Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 33 - August 2018

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IG Barometer for July & 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

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres set up a High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. The aim of the panel is to identify gaps in digital policy mechanisms, and to make proposals on strengthening international co-operation.

G20 leaders convened in Salta, Argentina, agreed on proposals to help governments in their digital transformation, measure the contribution of the digital economy to the overall economy, and narrow the digital gender divide, among others.

Sustainable development

increasing relevance

Officials meeting for the annual High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the UN headquarters in New York called for an escalation in progress in meeting the SDGs and their respective targets.

Leaders from the BRICS countries affirmed their support for the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, while calling on developed countries to meet their foreign aid commitments and provide further support to developing country partners.


increasing relevance

Heads of State participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on 11-12 July 2018, issued the Brussels Summit Declaration, (a) emphasising that the Alliance will continue to implement cyberspace as a domain of operations; (b) reaffirming that international law applies in cyberspace; (c) expressing their determination to deliver strong national cyber defenses by fully implementing the Cyber Defense Pledge; (d) giving Allies the right to consider, when appropriate, attributing malicious cyber activity and responding in a co-ordinated manner; (e) and reiterating the establishment of the Cyberspace Operations Centre in Brussels, announced in November 2017, which will allow the Alliance to integrate cyber measures with conventional military capabilities.

Russia plans to present two new draft resolutions on cybersecurity to the UN General Assembly in the autumn, Kommersant reports. The first will introduce a new Code of Conduct for states, prohibiting the use of ICT to interfere in the internal affairs of other states and to undermine their stability.The second is envisioned as an alternative to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, of which Russia is not a signatory. The draft resolution will also provide for data exchange, but ‘on a different, purely legal basis’.

E-commerce and Internet economy

same relevance

Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar public company when a rise in its share price pushed it past the landmark valuation. Meanwhile, the European Commission fined Google €4.34 billion for illegal practices which harmed competition. The practices related to Android mobile devices which were aimed at strengthening the dominance of Google's search engine; the company will appeal.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Donald Trump announced that they will take a series of steps to mitigate the trade tensions between the EU and the USA. 

The EU and Japan signed a trade deal in Tokyo, Japan, known as the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which has been under formal negotiation since 2013. The two parties also concluded talks on data protection, agreeing to recognise each other’s frameworks as ‘equivalent’.

The Indian government has unveiled a draft e-commerce policy which imposes restrictions on e-commerce marketplaces to prevent them influencing the price of the sale of goods and services which puts local businesses at a disadvantage. 

Digital rights

same relevance

Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, leaked documents revealed. The censored version will blacklist websites and a number of search terms related to human rights, religion, and peaceful protest.

In Strasbourg, the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the decision of Germany’s Federal Court of Justice, allowing three media outlets to continue offering access to information relating to the murder convictions of two individuals. In this case, the public’s right to be informed outweighed the applicants’ right to privacy.

A German Appellate Court ruled that ICANN cannot stop a registrar from offering and/or registering domain names without additionally collecting the data of a technical and administrative contact for the WHOIS service.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

same relevance

Russia is proposing a new bill to counter the spread of domestic fake news. The bill would specifically target social media companies, requiring them to remove factually inaccurate posts and comments made by users within 24 hours of the content’s discovery, or face a fine of USD$800 000.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that copyrighted content posted on a website, which was previously available on another website, requires a fresh authorisation from the copyright holder.


increasing relevance

Two new undersea cables ‒ the SACS cable that connects Brazil to Angola, and the SAIL cable that connects Brazil to Cameroon ‒ entered the final stage of completion. Google also announced plans to launch its latest private subsea cable project called Dunant. The cable will cross the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia Beach in the USA to the French Atlantic coast. 

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced the first commercial deal of project Loon with Telkom Kenya. High-altitude balloons will provide 4G/LTE cellular access to central Kenya by 2019. Google Station, the company’s public wi-fi service, launched wi-fi hotspots in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, leaked e-mails revealed that Facebook plans to provide broadband access to remote areas from a constellation of satellites sent into a low orbit, called Athena.

Net neutrality

same relevance

The Telecom Commission of India approved the regulator’s net neutrality recommendations, which prevent service providers from discriminating against Internet content and services. Some critical services, such as remote surgery and autonomous cars, will be kept out of the purview of the framework.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

same relevance

In the USA, the Uniform Law Commission presented a draft law that attempts to clarify property and privacy rights in response to the growing use of drones. The draft was met with criticism from business and industry associations for interfering with the federal government’s authority to regulate the airspace.

Maven, the US Department of Defense’s programme to use machine learning to analyse drone imagery, received an increase in funding. The Department of Defense will be looking for a new private sector partner to replace Google, which announced that it would not renew its contract once it expired.

The World Bank’s new bond, which is managed entirely using blockchain technology, has raised AUD $110 million. The bond is managed by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

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.

CFD-WB Series: Harnessing Data for Development

The event, on 9 July, organised by the Graduate Institute's Centre for Finance and Development and the World Bank Group Geneva, focused on possible ways of collecting and accurately analysing data to achieve the SDGs. The conference was organised as part of a series of events entitled Financing for Development in Action. After a presentation of the World Bank Atlas of SDGs 2018, the panellists spoke about the need for good statistics and data in order to act effectively in achieving the SDGs. The importance of being able to analyse the information obtained was highlighted as a key challenge for the near future. Finally, discussions revolved around the link between the shortcomings in the performance of the SDGs and potential crisis situations, and the need to obtain localised rather than national data. Read our report from the event.

Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR18)

The 18th Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), organised on 9–12 July 2018 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), featured discussions on the impact of digital transformation on consumers, businesses, and citizens, as well as the expansion of regulatory frontiers beyond traditional ICTs.Under the overarching theme of New Regulatory Frontiers, many discussions referred to the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI and focused on the interplay between regulations and the digital economy. Panellists acknowledged that emerging technologies are expanding regulatory frontiers to new horizons. Some speakers argued in favour of a framework that merges bottom-up with top-down approaches, noting that micro-regulatory frameworks for technology could be dangerous. Such a framework can also be elaborated by market actors. Further issues involved the concept of trust and the interoperability of devices. The Geneva Internet Platform provided reports from several sessions at the symposium; read our reports.

Digital Dangers – Responding to the illicit wildlife trade online: What do we know?

The event, on 19 July, marked the launch of the policy paper Digital Danger by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. The project, funded by the Norwegian government, focuses on cyber wildlife crime and addresses the increasing  use of digital platforms to advertise, purchase, and create new markets for illegal wildlife trade. The policy paper stresses the need to understand better the nature and dynamics of online marketplaces, including marketing and sales, the actors involved in transactions, and their role in the value chain. The initiative aims to strengthen networks by supporting investigative journalists to report on online illegal wildlife trafficking, and bring the media and civil society together to develop best practices on using the digital space for investigations and mobilisation. Read our report.

GGE on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems – 2nd meeting

The second meeting of the GGE, which took place on 2731 August, built on the work of the two previous meetings (see reports from the first and the second meeting). On the agenda were several issues, including: the ‘characterisation of the systems under consideration’, that is, definitions of concepts; the nature of the human element in the use of lethal force; a review of potential military applications of related technologies; and possible options for addressing the humanitarian and international security challenges.

Issue no. 33 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 31 August 2018, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Cedric Amon, Stephanie Borg Psaila, Stefania Grottola, Marco Lotti, Claudio Lucena, Jovan Kurbalija, Clement Perarnaud, Pedro Vilela | Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab