Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 23 - August 2017

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IG Barometer for August

The monthly Internet Governance Barometer of Trends tracks specific Internet governance issues 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. Learn more about each update.

Global IG architecture

increasing relevance

During a speech following the G20 summit, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Internet companies to act more quickly against online extremism and to solve the 'problem' of encrypted content. Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd has reiterated a call for Internet companies to take ‘real action’ in the fight against extremist content.

Messaging platform Telegram has agreed to remove extremist content from its application, after Indonesian authorities ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to domain names used by Telegram.

Sustainable development

increasing relevance

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), held on 10–19 July in New York, discussed the role of digital technologies in achieving sustainable development.

An analysis of four years of HLPF reports, conducted by DiploFoundation, shows that data is becoming an increasingly central element in discussions around sustainable development. The sustainable development goals’ (SDGs') aim of leaving no one behind has put pressure on the collection and analysis of extensive amounts of disaggregated data. In order for all countries to be able to comply with this need, capacity building and international harmonisation are crucial.


same relevance

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to be planning to close the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues within the State Department, a move that is criticised by US experts as weakening the USA’s leadership position in global negotiations on cyberspace. Ambassador Christopher Painter, who had served as coordinator for cyber issues since 2011, left the position at the end of July. President Trump issued a decision elevating the US Cyber Command to the status of Unified Combatant Command, making it a stand-alone operational arm of the US army, equal to those overseeing military operations in the Middle East, Europe, and the Pacific.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

The Advocate General of the CJEU has issued a second non-binding opinion in which he classifies Uber as a transportation company, reiterating the argument made in May 2017.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in South Africa ruled that Uber drivers are subject to Uber’s control (through standards and performance requirements that the company sets), and, as such, are employees.

Uber has temporarily suspended its operations in Macau. In the Philippines, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board suspended the accreditation and operation of Uber for one month. The suspension was lifted after the company paid almost $10 million in penalties.

Finance ministers of France and Germany are joining forces to tackle questions about taxing the sharing economy, and have submitted a joint proposal in this regard to the European Commission, to be discussed at a meeting in September. A court in Paris has ruled that Google is not liable for tax in France, after the French authorities demanded that Google pay back €1.1 billion in taxes. According to the court, the authorities' bill could not be justified, as Google did not have a 'permanent establishment' or 'sufficient taxable presence' in France.

Facebook announced that its consumer-to-consumer (C2C) e-commerce platform, Marketplace, would be launched in 17 countries in Europe.

In what some describe as the world’s first indirect tax on robots, South Korea has announced the reduction of tax-deduction benefits for investments in automation (previously introduced to encourage productivity).

Digital rights

increasing relevance

The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, in a judgment that comes in the context of the Indian government seeking to roll out a biometric database (Aadhaar) linking personal details with iris scans and fingerprints.

China has established new regulations for the auditing of online content – including movies, dramas, documentaries, and animations – to ensure that they adhere to ‘core socialist values’, as part of a new campaign to control social discourse online.

Continuing the strong debate about the right to be forgotten (often termed delisting), France has referred the CNIL (the French data protection authority) vs Google (Alphabet) case to the CJEU to decide on the territorial scope of the right to be forgotten, i.e., whether Google has to remove web search results globally.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

same relevance

An Internet Court has been opened in China to deal specifically with Internet-related cases; it conducts its proceedings using digital tools.

In a dispute that started in 2012 as part of a cybersquatting case, the US Supreme Court is now asked to invalidate the Google trademark. The petition argued that ‘there is no single word other than google that conveys the action of searching the Internet using any search engine’.


increasing relevance

Russia passed an amendment banning VPNs and proxy services that allow users to access blocked websites. In China, telecommunications companies have been ordered to block access to private VPNs by February 2018. Somalia has undergone an Internet outage caused by damage to an undersea fibre-optic cable. Google will roll out free wi-fi hotspots across hundreds of venues in Indonesia, as part of the Google station programme.

ICANN’s new Empowered Community exercised its power for the first time by approving a change to ICANN's fundamental bylaws. An Independent Review Panel has recommended that the ICANN Board re-evaluates Amazon's application for .amazon. Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) became a full Internet Standard.

Net neutrality

same relevance

On 12 July, major Internet companies and civil society organisations took part in a massive online ‘day of action’ in support of the US net neutrality rules. The White House expressed support for the FCC's plans to review and consider rolling back the rules. David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression has raised concerns over the FCC's plans, 'which may significantly roll back protections for net neutrality and unduly interfere with freedom of expression online in the United States’.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

The State Council in China has released an AI development plan, intended to contribute to making China the world leader in AI by 2030 and build a national AI industry of $150 billion. In the UK, the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence – created by the House of Lords in June 2017 to explore the economic, ethical, and social implications of AI – has launched a public call for evidence on the implications of AI. Taiwan is planning a $527 million investment in the development of AI. Representatives of over 100 companies working in the field of AI and robotics have sent an open letter to the UN expressing concerns over developments in the field of autonomous weapons.

Four US senators have proposed a bill that, if adopted, will impose certain cybersecurity requirements for technology companies that sell IoT devices to the US federal government.

The UK government has announced plans to introduce new rules that would require drones to be registered, and users to sit safety awareness tests.

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.

Fifth Conference of the Regulating for Decent Work Network

The conference was organised by the International Labour Office (ILO) and academic institutes from around the world on 3–5 July in Geneva. It brought together academics and practitioners specialising in the governance of work, with a focus on practical solutions and regulatory responses to current issues, such as zero-hour contracts or workers’ rights in the sharing economy. Two hundred papers were presented over three days, alongside special sessions and plenaries on the care economy (including health and childcare services), the universal basic income, and the complex future for labour regulation. Panels addressed digitalisation challenges and transformations brought about by the gig economy (characterised by temporary contracts). The GIP study on Uberisation demystified: examining legal and regulatory responses worldwide was presented at the conference.

Aid for Trade Global Review 2017

The 11–13 July Promoting Trade, Inclusiveness and Connectivity for Sustainable Development event discussed the significance and future of Aid for Trade. A number of sessions addressed digital trade, including the need for quality Internet infrastructure (Clicks Need Bricks) and other physical networks that form the basis of digital connectivity, as well as the related importance of bridging the digital divide. The conference also reviewed new trends in the digital economy, the need for international rules and standards, and the development potential of e-commerce in different regions in the world.   

Launch of the Global Commission on the Future of Work

On 21 August, the ILO announced the establishment of the Global Commission on the Future of Work (GCFW). The high-level body is composed of 28 members and its work is organised around the four topics of the ILO’s Future of Work Centenary Initiative: (1) work and society, (2) decent jobs for all, (3) the organisation of work and production, and (4) the governance of work. At the Geneva launch, attended by the Prime Minister of Sweden and the President of Mauritius (chairpersons of the GCFW), a strong focus was placed on digitalisation, emerging technologies, and the gig economy. The Commission is expected to produce an independent report to be submitted to the 2019 ILO Centenary Conference.

ITU Workshop on Security Aspects of Intelligent Transport System

The workshop, organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on 28 August, was dedicated to exploring concerns and solutions related to the implementation of secure intelligent transport systems (ITS). The workshop offered participants an opportunity to discuss ways in which ITU technical expertise can be used to address ITS security requirements from vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, and service providers. Other topics tackled during the event included threats and vulnerabilities in ITS services and networks; modalities for securing the ITS environment against such threats; and current and future ITS standardisation efforts, including in the field of security.

Issue no. 23 of the Geneva Digital Watch newsletter, published on 31 August 2017, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation. Contributors: Stephanie Borg Psaila, Jovan Kurbalija, Virginia Paque, Marilia Maciel, Roxana Radu, Vladimir Radunović, Barbara Rosen Jacobson, Sorina Teleanu. Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab