Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 39 - April 2019

Download your copy

Digital policy developments in April

With so many developments taking place every week, the policy environment is chock-full of new initiatives, evolving regulatory frameworks, new court cases and judgments, and a rich geo-political environment.

Through the Digital Watch observatory, we decode, contextualise, and analyse these issues, and present them in digestible formats. The monthly barometer tracks and compares them to reveal new focal trends and to determine the presence of new issues in comparison to the previous month. The following is a summarised version; read more about each one by following the blue icons, or by visiting the Updates section on the observatory.

Global IG architecture

same relevance

UNCTAD published its new Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments for least developed countries, which analyses the barriers to e-commerce and digital trade development for specific countries.

Sustainable development

same relevance

Achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) hinges on overhauling national and international financial systems, according to the latest report of the UN Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development. The potential of emerging technologies, and the support which developing countries need to harness this potential, are also explained in the report.


increasing relevance

G7 foreign ministers adopted the Dinard Declaration on the Cyber Norm Initiative, which encourages voluntary exchange of information, best practices, and lessons learned on implementation of voluntary, non-binding norms of responsible state behaviour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law on providing a stable operation of the Russian Internet (Runet), which should ensure a ’sustainable, secure, and fully functioning' Runet in case it is disconnected from the global infrastructure of the World Wide Web (WWW). The law is set to take effect on 1 November 2019.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

The European Commission’s report on Competition Policy for Digital Era calls for new antitrust rules for tech giants. It suggests improving legal certainty in the digital market, such as improved definitions of ‘dominance’ in the digital environment.

The European Parliament approved new online platform rules aimed at curbing unfair practices and increasing the transparency of their trading practices.

China is considering shutting down cryptocurrency mining operations and banning investments and loans in this field, as the industry is ‘polluting the environment; and ‘wasting energy’.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's political asylum was revoked by the Ecuadorian Embassy. He was arrested by UK police, sparking concerns about freedom of expression and threats to journalism.

The European Parliament voted for a biometrics database for border management called Common Identity Repository (CIR), which will interconnect identity and biometric records of EU and non-EU citizens into one massive, searchable database. Jamaica’s Supreme Court declared the national biometric identity law unconstitutional as it abrogated the right to privacy.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

EU Copyright Directive received final approval by the European Council.

Facebook will improve its ‘reduce, remove, inform’ approach against fake news by establishing a ‘Quality Group’ feature to hold group administrators more accountable for conduct towards illicit content shared within the group.

Australia passed a strict intermediary liability law making it a criminal offense for social media platforms to fail to promptly remove violent user-posted material.

The UK government published its Online Harms White Paper which calls for an independent ‘online harms’ regulator with effective enforcement powers, such as the power to issue fines and block access to sites.


same relevance

Controversy over Huawei’s 5G equipment wages on, amid leaks and possible investigations. The newest case comes from Serbia where concerns about Huawei's Safe City Solution for Belgrade are being raised.

Investment in undersea cables by private companies continues as Google completes the Curie cable from the USA to Chile and Infinera upgrades Orange's Kanawa subsea cable in the French Caribbean.

Net neutrality

decreasing relevance

A new bill which will restore net neutrality rules that prohibited blocking, throttling, and paid prioritisation titled ‘Save the Internet Act’ was approved by the US House of Representatives.

An increase in blocked websites in India despite net neutrality laws has raised questions about the enforcement of said laws.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

AI researchers have signed a letter calling on Amazon to stop selling facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies.

The EU High-Level Expert Group on artificial intelligence  published ethics guidelines for the development and use of trustworthy AI.

Google opened its first AI centre in Ghana to provide researchers with the necessary tools to build AI products that are adjusted to the needs of the African economy.

Policy discussions in Geneva

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

33rd Forum of the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and E-Business (UN/CEFACT)15 April 2019

The forum focused on how digital technology can help achieve the goals set out in Agenda 2030. Experts and delegates from 34 countries discussed projects in support of cross-border exchange of information. A more inclusive system for exchange of information would help developing countries and smaller businesses participate in global trade. Standards and a more innovative approach to e-services could lower the barriers for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in accessing global trade.

UNCTAD eCommerce Week 15 April 2019

The conference focused on the theme 'From Digitalization to Development', and addressed three main topics: E-commerce and digital business models, regulatory frameworks, and emerging technologies. Some sessions explored measures to foster inclusion in the digital economy, such as incentives to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and developing frameworks which better facilitate the cross-border flows of data, services, and goods. Regulatory frameworks-related sessions focused on the current e-commerce negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and reflected the polarised divisions among member countries. Discussions on emerging technologies focused on issues related to blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. Read our reports from the sessions.

WSIS Forum 2019 ‒ 8‒12 April 2019

The forum looked at the role of ICTs in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). It also highlighted the links between digital technology and SDG priority areas, including health, hunger, accessibility, education, youth inclusion, employment, gender empowerment, the environment, infrastructure, and innovation. The high-level policy sessions emphasised narrowing the digital divide, and fostering inclusiveness through ICTs. Read our reports from the sessions.

ILO100 - Law for Social Justice ‒ 15‒17 April

The International Labour Organization’s three-day conference, which marks the ILO’s 100th anniversary, focused on law for social justice. The conference underlined the ILO’s work in shaping international law in the field of social and labour rights, and reflected on current and future ILO standard-setting efforts in the broader scenario of the human rights agenda, and the normative context of international organisations. Speakers from the International Court of Justice, the International Law Commission, as well as leading scholars and practitioners, discussed four main themes: philosophy of law, human rights, public international law, and the law of international organisations.

Issue no. 39 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 9 May 2019, by the Geneva Internet Platform and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Cedric Amon, Stephanie Borg Psaila (editor), Andrijana Gavrilović, Stefania Grottola, Marco Lotti, Nataša Perućica, Vladimir Radunović, and  Mili Semlani | Design: Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Viktor Mijatović, and Mina Mudrić, Diplo’s CreativeLab