Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 30 - April 2018

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IG Barometer for April

The monthly Internet Governance Barometer of Trends tracks specific Internet governance issues (IG) in the public policy debate, and reveals focal trends by comparing the issues every month. The barometer determines the presence of specific IG issues in comparison to the previous month. Read more about each update.

Global IG architecture

increasing relevance

Thirty-four technology companies signed a Cybersecurity Tech Accord, committing to protect civilians online and improve the security, stability, and resilience of cyberspace.

Commonwealth Heads of Government adopted a Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, focusing heavily on cybersecurity, followed by development and economy, and human rights aspects.

G7 security ministers called on countries and the Internet industry to work together and create ‘effective solutions’ for countering the use of online technologies by terrorists.

Sustainable development

decreasing relevance

Denmark joined the World Bank's Digital Development Partnership, an initiative focused on assisting developing countries in taking advantage of digitalisation on their path to sustainable development.


increasing relevance

The European Commission is proposing new rules to facilitate cross-border access of law enforcement agencies to electronic evidence.

The US Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre released a technical alert warning against Russian state-sponsored cyber actors targeting network infrastructure devices. Australian authorities also argue that hundreds of businesses have been targeted by such actors.

Unidentified hackers have attacked networks in Iran, Russia, and several other countries, disabling equipment of Internet service providers (ISPs) and data centres.

The UK National Cyber Security Centre has elaborated a new cyber incident framework, to harmonise the description and prioritisation of cyber threats. France is developing its own encrypted messenger service to be used by government officials.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

The UNCTAD E-commerce Week 2018, featured discussions on the development opportunities and challenges associated with the evolving digital economy. Several WTO members have put forward proposals to advance exploratory work on trade-related aspects of e-commerce and identify possible elements that could form the basis of a future agreement on e-commerce.

In Europe, 22 countries concluded a Blockchain Partnership, to share expertise in blockchain-related technical and regulatory fields. Vietnam is planning to tighten the control of cryptocurrency activities, following reports of a massive Initial Coin Offering fraud. In South Korea, 14 crypto exchanges have committed to a set of rules to improve the transparency of their activities.[link]  Antigua and Barbuda is set to launch its first cryptocurrency exchange, while the Caribbean Tourism Organization intends to facilitate the use of crypto-payments for tourism services.

Uber lost another case in front of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), as the court ruled that EU member states 'may prohibit and punish the illegal exercise of a transport activity such as UberPop'. The ruling reiterated a December 2017 decision which found that UberPop was a transportation service. Elsewhere, a judge in Philadelphia, USA, ruled that drivers working under the UberBlack limousine service are independent contractors.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

A court in Moscow, Russia, approved a request from the country’s telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, to block access to Telegram messaging services, due to the company’s repeated refusal to hand over encryption keys.

The Ranking Digital Rights 2018 notes that very few of the 22 assessed major Internet and telecom companies make users' right to privacy and freedom of expression a central priority.

The European Commission has launched a set of legislative proposals to strengthen consumer rights online.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

In a move described by some as an attempt to reduce its exposure to the EU GDPR, Facebook plans to make changes to its terms of service, so that non-EU users will no longer be subject to agreements with the company’s Ireland headquarters.

The US Supreme Court dismissed the Microsoft Ireland case as moot, in light of the CLOUD Act. Microsoft will now have to provide US authorities with data stored in Ireland, following CLOUD Act provisions.

A UK  judge has ruled in favour of the right to be forgotten, by ordering Google to de-list from its search results articles about years-old crimes committed by a businessman. Malaysia’s parliament passed a law against fake news, introducing fines of up to USD$123 000 and a maximum of six-year jail term for offenders.


same relevance

Several countries on the West African coast were affected by a subsea cable cut.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and EU data protection authorities continue exchanges over ICANN’s proposed model to ensure that domain name registries and registrars are in compliance with ICANN policies and the GDPR.

Net neutrality

same relevance

US states continue to pass their own net neutrality rules, following the December 2017 decision of the Federal Communications Commission to repeal the federal rules. The Oregon Governor signed a net neutrality bill that prohibits public bodies from contracting with ISPs that engage in network management activities based on paid prioritisation, content blocking, or other forms of discrimination. In California, a strict net neutrality bill is close to becoming law, despite objections from telecom providers.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

Twenty-five European countries adopted a Declaration of Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence (AI), while the European Commission outlined policy measures to ‘put AI at the service of Europeans’A study by The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks South Korea, Germany, and Singapore as the countries most prepared for dealing with the advancements in automation and AI. In an open letter to the European Commission, over 150 experts raised concerns over the idea of granting robots a legal status.

Authorities in California, USA, can now issue permits for fully autonomous vehicles to be tested on public roads, as the applicable regulations entered into force on 2 April.[link] China has introduced nationwide guidelines for the testing of such vehicles on public roads.

The Select Committee on AI in the UK House of Lords published a report with recommendations aimed to support the UK government and other stakeholders in 'realising the potential of AI for society and economy, and to protect society from potential threats and risks'.

Microsoft announced plans to invest USD$ 5 billion in research and innovation in the Internet of things (IoT) in the next five years.

Geneva digital developments

Many policy discussions take place in Geneva every month. The following updates cover the main events of the month. For event reports, visit the Past Events section on the GIP Digital Watch observatory.

Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge 2018

The fourth Cyber 9/12 Student Competition, held on 5–6 April, brought together teams from 20 universities to find solutions to a simulated cyber incident. The contest scenario required the students to respond to a European-level cyber crisis targeting the aviation ecosystem. Their role was to assess the crisis and provide strategic policy recommendations for government leaders. After two days of competition, the Black Knights team of the US Military Academy at West Point came first, followed by two Swiss teams: NOBUS (HSG Universität St. Gallen and ETH Zurich) and ETHernet (ETH Zurich). The competition is organised annually by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Atlantic Council.

CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS)

The Group of Governmental Experts, established under the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, convened on 9–13 April, to address potential challenges posed by emerging technologies in the area of LAWS. Building on the November 2017 meeting, the group focused on the characterisation of autonomous weapons systems, the human element in the use of lethal force, and possible options to address the humanitarian and security challenges posed by LAWS. While significant differences remain on issues such as the need and scope of a definition of LAWS, states found considerable agreement on the importance of significant human control in the selection and engagement of human targets.

ITU Expert Group on International Telecommunication Regulations – 4th meeting

The 4th meeting of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Expert Group on International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), held on 12–13 April, completed a process that began in February 2017 to conduct a review of the 2012 ITRs. The group’s final report outlines the divergent views of members states on issues such as the applicability and relevance of the 2012 ITRs in the context of the rapidly evolving telecommunications/ICT environment, the existence of potential conflicts between the obligations of signatories to the 2012 ITRs and the 1988 ITRs, and the holding of a new World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). The report was submitted to the ITU Council for consideration and subsequent submission to ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018.

UNCTAD E-commerce Week

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) hosted its annual E-Commerce Week on 16–20 April, under the theme ‘Development dimensions of digital platforms’. Participants discussed ways in which e-commerce and digital platforms could support economic growth and sustainable development. Emphasis was placed on the need to ensure that developing and least developed countries are able to enjoy the benefits of the evolving digital economy, and that enabling environments – from telecommunications infrastructures, to digital skills, and access to financial systems – are in place for this to happen. Other highlighted issues included challenges to consumer trust in e-commerce, data flows and the impact of data policies on digital trade, and the impact of the sharing economy and other new business models on the labour force. The Geneva Internet Platform provided just-in-time reports from many sessions related to digital policy.

GIS for a Sustainable World Conference

Held on 17–19 April, the conference was co-hosted by Esri and the Operational Satellite Application Programme of the UN Institute for Training and Research. Discussions focused on how geographic information systems (GIS) could be used to support progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs). It was stressed that GIS applications could help governments better assess the efficiency of measures taken to reach the SDGs. Participants also provided examples of GIS applications in areas such as refugee crises, humanitarian aid, and disaster management. In addition, there were debates on the use of drones and other robotics applications for the benefit of aid, health, development, and environmental protection.

ITU Council – 2018 Session

On 17–27 April, the ITU Council met in Geneva to discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to the mission of the organisation, in advance of the 20th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao set the scene for the meeting, noting that it is the task of both the Council and the Plenipotentiary ‘to ensure that ITU’s activities, policies, and strategies fully respond to today’s digital transformation’. The Council discussed issues such as ITU’s work to support the implementation of the SDGs, the organisation’s activities on strengthening its role in building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, and reports from its several working groups (e.g. international Internet-related public policy issues, child online protection, and ITRs). The Council’s decisions will be made available on its webpage.

Issue no. 30 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 30 April 2018, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Stephanie Borg Psaila, Jovan Kurbalija, Marília Maciel, David Morar, Roxana Radu, Barbara Rosen Jacobson, Sorina Teleanu | Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab