Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 29 - March 2018

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IG Barometer for March

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

decreasing relevance

Preparations for IGF 2018 kick-started with the first round of Open Consultations and a MAG meeting.

At a meeting on 'Preparing for jobs of the future', G7 Ministers of Employment and Innovation established an Employment Task Force to look at how governments could prepare for the future world of work, and agreed to convene a multistakeholder conference on AI in autumn 2018.

Sustainable development

increasing relevance

Participants in the WSIS Forum 2018 reiterated that digital technologies have an important role to play in achieving social and economic development goals.


same relevance

The US government has publicly blamed Russia for conducting a ‘multi-stage intrusion campaign’, since at least March 2016, targeted at governmental entities and critical infrastructure sectors. Expedia has found evidence of hackers gaining access to 880 000 credit cards. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has ruled that the instant messaging service Telegram must share its private encryption keys with Russian authorities. Telegram plans to appeal the ruling.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

In Turkey, taxi drivers are accusing Uber of operating an unlicensed taxi service. In Egypt, a court has temporarily suspended the licences of Uber and its competitor Careem. In other locations, such as in London and in Barcelona, Uber is working to bring its services in line with local regulations.

The OECD has launched its interim report on tax challenges arising from digitalisation, while the European Commission presented a long-term proposal and an interim solution for digital tax reform.

The USA filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on China’s trade practices related to intellectual property, technology transfer, and innovation. In Belarus, the Ministry of Finance paved the way for the use of cryptocurrencies. The EU rules against unjustified geoblocking entered into force on 22 March.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

Revelations about political data firm Cambridge Analytica using the data of Facebook users to influence voters in the USA and the UK placed Facebook under intense scrutiny.[link]

Facebook announced updates to its privacy settings, as well as the shutting down of the Partner Categories app.

The European Commission is reportedly planning to include digital services that collect users’ data under the EU consumer protection rules.

The Nigerian Senate has passed a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill containing provisions for the protection on human rights online.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has proposed an interim model for ensuring that generic top-level domain (gTLD) registries and registrars comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The organisation also wrote to EU data protection authorities asking for guidance on the proposed model.

A report published by Interpol and ECPAT International shows that boys and very young children are at greater risk of severe online sexual abuse. It calls for more resources to be put into achieving a better understanding of online exploitation and identifying victims.

The UN Human Rights Council has extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy for a period of three years.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

The European Commission has recommended a set of measures for states and the Internet industry to improve their response to illegal online content.

The French Prime Minister has announced that the country will toughen its stance against hate speech, to make sure that social media companies are more proactive in removing racist content from the Internet. The Turkish parliament has passed a bill that will allow the country’s radio and television watchdog to supervise online video content.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) handled 3074 domain name cybersquatting cases filed by trademark owners in 2017.


same relevance

report published by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), World Wide Web Foundation, and UN Women reveals that US$408 million collected to expand the Internet access across Africa has been left unused.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intends to allocate almost US$954 million towards restoring and expanding communications networks in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Week-long Internet shutdowns occurred in Sri Lanka.

Net neutrality

same relevance

The Coalition for Internet Openness filed a petition against the US FCC over its decision to roll back the 2015 net neutrality rules. In California, a net neutrality bill was introduced in the state senate, demonstrating that states continue efforts to adopt their own rules, despite the FCC's Open Internet Order preventing them from doing so.

The UK regulatory authority for electronic communications, OFCOM, has launched an investigation to determine whether the traffic management practices of operators Vodafone and Three are in line with the EU Open Internet Access Regulation..

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

A fatal accident involving an autonomous Uber car has  led to concerns about safety, liability, and insurance issues around autonomous cars. Researchers have developed a system that could allow driverless cars to notice unexpected obstacles before they come into view.

In the USA, authorities in Arizona and California have introduced regulations outlining the conditions under which fully autonomous vehicles can be tested on public roads. The UK government announced a three-year review of existing driving legislation, to identify 'any legal obstacles to the widespread introduction of self-driving vehicles and highlight the need for regulatory reforms'.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Cabinet has created a Council for Artificial Intelligence (AI), while in the USA a bill was introduced in the Congress to create a National Security Commission on AI. The European Commission has announced plans to form a High-Level Expert Group on AI and an Expert Group on liability and new technologies. The French president launched the country's AI strategy, pledging to invest €1.5 billion in AI initiatives by 2022.

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.

EBU Big Data Conference 2018

The Big Data conference, hosted by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) 28 February – 1 March, addressed the data-driven strategies of media organisations and the potential of data journalism and personalised services, among others. Part of Big Data week, the event convened media professionals, and industrial, legal, marketing, and policy experts to compare and learn from the experience of public service media across Europe. The main takeaways included (a) more organisations are adopting data-driven strategy, but the pace across Europe is not uniform; (b) trust in public service media must be a key indicator for modern societies; (c) attracting data scientists is challenging, as is the collaboration with competitors; (d) a data science approach and a fully fledged data architecture are needed to reap the benefits of the digital environment. 

UN Human Rights Council – 37th Session

Several main and side sessions at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council, 26 February – 23 March, touched on digital rights issues. One of the key points emerging during the discussions was that human rights protection can help achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), but increasing importance needs to be placed on how rights are protected in the digital age, from access to information, to privacy and data protection. In a Resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age, the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy for three years. Several side events discussed good practices in using ICTs to ensure economic, social, and cultural rights and reducing inequalities, the implications of digital identities, smart cities, and data-intensive systems for the right to privacy, and whether and how existing human rights instruments apply to cyberspace activities.

CyberMediation: New Technologies for Political Mediation

The GIP hosted the launch of the initiative CyberMediation: New Technologies for Political Mediation, on 13 March, prepared by the UN Department of Political Affairs, DiploFoundation, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, swisspeace, and researchers from Harvard University. The discussions explored opportunities and challenges stemming from the use and misuse of new-tech manifestations, such as smart applications, social media, and big data sets. Questions arose about transparency, spoilers, and confidentiality in a field that is traditionally viewed as low-tech and human-intensive. In its initial phase, the CyberMediation initiative will consists of four main thematic streams: impact of new technologies on mediation; social media; data for mediation; and artificial intelligence (AI), including text mining. The event was attended by diplomatic missions, international organisations, and civil society in Geneva. 

IGF 2018: First Open Consultations and MAG Meeting

The meeting, that ran from  20 to 22 March, brought together members of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and the broader IGF community for discussions on what went well during the IGF 2017 cycle and what could be improved for IGF 2018 and how. It was noted by some participants that the IGF should continue bringing innovations to its format and content, building on some of the new elements introduced in Geneva, such as the high-level opening sessions and the Geneva Messages. There were suggestions for bringing more focus and cohesion to the IGF programme, for example by having days or time slots dedicated to specific themes or to specific types of sessions or activities (workshops, best practice forums, main sessions, etc.). During the MAG meeting, a decision was made to launch a call for issues allowing the IGF community to indicate topics of high interest that they would like to see tackled at IGF 2018.

WSIS Forum 2018

Hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 19–23 March, the WSIS Forum[link] brought together stakeholders from around the world to look at what progress has been made in implementing the WSIS action lines, and how they could be further aligned with the SDGs. Participants exchanged information and shared good practices on how the Internet and digital technologies can be used to advance sustainable development. The event covered a broad range of digital policy issues, such as access and digital divides, cybersecurity and privacy, and the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI. It emerged from the discussions that new technologies can bring solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, but also economic, security, legal, and ethical implications that countries need to consider. The Geneva Internet Platform provided just-in-time reports from the forum. Read the session reports, and download the Summary Report.

Issue no. 29 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 31 March 2018, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Cedric Amon, Stephanie Borg Psaila, Stefania Grottola, Jovan Kurbalija, Marco Lotti, Marilia Maciel, Roxana Radu, Barbara Rosen Jacobson, Sorina Teleanu | Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab