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[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

The Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) is an international association of academic researchers founded in 2006 by a group of scholars engaged in the WSIS, WGIG, and the IGF processes to support multidisciplinary scholarship on Internet governance. Giganet holds annual symposiums timed to accompany the global IGF meetings. This year, 16 papers were presented during the symposium. Thematically, they were divided into four sections: local and comparative perspectives, institutions and processes, laws and norms, and theory.

Local and comparative perspectives

Mr Enrico Calandro (Research ICT Africa) discussed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and development of cyber-capabilities. Issues around safety and security of cyberspace in Africa need to be located in their own specific political economy and Internet ecosystem. The resource-constrained setting of Sub-Saharan Africa is characterised by little awareness of cybersecurity risks and transactions, especially from the user side. Calandro presented a study concluding that in addition to lack of capacity and uneven ICT development across SADC countries, other reasons for poor implementation of global and regional cyber policies are related to lack of co-ordination between competing global and regional agendas and the activities implementing such frameworks .

Ms Alison Gillwald (Research ICT Africa) presented ideas concerning the governance of global digital public goods. She presented a typology of global governance systems and outlined current challenges to the provision of digital global public goods. Understanding the Internet as a global public good – as a non-rivalrous and non-excludable essential service – however, reveals that in Africa and other developing regions other interests acquire a global governance capacity beyond their own national interests. This is because the good governance of the Internet (cybersecurity or data protection) emerges only to the extent to which countries can help to reproduce them at the national level.

Ms Clara Iglesias Keller (Leibniz Institute for Media Research) explained the institutional framework for intermediary liability in Brazil. Content sharing platforms in Brazil are liable for third party infringement only if they fail to act upon it under court ruling. Her presentation considered the institutional characteristics of the judicial decision-making process and how Brazil can effect a broader online content regulation context.

Mr Matthias C. Kettemann (Leibniz Institute for Media Research) examined whether users can reinstate deleted content on platforms, comparing US and German jurisprudence. He also considered systemic relevance differences in treatment of states and private companies as threats to, or guarantors of, fundamental rights in their jurisdictions.

Institutions and processes

Mr Dennis Redeker (Jacobs University Bremen) spoke on the possibility of a European constitution for the Internet. He suggested that the degree of institutionalisation of the actors affects the scale of mobilisation attained by their advocacy, citing the examples of: (1) the group that drafted the Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights of the European Union; (2) the network around the Feminist Principles of the Internet; and (3) the Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles connected to the IGF.

Mr Barthélémy Michalon (Sciences Po, France) discussed the Code of Conduct regarding illegal hate speech online, drafted by four digital companies on the request of the European Commission. This code is expected to set some ground rules on the regulation of such content within the European Union. In his paper he also treated the forms and dimensions of the power relationships between the European Commission, US-based digital platforms, and a growing number of civil society organisations.

Mr David Weyrauch (University of Mannheim) examined cross-national variation in participation in transnational Internet governance, looking at the IETF. He found that domestic economic and technological development and liberal political institutions facilitate transnational participation. However, political freedoms seem to be more relevant than economic freedoms. Also, transnational arenas are sometimes said to display certain political tendencies. IETF participants have preferred to exclude governments in Internet governance and to exclude the use of Internet infrastructure for governmental goals such as surveillance.

Mr Florian Meißner (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf) spoke about media coverage of cyber threats in Germany and the UK. Media realities are typically shaped by national perspectives, despite the fact that cyber threats are a global phenomenon. Additionally, the news media successfully contributes to raising audiences’ awareness of cyber threats, but rarely discusses behaviours that would improve cybersecurity.

Laws and norms

Ms Maria Bada (University of Cambridge) discussed the regulation of the Internet of Things (IoT). A growing number of policy and legal measures regarding IoTs are available at the international level. However, in regard to regulation, questions arise such as exactly whose risk the regulator is reducing – the risk to a dominant industrial player, or to its millions of customers? Thus, a need remains for strong leadership with a strategic forward-looking approach, and with policy-making that is dynamic and responsive to the developments in technology. Additionally, governments and regulatory bodies need to monitor advances and make it easier for telecommunication companies to invest in upgrading technology.

Ms Tatiana Shulga‐Morskaya (University of Bordeaux) studied the protection of personal data through the right to informational self‐determination. The General Data Protection Regulation, conceived to reduce the risks of centralised data processing, is difficult to apply to networked or decentralised data processing, so, at the moment, the full exercise of the right to informational self-determination in the context of networked data processing is not possible.

Ms Jyoti Panday (Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad) presented information concerning data localisation in India, patterns in localisation policies, and categories of data.

Mr Giovanni De Gregorio (University of Milano-Bicocca) compared state actions regarding the spread of disinformation. As the spread of fake news has arrived in the political agenda, both democratic and authoritarian countries have felt compelled to respond. No harmonised approach has appeared to address the issue. While some countries have adopted legislation of limited scope, others have applied restrictions based on potential falsehoods.The countries included in his analysis have criminalised the spread of disinformation by sanctioning users. Those that have decided to target both natural persons and companies usually rely on a mixed set of sanctions including time in prison and substantial fines.

Theory

Ms Hortense Jongen (University of Gothenburg) presented a study on legitimacy beliefs in multistakeholder global governance, focusing on the ICANN community. The study found that ICANN has strong legitimacy underpinnings among its staff and board, as well as moderate-to-high legitimacy among the ‘community’ of participants in its policymaking processes. However, average levels of legitimacy perceptions tend to decline the more one moves away from the immediate sphere of ICANN into wider Internet governance processes. Moreover, in the wider society, half of elites and most of the public remain ignorant of ICANN.

Ms Ilona Stadnik (Saint‐Petersburg State University) discussed how a constructivist theory of international relations applies to cyberspace. A constructivist approach can help to answer questions regarding the essence of cyberpower, as well as explain cybersecurity policy. Also, it can shed some light on the norm-making process for international cybersecurity.

Mr Blayne Haggart (Brock University, Canada) argued in his presentation that democracy, national sovereignty, and global Internet governance are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously. He suggested that only Emmanuel Macron’s speech to the 2018 Internet Governance Forum in Paris offers a pathway to reconciling democratic accountability with the existence of different legitimate views on how content should be regulated.

Ms Lisa Garbe (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland) looked at infrastructure ownership and control in Africa. To better understand how technology, government, and economy interact, she suggests taking into account the role of ISPs, which provide the last-mile connection to end-users. The ownership structure of ISPs is important in understanding the determinants and the effects of Internet penetration. Therefore, a state government’s ability to control the diffusion of the Internet and its use or its interruption depends on the extent to which it controls the ISPs that grant Internet access to customers in its territory.

Paper abstracts and full texts are available at the GigaNet webpage.

By Ilona Stadnik

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