabilities, and the launch of the Public Key Infrastructure project in Jamaica.


Event video