Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 22 - June 2017

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IG Barometer for June

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

The British Prime Minister called for new rules to deprive extremists of their safe spaces online; the Australian Prime Minister called for weakening strong encryption; the UK and France launched a joint campaign to combat terrorist content.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube formed a Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism which will develop technological solutions, such as a hash database for extremist content, and undertake research to guide policymakers. The companies will also collaborate with the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate and the ICT4Peace Foundation to establish a knowledge-sharing network,

Sustainable development

same relevance

ICTs and the Internet hold the key to sustainable development and contribute to every area of development. The annual WSIS Forum tackled many aspects related to the SDGs, highlighting projects and initiatives that are working to attain the goals.


increasing relevance

In its latest meeting, the UN GGE did not reach consensus on a final report (read our analysis) while Google proposed a new framework that would allow governments to request digital evidence for law enforcement investigations directly from Internet companies.

A new ransomware, titled Petya, paralysed institutions worldwide after infecting Windows-based systems in more than 65 countries.

The Council of the European Union launched an initiative to develop a Cyber Diplomatic Toolbox – a framework for joint diplomatic response by the EU to deter cyber-attacks and respond to cyber-threats.

The personal data of almost 200 million US citizens was leaked and uploaded to an Amazon cloud server, available to anyone with a direct link.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

The European Commission has fined Google €2.42 billion for non-compliance with EU antitrust rules. The Commission said that Google abused its dominant market position as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to its comparison shopping service to the detriment of other similar services.

A New York judge ruled that that former Uber drivers are eligible for unemployment benefits. China adopted guidelines for the sharing economy – a booming sector which is expected to account for around one-tenth of the country’s GDP by 2020. The guidelines aim to further boost mass innovation and entrepreneurship. The European Parliament issued clearer guidelines on the collaborative economy, with the intention of clarifying open issues.

After months of negotiations, Indonesia and Google reached a tax settlement for 2016, although the figures were not disclosed. As of 1 July, Australia will apply a 10% goods and services tax on digital products and services from overseas that are bought in Australia. Meanwhile, the Canadian government rejected a proposal to impose a 5% tax on broadband Internet streaming services. In Russia, Google was blocked for several hours on 22 June in a bid to enforce a tax ruling made in 2016.

Digital rights

same relevance

The Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression published his annual report, examining the role of states in undermining freedom of expression online and other implications for online rights. The report also includes recommendations for states and private actors.

Ethiopia blocked access to the Internet to counter the risk of national exam papers leaking online. The shutdown was meant to prevent a repeat of the 2016 leak of exam questions.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

The Court of Appeals in Berlin, Germany, ruled that parents of a 15-year-old girl who was killed by a train in 2012, have no right to access her Facebook account.In overturning a 2015 regional court ruling in favour of the parents, the court ruled in favour of Facebook, stating that ‘a contract existed between the girl and the social media company and that it ended with her death’.

The Supreme Court of Canada ordered Google to globally de-index websites belonging to a firm which was unlawfully selling the intellectual property of another company.


increasing relevance

Chinese scientists reported successful quantum satellite communication tests between two points 1200 km distant from each other. In the coming years, the highly secure nature of quantum communication could become an alternative to current communication channels.

Airlines are expected to have better Internet connections on board their flights, after Viasat launched its new satellite. Viasat-2 will operate above the Americas and Atlantic Ocean.

Six of the top ten countries leading in IPv6 adoption are European countries, Akamai’s First Quarter 2017 State of the Internet report shows. Deployment is also increasing globally, the Internet Society reports.

Net neutrality

same relevance

In the USA, net neutrality supporters are planning an online protest on 12 July to advocate against the plans of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to roll back net neutrality rules. The Internet-wide day of action to save net neutrality will involve major Internet companies such as Amazon, Mozilla, and Reddit, as well as organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the World Wide Web Foundation, and Public Knowledge.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

same relevance

Researchers from OpenAI and DeepMind have been working on an AI algorithm that learns from human feedback, as a way to make AI safer. Since problems associated with the concept of reinforcement learning can be dangerous, the proposed method would rely considerably on human feedback. Meanwhile, a group of UK-based researchers from the Alan Turing Institute have argued that current regulations are not sufficient to address issues such as transparency and accountability; new rules and guidelines are needed.

Scientists at CERN are deploying AI to protect the CERN grid from cyber-threats. They are working with an AI system which is being taught to distinguish between safe and threatening behaviour on the CERN network and take action when it detects a problem.

The drone market is growing steadily. In the EU, public-private partnership SESAR JU, which coordinates research on air traffic management, has published the U-space blueprint to make the use of drones in low-level airspace safe, secure, and environmentally friendly.

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.

Global Internet of Things Summit 2017

The summit, held 6–9 June, brought together experts from the Internet of Things (IoT) industry and research community, for discussions on current and emerging IoT technologies, the use of IoT in areas such as smart homes and public buildings, energy efficiency, and connected vehicle services. Other sessions discussed the new challenges for network infrastructure that are emerging with the increase in IoT devices. One key solution for addressing such challenges lies in speeding up the deployment of Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6).

AI for Good Global Summit

Artificial intelligence (AI) may have a larger impact than the Industrial Revolution. This was the echoing opening message of the summit, held 7-9 June, which brought together AI experts, international organisations, and academics to discuss the possibilities of AI. While the possibilities seem endless, some experts also offered cautionary perspectives on the limits and challenges, such as the fact that there is more to ‘intelligence’ than machines can replicate, and that AI can widen the digital divide.

WSIS Forum 2017

The Forum, held 12-16 June, brought together the ICT for Development community, to look at how the world is progressing on its way to sustainable development and what still needs to be done. There was broad agreement on the fact that information and communications technologies (ICTs) and digital solutions can drive progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs). For this potential to be fully exploited, there is a need for enhanced efforts in areas such as deploying infrastructures, building confidence and trust in the use of ICTs, promoting digital literacy and bridging other digital divides. The Geneva Internet Platform provided just-in-time reports from the forum. Read the session reports, and download the Summary Report.

Fake News: The Role of Confirmation Bias in a Post-truth World

Organised on 14 June by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the event focused on the issue of fake news and the role confirmation bias plays in how we interpret news and information. Fake news comes in many facets, and is fast becoming a ‘democratic problem’. Dealing with this at an individual level, critical thinking is important, as users should be able to rebut false information. As a society, a combination of factors can help address the negative implications of fake news: transparency by Internet companies, education and awareness raising, and adding warnings to sponsored content.

Digital Access, Shutdowns, and Surveillance: Private Actors and Respect for Free Expression

The event, organised on 14 June, was dedicated to exploring possible solutions for ending Internet shutdowns and surveillance around the world. The rise in state-sanctioned denial of access to the Internet and state access to personal data has significant implications for human rights. In this context, a call was made for the Human Rights Council to provide guidance to member states on the basic minimum of human rights online, while private companies were urged to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

UN Human Rights Council - 35th Session

At its 35th session, held 6–23 June, the Council discussed, among others, two reports related to human rights in the digital environment. The report on the Promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet: ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective, prepared by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, contains recommendations to ensure that ICTs are accessible to women on an equal basis. The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression examines states’ obligation to protect and promote freedom of expression online, while focusing on the issues of Internet and telecommunications shutdowns, government access to user data, and net neutrality.

Geneva Internet L@w Research Colloquium

The Research Colloquium, held on 23 June as part of the Geneva Internet L@w Summer School, gathered young researchers, senior academics, and students attending the  summer school. Young researchers presented their research projects on issues such as AI, autonomous vehicles, trust on the Internet, and consumer protection. A very vibrant discussion highlighted the impact of these new technological developments on legal and policy systems. In particular, participants focused on applying existing rules to new developments and identifying areas where new legal rules and policy approaches are needed.

Issue no. 22 of the Geneva Digital Watch newsletter, published on 30 June 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