Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 26 - November 2017

Download your copy

IG Barometer for November

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

After the UN GGE meeting ended without consensus, the search for venues to address some cybersecurity issues continues.

Sustainable development

same relevance

The ITU has announced an increase in its indicators, used to assess and rank ICT development across countries. The new methodology of 14 indicators, instead of 11, is designed to capture recent developments in ICT markets, with the introduction of emerging technologies. The ICT Development Index is a core feature of the ITU's annual Measuring the Information Society Report.


increasing relevance

The number of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks continues to increase as criminals take advantage of insecure IoT devices. A report by Corero Network Security reveals a 35% increase in monthly attack attempts compared to the previous quarter, and a 91% increase in monthly attack attempts compared to the first quarter of 2017.

A security vulnerability in Ethereum wallets froze 500 000 units of the Ether cryptocurrency. This occurred to multi-signature wallets, i.e., wallets which require more than one owner to ‘sign’ a transaction. Parity Technologies, the company behind the wallets, said that this occurred due to an accidental global exploitation of a vulnerability, which permanently locked more than USD$150 million in cryptocurrency.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

Bitcoin surged past USD$11 000 per unit, hours after it crossed USD$10 000. The proposed SegWit2X upgrade of the Bitcoin payment system, known as the New York Agreement, has been postponed. The upgrade failed to gain the widespread support needed among Bitcoin users. On a global level, the WTO’s Ministerial Meeting is not likely to reach consensus on advancing the e-commerce agenda. More on page 3.

At regional level, shifts in the dynamism of e-commerce were noted. Trade ministers from the 11 remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries announced they agreed on the core elements of the deal. Nevertheless, a planned meeting to announce the deal was cancelled after the Canadian Prime Minister decided not to attend, due to some remaining concerns. Negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the USA concluded their fifth round of talks to modernise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The negotiations made substantial advances in sectors such as telecommunications, trade facilitation, e-commerce, and technical barriers to trade.

The UK Treasury is preparing for unilateral action on taxing the digital economy. It will push for international tax reforms, while exploring interim solutions to raise revenue from digital businesses.

Uber is facing more legal woes. In the UK, the ride-sharing company has lost its appeal against a court ruling issued last year by an employment tribunal, which ruled that Uber employees are workers entitled to minimum-wage rights. The company plans to continue to challenge the decision. Uber drivers in Nigeria have initiated a similar case in a Lagos court.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

Uber covered up the leak of the data of 57 million users, Bloomberg reportsIn the UK, Google is taken to court over allegations that it has illegally collected personal data of over 5 million users by bypassing privacy settings of their iPhones.

Venezuela's Constituent Assembly has passed a law its authors say 'would punish messages of hate in broadcast and social media with penalties reaching 20 years in prison’.

The Council of Europe (CoE) and Russian antivirus software developer Kaspersky Lab, as well as other IT and Internet companies, have pledged to protect human rights and help maintain a secure Internet. They will cooperate on combatting child online sexual exploitation and abuse; countering cybercrime and terrorism; and promoting human rights online.

Internet freedom has declined for the seventh consecutive year, Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2017 reveals. The use of social media to ‘advance an anti-democratic agenda’ has brought new challenges, as it is ‘more difficult to combat than other types of censorship’, the project’s director explained.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

California judge has blocked the Canadian Supreme Court’s right to be forgotten ruling from taking effect in the USA.

The European Commission is setting up a High-Level Expert Group on fake news and online disinformation, with representatives of academia, the tech industry, news media, and civil society. It has launched a public consultation to feed into an EU strategy on how to tackle the spread of fake news.


same relevance


A new law in Russia restricting the use of proxy tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and anonymisers, came into force on 1 November.

Russia’s Security Council has reportedly instructed the government to start talks among BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) about the possibility to build an alternative DNS root server system.

Microsoft-owned Skype has been removed from several Chinese app stores, including those operated by Apple and Android. Apple was notified by the Ministry of Public Security that ‘a number of voice over Internet protocol apps do not comply with local law.’

Net neutrality

increasing relevance

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to vote on rolling back the 2015 net neutrality rules.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India released a set of recommendations in support of net neutrality, noting that licensing terms applicable to Internet service providers (ISPs) should include explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in Internet access based on content accessed, protocols used, or equipment deployed.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

The GGE on LAWS met for the first time in Geneva, to discuss the technological, military, legal, and ethical issues surrounding LAWS.

In Tokyo, chatbot Shibuya Mirai – programmed to resemble a 7-year-old boy – was granted official residence. The chatbot is aimed at making the local government more familiar and accessible to residents, allowing officials to hear their opinions.

In Arizona, USA, the Alphabet-owned company Waymo has started testing self-driving cars on public roads, without a human safety driver on board. The UK announced plans for fully self-driving cars, without a human operator, by 2021. Singapore aims to have driverless buses by 2022.

A report published by the Centre for Policy Studies in the UK argues that taxing robots will not protect jobs, and that calls for a universal basic income are premature, as this would distort the labour market.

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.

How Can Technological Solutions Advance Cybersecurity?

The second session of the Geneva Digital Talks, held on 3 November, discussed how cybersecurity as a field interacts with recent or potential technological changes. The panel debate highlighted the dichotomy between technology and policy in the cybersecurity domain and the need to enhance trust and collaboration between the two fields. On the technological side, one practical solution was presented: The Scalability, Control, and Isolation on Next-Generation Networks (SCION) architecture, developed by a team at ETH Zurich, allows individuals to control the pathways through which their data travel, while providing an additional layer of security by ensuring fuller control of their networks.

Geneva Peace Week 2017

Throughout the 2017 edition of the Geneva Peace Week, held on 6–10 November, it became clearer that digital technology has important implications for conflict prevention, albeit in two distinct and contradictory ways. Some sessions identified the ways in which digital technology can assist in the prevention of conflict. They highlighted the potential of e-commerce, big data, AI, and geographic information systems. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a focus on the ways in which digital technologies have given rise to increased threats.

Preventing Cyber Conflicts: Do We Need a Cyber Treaty?

The third session of the Geneva Digital Talks, on 9 November, built on Microsoft’s president Brad Smith’s call for a Digital Geneva Convention, and developed around three main considerations. First, it was considered that addressing cybersecurity challenges requires a mentality shift: ‘Peace cannot be indoctrinated but it needs to be discussed as a mentality, as a climate.’ Second, speakers stressed the importance of a multistakeholder approach to the drafting of a possible cyber treaty (for example, the Montreux process). Finally, it was noted that Microsoft’s proposal is a welcome call for governments to take action to address vulnerabilities in cyberspace.

Big Data for Prevention: Balancing Opportunities with Challenges

Held as part of the Geneva Peace Week 2017, this session explored the potential of big data for conflict prevention. The discussions underlined that technology can constitute both a risk of inciting conflict and a mitigation factor, and that data may have multiple interpretations and facets. Visualisations (such as the tool developed by the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and CERN) play a key role in helping analysis and provision of knowledge-based data. Satellite data was given as an example of big data that can contribute to conflict prevention, by reporting and documenting early warning indicators, while providing actionable information for the national and international communities.

Current Internet Governance Challenges: What's Next?

This event, held on 9 November, featured discussions on current Internet governance challenges and possible ways of addressing them. Despite the benefits brought by the Internet, more than 3.5 billion people remain unconnected. The risk of conflict and a new arms race involving cyber weapons, and online terrorist propaganda and extremist violence were identified as growing challenges, which require political will when it comes to identifying solutions. The focus of the discussions was on cybersecurity and the need to look at it as a shared responsibility. In this regard, Microsoft’s president Brad Smith reiterated the proposal for a tech sector accord in the field of cybersecurity, and a Digital Geneva Convention to guide the behaviour of governments in cyberspace.

Sharing Economy and its Social Challenges

This high-level discussion, on 21 November, focused on the way digital platforms work and how to determine whether they empower or exploit their workers. The new business models for the sharing economy rely on the network effect: a company no longer creates the end product or service; it provides a common infrastructure and matches consumers and producers using the knowledge of the market. The speakers agreed that the social function of work should be in focus and that solutions need to be people-centred.

6th United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights

Held on 27–29 November under the theme ‘Realising access to effective remedy’, the Forum featured over 60 sessions dealing with business-related human rights issues. Discussions emphasised that while technology is vital to modern society, technological developments have increased concerns regarding the protection of human rights, such as privacy and freedom of expression. New forms of human rights abuse in the digital age could be avoided if stakeholders – companies, governments, and civil society – work together on identifying and implementing tools for human rights protection and enforcement.

Where and How to Protect Legal Interests in the Digital Era

In this session, held on 28 November, as part of the Geneva Digital Talks, three panellists offered answers from different perspectives, to the question of what, if at all, is the role of courts in Internet governance and how access to justice can be ensured in the online space. The discussion reflected on regulations of traditional Internet governance matters, contrasting them with present technological issues. Digital policy and the practice of arbitration are both leveraging the position of Geneva as a major global hub for solutions.

Issue no. 26 of the Geneva Digital Watch newsletter, published on 30 November 2017, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation. Contributors: Stephanie Borg Psaila, Jovan Kurbalija, Virginia Paque, Roxana Radu, Barbara Rosen Jacobson, Sorina Teleanu | Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab