Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 45 - November and December 2019

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Digital policy developments in November and December

Digital policy is constantly evolving to keep pace with technological and geopolitical developments: the landscape is packed with new initiatives, evolving regulatory frameworks, and new legislation, court cases and judgments.

In the Digital Watch observatory – available at – we decode, contextualise, and analyse these developments, offering a digestible yet authoritative update on the complex world of digital policy. The monthly barometer tracks and compares the issues to reveal new trends and to allow them to be understood relative to those of previous months. The following is a summarised version; read more about each one by following the blue icons, or by visiting the Updates section on the observatory.

Global IG architecture

same relevance

The 14th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) brought together more than 3000 participants to discuss current challenges around data governance; digital inclusion; and safety, security, stability, and resilience. Read more on pages 6–7.

The World Wide Web Foundation launched the Contract for the Web, formulating nine principles to protect the web as a force for good.

The Just Net Coalition launched a Digital Justice Manifesto that frames the discussion on data governance in the context of social justice, fairness, and public goods.

Sustainable development

same relevance

The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU’s) report Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2019 confirmed continuing barriers to Internet access and use, especially in the least developed countries.

The 2019 Human Development Report called for policies and incentives to harness the power of digital technologies in the move towards sustainable development goals (SDGs).


increasing relevance

The Third Committee of the UNGA passed a resolution on countering the use of ICT for criminal purposes.

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) emphasised the central role the UN has to play in developing norms for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. The UN GGE and OEWG held consultations with non-members on issues related to state behaviour in cyberspace. The GGE also held its first substantive session.

The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace proposed a Cyberstability Framework and eight voluntary norms to better ensure the stability of cyberspace.

Facebook has decided to move ahead with introducing end-to-end encryption in its messaging apps.

Multiple cyber-attacks were revealed around the world, targeting government systems in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, the US state of Louisiana, and the city of New Orleans; a French hospital; Indian and UK nuclear power facilities; and the UK Labour Party.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

Transport for London decided not to grant Uber a new licence to operate in the city.

The Czech government proposed a 7% tax for global Internet giants. India expressed its dissatisfaction with the OECD Secretariat’s unified approach to taxing the digital economy. During the Canadian election, the Liberal party proposed a digital services tax.

World Trade Organization (WTO) member states agreed to keep the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

Freedom House’s Freedom of the Net 2019 report shows a deterioration in the state of Internet freedom worldwide.

The European Commission intends to present a revised ePrivacy regulation proposal. The Indian Parliament is debating a new data protection bill.

Twitter announced updates to its privacy policy and launched a Privacy Centre.

Internet disruptions and shutdowns have been recorded in Iraq and Iran.

Twitter announced a ban on (almost) all political adverts, while Google is limiting adverts to those which use only general data to arget audiences. Facebook is considering limits on microtargeting in political advertising.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

same relevance

A bill proposed by the US Senate aims to make it illegal for US companies to store user data or encryption keys in China.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly expanding its antitrust scrutiny of Amazon’s cloud business.

Huawei filed a lawsuit with a US federal court claiming that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) acted improperly in barring rural carriers from using government subsidies to buy Huawei equipment.


same relevance

RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) exhausted its pool of IPv4 addresses.

The Internet Society announced the selling of the .org registry to private equity firm Ethos Capital, generating concerns over price hikes and potential human rights implications.

Microsoft plans to adopt the DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) security standard as a default in Windows 10.

The EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) published a report assessing the threat landscape for 5G networks.

Net neutrality

decreasing relevance

A coalition of technology companies and public-interest advocates asked a US Court of Appeals to revise a decision that upheld the FCC repeal of net neutrality rules.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

same relevance

Australia released a set of AI ethics principles. Russian President Vladimir Putin called for moral rules for human-AI interaction.

The Confederation of Laboratories for AI Research in Europe (CLAIRE), launched in The Hague, will focus on human-centred AI.

The Judicial Department of the city of Shaoxing used blockchain-secured evidence in a criminal decision.

The German Parliament adopted rules allowing banks to act as custodians for cryptocurrency funds. The French central bank is looking into the possibility of issuing digital currencies. The EU Council and the European Commission underlined that ‘no global “stablecoin” arrangement should begin operation in the EU until the legal, regulatory and oversight challenges and risks have been adequately identified and addressed’.

Policy discussions in Geneva

Each month Geneva hosts a diverse range of policy discussions in various forums. The following updates cover the main events in November and December. For event reports, visit the Past Events section on the GIP Digital Watch observatory.

Geneva Peace Week | 4–8 November 2019

This week-long conference highlighted both technology’s capacity to improve the quality of peace and its potential to disrupt peace and security. On the one hand, innovations in ICT have provided new opportunities for peace mediation. On the other, the cyber domain has become a new battlefield, prompting many countries to develop cyber military capacities both defensive and offensive. This new paradigm in international conflict and war raises urgent questions regarding the application of existing legal mechanisms such as international humanitarian law. Read our report from the conference.

CyberMediation Conference | 19 November 2019

This conference focused on the uses of digital technology in peace mediation and the opportunities and challenges the tech presents. Traditionally, peace mediation has taken place behind closed doors and involved a limited number of stakeholders. However, with the proliferation of ICTs and other digital technologies, there has been a shift towards more open and inclusive approaches. The conference highlighted the pressing need to plan how – and to what extent – digital technology should be integrated into mediation processes. Approaching this issue in an effective way will require the inclusion of all stakeholders.

The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights 2019 | 25–28 November 2019

Under the theme Time to act: Governments as catalysts for business respect for human rights, this conference provided perspectives from all stakeholders on ongoing and future efforts to protect human rights in business activities. Policy coherence among UN member states and benchmarking tools were emphasised as key elements in all such endeavours. Online slavery received in-depth discussion as a negative consequence of digitalisation and it was generally agreed that the issue needs to be addressed at local, national, and global levels.

The Future of Work Summit | 27 November 2019

In the context of the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the summit reflected on the pressing need to rethink collaboration processes and optimise digital tools for a more inclusive, productive, and sustainable future of work. Discussions scrutinised how technology is transforming the way people work and the skills they need to meet the resulting challenges. Debates also touched upon technology’s potential to help in reducing existing inequalities, including gender disparities in rates of employment and the pay gap between men and women.

Global Trade and Blockchain Forum | 2–3 December 2019

Organised by the WTO, the conference presented various sets of use cases of blockchain in international trade practices. It discussed how blockchain technology can be used in intellectual property (IP) intensive industries, and what the international community can do in terms of the regulation of blockchain and other digital technologies to avoid creating unnecessary barriers to trade. The gathering also served as an opportunity to discuss the role of international organisations in promoting and developing a regulatory and policy framework that allows us to harness the technology’s potential while mitigating its risks.

Issue 45 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 20 December 2019, by the Geneva Internet Platform and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Katarina Anđelkovic, Stephanie Borg Psaila (editor), Andrijana Gavrilović, Đorđe Jančić, Marco Lotti, Marilia Maciel, Nagisa Miyachi, Virginia Paque, Nataša Perućica, Sorina Teleanu | Design: Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Viktor Mijatović, and Mina Mudrić, Diplo’s CreativeLab. Get in touch: