Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 32 - June 2018

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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

At the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Canada, G7 leaders endorsed a Common vision for the future of artificial intelligence (AI), that will, among others, endeavour to promote the human-centric and commercial adoption of AI.

The European Commission hosted a high-level meeting with representatives of European philosophical and non-confessional organisations, to discuss ethical and social challenges related to AI. The Commission’s ethical guidelines for the development of AI will be finalised by the end of 2018.

The US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invited stakeholders to comment on four broad issues to inform its international Internet policy priorities, including (a) responses to restrictions to the free flow of information and freedom of expression online; (b) US priorities within ICANN, DNS policy, and improvements to the IGF; (c) international venues to address cybersecurity threats and online privacy issues; and (d) emerging technologies that international policy discussions should focus on.

Sustainable development

same relevance

Malaysia is considering the possibility of amending its constitution to include Internet access as a fundamental right, as it looks to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas. The status of constitutional right is likely to give additional incentives for the government, both at state and federal level, to boost efforts to provide the service to all Malaysians.


same relevance

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) unveiled a new round on sanctions on five Russian entities and three Russian individuals, charged with directly contributing to building Russia’s offensive cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the Russian Federal Security Service.

Cyber-attacks on Singapore increased during the Kim-Trump summit. Some 40,000 attacks were launched on Singapore from June 11 to June 12, cybersecurity researchers reported. Singapore received 4.5 times more attacks than the USA or Canada in that time, and this anomaly is being linked d to  the meeting of US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un in Singapore. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore has refuted these findings.

E-commerce and Internet economy

same relevance

Uganda has imposed a tax on social media to raise money for the country. Social media users will need to pay 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) a day to use popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp. The law comes into effect on 1 July.

Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) – China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan – adopted a joint communiqué stating that the countries will aim to simplify trade procedures, specifically on trade in goods. Member states also touched on governance aspects, and referred to ‘the importance of joint efforts needed to support and strengthen the multilateral trade system based on the standards and principles of the World Trade Organization’.

A court in London, has granted Uber a 15-month 'probationary' licence to operate in the UK capital.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

ICANN’s court battle against Germany-based domain name registrar EPAG continues.

MEPs in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) have voted in favour of a resolution that asks the European Commission to suspend its Privacy Shield agreement with the USA unless data protection safeguards are introduced by 1 September.

The USA announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council over alleged political bias, criticising it for failing to hold human rights abusers accountable

In her statement to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Dubravka Šimonović, spoke about combating online/ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls, calling for new laws and stronger regulatory frameworks.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) adopted the proposed version of new copyright rules, sparking debate. The directive’s controversial Article 13 requires Internet platforms hosting a large amount of user-generated content to take measures to monitor and identify copyright infringements. Another disputed provision is Article 11, which could impose a ‘snippet tax’ for companies when they use short extracts from other news publications. More on page 7.

In a preliminary decision, the Vienna Commercial Court ruled that YouTube is not a pure intermediary and that it should prevent third parties from uploading material that violates copyright rules. Since YouTube is sorting, filtering, and linking content on its platform, it cannot be considered a pure intermediary and rely on Safe Harbour provisions.


same relevance

Solomon Islands has dropped its contract with Chinese company Huawei to build an undersea cable to the small island state. Instead, it will receive funds from Australia, which is refocusing its foreign aid programmes on the Pacific.

Facebook has scrapped its plan to develop Internet drones. The decision was prompted by growing interest of the aerospace industry to start investing in this technology.

Net neutrality

same relevance

In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Restoring Internet Freedom Order took effect in June, repealing the 2015 Open Internet Order and restoring the classification of broadband Internet access service as a lightly regulated information service. 

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) have adopted a Joint Statement for an Open Internet that outlines the common scope and grounds of net neutrality frameworks in Europe and India and shows the parties’ commitment to supervising and enforcing rules and guidelines for an open Internet in their regions.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

Researchers continued to achieve several breakthroughs in AI. Among them is IBM, which launched an AI system that can engage in reasoned arguments with humans on complex topics. Project Debater, trained in advance on debating methods but not on the details of the debates,'digests massive texts, constructs a well-structured speech on a given topic, delivers it with clarity and purpose, and rebuts its opponent'. 

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory have developed an AI system that uses wireless signals to 'see' through walls. Called RF-Pose, the system uses a deep neural network to spot human motion using radio frequency signals reflected by people's bodies. The system could be used in search-and-rescue operations after natural disasters, and for medical purposes. 

In a blog post, Google’s CEO described a series of principles which are to guide the company's work on AI. These include developing systems that are accountable to people, and that do not create or reinforce unfair biases.

Several Amazon shareholders wrote to the company's CEO expressing concerns over the selling of facial recognition software to US law enforcement agencies. They are concerned with the potential use of Rekognition to ‘violate civil and human rights' and 'to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations'. In May 2018, more than 30 US-based civil society organisations sent a public letter to Amazon, asking the company to stop providing the software to the US government.

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.

Invest in Cybersecurity workshop

The workshop, organised by Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), looked at the opportunities for Switzerland as a strong and innovative cybersecurity location. The event took place at the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) on 5 June, and addressed two goals. First, it linked the cybersecurity industry with the investment promotion community; second, the discussion developed ideas and possible strategies for promoting Switzerland in the field of cybersecurity. 

Public lecture: Ethics, Technology, and the Future of Humanity

Held on 8 June at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) headquarters, the public lecture delivered by Dr Peter Singer marked the first in a series of lectures on technology and ethics. Given the fast pace of technological change, institutions are currently under strain and are limited in their response to the  challenges arising. Against this backdrop Singer affirmed the importance of considering both the social and ethical impact of new technologies. Referring to different schools of thought, he explained that human rights should serve the human purpose, and that limitations to property rights are generally sought in the name of necessity (albeit to different extents). Singer also discussed bioethical issues, and the automation of work driven by artificial intelligence (AI).

Applying Technology to Reinforce Security and Promote Development

Theevent, organised by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) on 14 June, discussed the opportunities technological advances bring to counter and prevent criminal phenomena. The discussions focused on technology, security, and development and put emphasis on the SIRIO Project (Security Improvements through Research, Technology, and Innovation) which aims to identify emerging risks and their possible technological solutions.

Geneva Internet L@w Summer School 2018

The summer school, organised by the University of Geneva on 18‒29 June, gave students the experience of an Internet law clinic to discuss Internet law and policy issues with academics, practitioners, representatives of global policymakers, and international organisations. The topics addressed by the summer school included cybersecurity, digital privacy and online surveillance, free speech, consumer protection, legal issues of social media, dangers of cloud computing, Internet and telecom infrastructure, data protection, and intellectual property. 

38th Session of the Human Rights Council

The 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is being held from June 18 to July 6 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Two draft resolutions include a resolution on ‘Violence against Women’, and another on ‘The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet’. The GIP reported from selected side events; more updates in our next newsletter.

Geneva Cybersecurity Law & Policy Conference

The Geneva Cybersecurity Law & Policy Conference, organised on 21 June by the University of Geneva and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, tackled civil liability in the context of cyber-attacks. Discussions featured legal and policy aspects of cybersecurity, and addressed data protection and cybersecurity breaches, risk management and standards of care for victims of cyber-attacks, and the future of cybersecurity.

Geneva Internet L@w Research Colloquium 2018

The research colloquium, organised by the Faculty of Law at the University of Geneva in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, the CRIDES Center for Economic Law and Society at the Catholic University of Louvain, the GIP, and the Institute for Technology and Society of Rio, provided participants with the opportunity to share their research findings, exchange with experts in the field, and receive important feedback.

Issue no. 32 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 30 June 2018, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Stephanie Borg Psaila, Andrijana Gavrilovic, Tereza Horejsova, Arvin Kamberi, Jovan Kurbalija, Marilia Maciel, Adriana Minovic, Virginia (Ginger) Paque, Clement Perarnaud, Vladimir Radunovic, Barbara Rosen Jacobson, Sorina Teleanu | Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab