Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 31 - May 2018

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IG Barometer for May

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

same relevance

In a statement on Cybersecurity Cooperation, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries reaffirmed that international law applies to cyberspace. They tasked the relevant ministers to identify a concrete list of voluntary practical norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace that ASEAN countries could adapt and implement.

The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) adopted a Call to Protect the Electoral Infrastructure. The Commissioners made progress on several additional norms that will include barring the insertion of vulnerabilities into essential cyberspace products and services; advocating that governments actively consider disclosing software and hardware vulnerabilities to vendors; and further defining the elements of the public core of the Internet.

Sustainable development

same relevance

At the meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development a synthesis report was issued on broadband for national development in four least developed countries (LDCs) – Cambodia, Rwanda, Senegal, and Vanuatu. The report raised concerns that the demand for broadband and its productive use in LDCs has not matched the growing supply.


same relevance

The UK government has introduced new rules to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and digital services from cyber-attacks and computer network failures, among other threats.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

In a meeting with over 50 key figures from the tech industry, French president Macron warned that the industry cannot just be ‘free riding’ without giving back to society. The issue of taxation was one of the key discussion topics. 

Over 40 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a joint statement calling on states to refrain from adopting protectionism measures, and to resolve their differences through the multilateral system. 

The USA and China agreed to take effective measures to substantially reduce the US trade deficit with China. The talks averted planned Section 301 tariffs that Washington was preparing to levy on Beijing. A common Vision Statement on the Australian-French relationship will pave the way for negotiations on an Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement.

The California Supreme Court outlined a series of requirements which companies – including those in the sharing economy – should meet to classify their workers as individual contractors instead of employees. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court ruled that a regulation passed in 2015 by the city of Seattle to allow Uber and Lyft drivers to unionise was not lawful. In Egypt, a new law regulating the provision of ride-sharing services was welcomed by the companies Uber and Careem.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

The EU’s GDPR came into effect on 25 May 2018, and the first legal cases immediately emerged. A court in Germany dismissed a case filed by ICANN against domain name registrar EPAG over the registrar’s decision to stop collecting administrative and technical contact details when domain names are registered. Austrian privacy campaigner, Max Schrems, filed complaints against Facebook and Google, accusing them of coercing users into accepting their data collection policies.

Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, met leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament, drawing mixed reactions about the questions asked, and the CEO’s replies.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted an Amending Protocol which updates its Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. The change requires personal data processing to apply the privacy-by-design principle and introduces safeguards for individuals concerned in an algorithmic decision-making context.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

same relevance

In a continued effort to block the messaging application Telegram, Russian authorities blocked more than 15.8 million IP addresses and some 50 services including VPNs and web anonymisers.

Iran has also banned Telegram after claiming that the app encourages armed uprisings. Mizan, the Iranian judiciary, blocked Telegram’s licence to operate in Iran, saying that the app was used for illegal activities.


same relevance

Facebook and Qualcomm established a partnership to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to cities.

The US Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) issued a warning against a newly discovered malware targeting networking equipment. The malware VPNFilter has the potential to cut Internet access for hundreds of thousands of users. It has already infected at least 500 000 devices in 54 countries, according to Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Unit.

Net neutrality

increasing relevance

The US Senate has voted in favour of overturning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to repeal net neutrality rules. In a 52-47 vote, the Senate approved a joint resolution providing for ‘congressional disapproval’ of the FCC’s December 2017 order. To restore the old FCC rules (dating back to 2015), the resolution has to pass in the House of Representatives and be signed into law by the US President.

Meanwhile, the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, repealing the 2015 net neutrality order, will take effect in June.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

The French President has called on countries to agree on a common global structure for AI. The structure would not regulate, but rather coordinate the regulations and create a common thinking on AI. 

The Toronto Declaration, released during RightsCon 2018, highlights the obligation of governments and tech companies to prevent machine-learning systems from discriminating and violating human rights law.

In a set of measures to modernise Europe’s transport system, the European Commission issued a communication entitled On the road to automated mobility: An EU strategy for mobility of the future. The communication outlines actions aimed at achieving the EU's ambition of becoming 'a world leader in the deployment of connected and automated mobility'.

California-based self-driving car company has announced that it is operating fully driverless vehicles, without safety drivers in the driver seat, on public roads in the city of Frisco, Texas, USA. Uber has announced a decision to shut down its self-driving car programme in Arizona, USA, two months after an Uber autonomous car was involved in a fatal accident in the state.

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.

Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice, and the Rule of Law

The session, on 3 May 2018, marked the 25th anniversary of the United Nations World Press Freedom Day. In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted the importance of free press for democratic participation. This point was reinforced during the discussions, as participantsstressed the important role of governments in upholding the protection of art.19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(i.e., freedom of expression) in the name of democracy. It was also noted that freedom of the press is connected to the sustainable development goal (SDG) #16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies through sustainable development. While recognising that digitalisation plays a key role in democratising access to information, participants cautioned against the challenges of online disinformation, and emphasised the role of education and media literacy in countering such challenges. 

Commission on Science and Technology for Development – 21st Session

At its 21st session, on 14–18 May 2018, the Commission addressed two priority themes. The discussion considered the role of science, technology, and innovation in substantially increasing  the share of renewable energy by 2030. Although the sessions focused on the potential of technology for development, many speakers also warned of slow policy responses vis-à-vis digitalisation in developing countries. Attention was also drawn to building digital competencies to benefit from existing and emerging technologies, with special focus on gender and youth dimensions. In particular, it emerged that educating women on information and communications technology (ICT) skills is crucial for achieving the SDGs. The meeting reviewed the progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The Geneva Internet Platform provided reports from several discussions.

Global Commission on the Future of Work – 3rd Meeting

The Commission, established by the International Labour Organization with a view to examining the future of work, held its third meeting on 15–17 May 2018. During the meeting, the 28 members of the Commission started working on their final report – due in early 2019 – which will include recommendations on how to achieve a future of work that provides decent and sustainable opportunities for all. Some of the issues tackled during the discussions included digitalisation and the digital divide, and their impact on work, inclusivity, gender equality, skills and lifelong learning, youth employment, income inequality, the measurement of work and wellbeing, and ways to achieve sustainable development. The Commission will reconvene on 15–17 November 2018 to discuss the final draft of its report on the future of work.

AI for Good Global Summit

The summit, held on 15–17 May 2018, at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), aimed to identify practical applications of AI as tools for improving the quality and sustainability of life on the planet. The debate was structured along four main tracks. The track on AI and satellite imagery emphasised the potential of using satellite data and AI to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The track on AI and health explored the possible contribution of algorithms and AI to improve the health system, in particular in developing countries. The third track on AI, smart cities, and communities looked, among others, at the importance of including citizens as equally important stakeholders in the development and implementation of such projects. The fourth track, on trust in AI, addressed ways to bridge the policy-technical gap for obtaining a trustworthy AI. The Geneva Internet Platform provided reports from several sessions at the summit.

World Health Assembly – 71st Session

Member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) gathered in Geneva on 21–26 May 2018 to discuss current and future policies and programmes of the organisation. Issues related to the use of digital technologies in healthcare were part of the debates. A report on Improving access to assistive technology, prepared by the WHO Director-General, underlined the need for policies to make assistive technologies more affordable and accessible around the world. Another report on the Use of appropriate digital technologies for public health outlined the role of digital technologies in strengthening the health system, and called on member states to increase their capacities to implement digital health. This call was reiterated in a resolution on digital health, which urges countries to prioritise the use of digital health solutions in their efforts to enable universal health coverage. The resolution also requests the WHO to develop a global strategy on digital health.

Issue no. 31 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 31 May 2018, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Cedric Amon, Stephanie Borg Psaila, Jovan Kurbalija, Marco Lotti, Aida Mahmutović, Sorina Teleanu | Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab