On our radar

last 7 days

21 Jun

Ms Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, emphasised online/ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls in her statement to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council. Her report aims to 'start the process of understanding how to effectively apply a human rights-based approach and human rights instruments to prevent and combat online violence against women as human rights violations'. Recognising that emerging modalities of violence of women share common roots with other forms of violence against women, she pointed out that 'The definition of violence against women should be inclusive of all acts of gender-based violence against women and girls which are committed, facilitated or aggravated by use of ICTs, as well as including threats of such acts.' Šimonović called for new laws and recommended that states should ensure a regulatory framework that includes women's human rights instruments that prohibit gender-based violence online, as well as other points. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) welcomed the report, supporting mention of the role of Internet intermediaries and highlighting that 'responses to content that reinforces violence against women should be rooted in human rights norms and require clear definitions, consistent with the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and legitimacy, for what constitutes harmful content'.

The Regional Court in Bonn, Germany has decided to reconsider a decision issued in May in a case brought forward by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Back in May, the court dismissed ICANN's request for an injunction meant to oblige German domain name registrar EPAG to continue to collect administrative and technical contact information when domain names and registered. ICANN appealed the decision, and it was up to Bonn court to decide whether to re-evaluate its ruling or maintain it and forward the matter to the Higher Regional Court. EPAG now has two weeks to comments on ICANN's appellate papers.

20 Jun

The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) adopted the proposed version for copyright reform, including highly disputed Article 13 as well as tax provisions in Article 11 of Copyright Directive. The biggest controversies about this reform were around the text of Article 13 that practically requires some form of filtering and monitoring measures from internet platforms. In spite of the strong criticism of this article from NGO and expert community, this text is going into the further legislative procedure. Even though it is still possible for things to change up to the final vote in EU Parlament, this would be very uncommon in this stage.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has published a new issue of its Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) Health Index, revealing statistics on topics such as geographic diversity of gTLD registry operators and registrars, the total number of second-level domain name registrations in gTLDs, additions and deletions in gTLDs, marketplace stability, and trust. The stats show, among others, that the regions with the largest number of ICANN-accredited gTLD registry operators and ICANN-accredited gTLD registrars are Europe, North America, and Asia/Australia/Pacific, with comparatively lower percentages in Africa and Latin America/Caribbean. According to the index, there were 195 404 000 second-level gTLD domain names at the end of the second quarter of 2017 (less than the 196 518 000 domain names in existence at the end of 2016). There were also less domain name registrations in internationalised gTLDs (IDNs) in the second quarter of 2017, compared to both the first quarter of the year and the second quarter of 2016.

19 Jun

The USA announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), calling it a 'cesspool of political bias', particularly against Israel, and that it fails to hold human rights abusers accountable. The 47-member body debates human rights violations around the world but has come under fire from critics who allege that some UNHRC members use their position on the council to avoid criticism of their own countries' policies.

18 Jun

On 18 June 2018, the European Commission hosted a high-level meeting with representatives of European philosophical and non-confessional organisations, on the topic 'Artificial intelligence (AI): addressing ethical and social challenges'. Chaired by the Commission's Vice-President Andrus Ansip, the meeting addressed the potential impact of AI on fundamental rights such as privacy, dignity, consumer protection, and non-discrimination. It also explored the impact of AI on social inclusion and the future of work. Ansip reminded participants that the European Commission is working on 'ethical guidelines for the development of AI for good and for all' and that the elaboration of these guidelines 'requires an open discussion on key issues such as the importance of diversity and gender balance in AI to avoid biased decisions'. The guidelines are expected to be finalised by the end of 2018.

At an event in San Francisco, USA, IBM has presented an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can engage in reasoned arguments with humans on complex topics. Called Project Debater, the system was designed to debate around 100 topics, in a pre-determined debate format: a four-minute introductory speech, a four-minute rebuttal to the opponent's arguments, and a two-minute closing statement. Project Debater, trained in advance on debating methods, but not the details of the debates, relied on a collection of 300 million news articles and academic papers (previously indexed) to construct its case. While it was noted by several observers that some of the points made by the system were either quoting sources or merely reusing parts of articles, the system also tried to 'directly argue with points that its human opponents made, in nearly real time'. IBM explains on its website that Project Debater 'digests massive texts, constructs a well-structured speech on a given topic, delivers it with clarity and purpose, and rebuts its opponent'. The company estimates that, at the moment, the system could have a meaningful debate on the 100 topics it was designed for about 40% of the time. The overall objective of the project is to 'help people reason by providing compelling, evidence-based arguments and limiting the influence of emotion, bias, or ambiguity'.​

In a follow-up to the adoption, in May 2018, of the Temporary Specification for gTLD Registration Data, ICANN has published for discussion the draft Framework Elements for a Unified Access Model for Continued Access to Full WHOIS Data. The specification established that registries and registrars for generic top-level domains (gTLDs) continue to collect robust domain name registration data, but personal data is restricted to layered/tired access, by users with legitimate purposes. The draft Framework Elements outline several questions to help frame the discussion on a possible model for how legitimate users could access personal WHOIS data and how such users would be accredited (the so-called 'accreditation and access model'). The document outlines an important role for governments. For example, governments within the European Economic Area would be tasked with identifying or facilitating the identification of broad categories of users eligible for continued access to WHOIS data. They would also determine authentication requirements for determining which law enforcement authorities from their jurisdictions should be granted access to full WHOIS data. ICANN also envisions that it would consult with its Governmental Advisory Committee on identifying relevant bodies to be tasked with authenticating users for access to WHOIS.

Some 40,000 attacks were launched on Singapore from 11:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m. Singapore time on June 12, cybersecurity researchers at F5 Networks and their data partner Loryka reported. On that day, Singapore received 4.5 times more attacks than the US or Canada and since it is not typically a top attack destination country, this anomaly is being brought into connection with the meeting of US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un in the state. According to the researchers, Russia accounted for 88% of the attacks, Brazil for 8% and Germany for 2%, but no evidence tying this attacking activity to nation-state-sponsored attacks was uncovered. The attacks targeted VoIP phones and IoT devices, with 92% of attacks detected being reconnaissance scans searching for vulnerabilities and 8% attacks exploiting vulnerabilities. The only countries F5 Networks detected launching SIP attacks were Russia and Brazil. Later, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) refuted these findings, stating that the numbers “are a result of increased scanning activities on network ports and are not reflective of the occurrence of cyberattacks linked to the Summit”.

last 30 days

15 Jun

In May 2018, more than 30 US-based civil society organisations sent a public letter to Amazon, asking the company to stop providing its facial recognition system – Rekognition – to the US government. This month, several Amazon shareholders wrote to the company's CEO Jeff Bezos, expressing concerns over Rekognition and the selling of the technology to US law enforcement agencies. The shareholders are concerned about the potential use of Rekognition to 'ultimately violate civil and human rights' and 'to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of colour, immigrants, and civil society organisations'. The letter also outlines concerns over the potential sale of the technology to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes, which may use it to 'identify and detain democracy advocates'. The company is asked to 'immediately halt the expansion, further development and marketing of Rekognition' to all governments until guidelines and policies are in place to safeguard human rights.​ [21 June update] According to media reports, Amazon employees are also asking the company to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement agencies.

A team of researchers from DeepMind has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that brings AI agents closer to being able to understand 3D spaces. The system, called the Generative Query Network (GQN), empowers machine with the ability to learn to represent scenes using only their own sensors. The system uses images of a scene taken from different angles, constructs an internal representation based on this input, and uses the representation to predict the appearance of that scene from a new, arbitrary angle. Existing AI systems can also perform scene representation, but they need to be provided with large amounts of labelled datasets, making human input a requirement. The GQN does not need such labelled data: it uses its sensors to 'look' at static images of a scene and reconstruct a reasonably accurate 3D representation of it. As explained by Techcrunch, this ability 'is critical for robots, especially because they have to navigate the real world by sensing it and reacting to what they see'. The developers of GQN acknowledged that more work is needed before the system can be deployed in the real world, but noted that the achievement 'represents one step closer to understanding how we may build agents that learn by themselves'.​

14 Jun

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) through which the two parties aim to promote competitive markets, technological innovation, and value for consumers. BEREC and TRAI have also adopted a Joint Statement for an Open Internet that outlines the common scope and grounds of net neutrality frameworks in Europe and India and show the parties’ commitment with the supervision and the enforcement of rules and guidelines for an open Internet in their regions. It also intends to show the willingness of both sides to develop interregional cooperation and exchanges between regulators regarding the implementation of best practices for net neutrality.

In May 2018, a family in Portland, USA reported that their Amazon Echo smart speaker had recorded snippets of private conversations and sent them to a random person in their contact list. Amazon explained that the device had subsequently misinterpreted several pieces of the conversation and this is why it ended up behaving as reported. But the incident has sparked controversy over the privacy implications of Echo-like devices and the privacy-related policies of their manufacturers. In light of this case, two members of the US Senate – Jeff Flake and Chris Coons, who serve as chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law – sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, asking for clarifications on how the Echo device functions (when and how frequently it sends data to Amazon servers, how long the recordings are stored, and how the recorded data is anonymised) and what actions the company is taking to protect the privacy of their users. The senators also ask Amazon to indicate the number of complaints it has received about Echo misinterpreting commands.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that uses wireless signals to 'see' through walls. Called RF-Pose, the system uses a deep neural network to spot human motion using radio frequency (RF) signals reflected from people's bodies. To create the system, the researchers collected, via a wireless device and a camera, examples of people walking, talking, sitting, etc. The images were then used to extract 'stick figures' which were fed to the neural network with the corresponding RF signal. Trained with this data, RF-Pose is able to estimate human postures and movements without the need for a camera, and only based on the wireless reflections that bounce off people's bodies. According to the researchers, this radio-based system is almost as accurate as the vision-based system used to train in, and it can estimate 2D poses through walls without being trained on such scenarios. As explained by The Inquirer, the system could be used in search and rescue operations after natural disasters, and for medical purposes.

13 Jun

A recently released report by the US organisation Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) concluded that the economic benefits that may be brought by the widespread adoption of autonomous driving technology might surpass common concerns related to labour market destabilisation and job dislocation. Job dislocation and contribution to unemployment might not be as severe as commonly suspected, as new jobs and other economic benefits would compensate for any expected labour market disruption.​ The report recognises that some groups might be more seriously affected by job dislocation than others, and recommends policymakers to fully support autonomous vehicle deployment while, in parallel, lay the groundwork for the requalification of the workforce.

In May 2018, just a few days after the entry into force of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a court in Bonn, Germany, dismissed a case filed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) against Germany-based domain name registrar EPAG, over the registrar's decision to stop collecting administrative and technical contact information when domain names are registered. ICANN has now appealed the decision to the Higher Regional Court of Cologne, announcing that its action is part of its 'public interest role in coordinating a decentralised global WHOIS for the generic top-level domain system'. The organisation is also asking the Higher Regional Court to refer the issues brought to its attention to the Court of Justice of the European Union if the court 'does not agree with ICANN or is not clear about the scope of the GDPR'. In explaining its appeal, ICANN noted that it 'appreciates and understands the dilemma of EPAG in trying to interpret the GDPR rules against the WHOIS requirements, but if EPAG's actions stand, those with legitimate purposes, including security-related purposes, law enforcement, intellectual property rights holders, and other legitimate users of that information may no longer be able to access full WHOIS records'.

Dixons Carphone, one of Europe’s largest electrical retailers, acknowledged unauthorised access to financial and non-financial personal data held by the company occured. According to the company, 5.9 million payment cards have been compromised. While 5.8m of compromised payment cards have chip and pin protection, making them more protected from potential exploitation, approximately 105,000 non-EU issued payment cards do not have chip and pin protection. Additionally, the company’s investigation uncovered that 1.2 million records containing non-financial personal data, such as name, address or email address, have been accessed. Dixons Carphone stated it has no evidence of any fraudulent use of the data accessed in the breach.

UN Rapporteur David Kaye voiced serious concerns about European Commission (EC) Article 13 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in a missive to the EC. He especially notes his fear that the directive 'would establish a regime of active monitoring and prior censorship of user-generated content that is inconsistent with Article 19(3) of the ICCPR', and mentions concerns regarding pre-publication censorship, concerns regarding ineffective remedial mechanisms, and concerns regarding the disproportionate burden on nonprofits and small content sharing providers. Kieren McCarthy also reports in The Register that Internet luminaries urge EU to kill off automated copyright filter proposalciting an open letter from the group of Internet pioneers to the EU 'urging it to scrap a proposal to introduce automated upload filters, arguing that it could damage the Internet as we know it'.



12 Jun

EU Commission announced that legislative work about reform and modernization of copyright legislation is coming to an end. The new set of rules are primary trying to ease cross-border access to content online, create wider opportunities to use copyrighted materials in education, research and cultural heritage and to create better -functioning copyright marketplace. However, the expert community is really worried about the real effect of these changes, especially proposed article 13 of Copyright Directive. This article requires internet platforms that host a large amount of user-generated content and that optimize that content, to take measures that should enable functioning of agreements concluded with rights-holders for the use of their works. In essence, this article would require internet platforms to police content on their platforms in order the remove the ones that infringe right holders copyright.  This would severely affect freedom of speech and can lead to some form of censorship, especially in regard to memes, re-mixes, and similar content. The very application of algorithms and various filtering mechanisms would, even more, threaten freedom of speech. Numerous organization already addressed their concerns in the letter addressed to EU Parlament.  Another disputed provision of this Directive is article 11 that should impose so-called  "snippet tax" which would require companies to pay some form of tax when they use short extracts from other news publications. The next step for this proposal is voting in EU Parlament that should be at the end of the month.

After many cases that Christian Louboutin fought over its red-soled high-heeled shoes, ECJ brought preliminary ruling on this matter in its favor. The initial case is referred by The District Court in The Hague which issued the preliminary injunction against Van Haren which was selling its own version of red-soled high-heeled shoes. The debate was around the question if the trademark that consists of a colour applied to the sole of a high-heeled shoe, consists only from a shape and as such can not have protection as a registered mark, or this is position mark. The court stated that this mark is not related to any specific shape of sole for high-heeled shoes since its essential element is a specific colour (red), as it was described in its previously filed trademark registrations. Hence the ECJ said that the red colour applied to the sole of a women’s high heel shoe is a position mark.

Google has announced enhancements to its neural machine translation (NMT) technology, allowing it to run Google Translate applications offline, on users' devices. The technology will allow users to 'get high-quality translations' even when they are not connected to the Internet. The artificial intelligence (AI) system that powers it allows the translation of 'whole sentences at a time', and it 'uses broader content to help determine the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to sound more like a real person speaking with proper grammar'. To use the new technology, users will have to download language sets on their devices, and Google explains that each such set is around 35-35MB. The tool is to be made available in 59 languages.

11 Jun

Threatening legal action against unlicensed websites, the Tanzanian authorities have ordered all unregistered Tanzanian bloggers and online forums to shut down their platforms. Those who do not comply with the order can face fines and imprisonment. The move comes after regulation passed in March, which obliges providers of online content (such as bloggers or owners of YouTube channels) to register with the government and pay for a license. The law has drawn criticism, as it is believed to be part of a ‘crackdown on dissent and free speech’. According to the government, the new regulation aim to address online crimes, such as hate speech, cyberbullying, and pornography.

US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has unveiled a new round on sanctions on five Russian entities and three Russian individuals, charged for directly contributing to improving Russia’s offensive cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB. According to OFAC, Kvant Scientific Research Institute was designated for being controlled by FSB and providing it with material and technological support. Digital Security, its subsidiaries ERPScan and Embedi, and Divetechnoservices were designated for providing FSB with material and technological support. The three individuals that were designated are the owner, the General Manager and the Program Manager of Divetechnoservices.

In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Restoring Internet Freedom Order take effect officially on 11 June 2018, repealing the 2015 net neutrality order and restoring the classification of broadband Internet access service as a lightly-regulated information service. New rules make it possible that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) slow, block or offer “paid prioritisation” to some websites or applications as long as they disclose the practices. In its press release, FCC says that the new rules ‘will protect the open Internet that consumers cherish while paving the way for better, faster, cheaper Internet access’. Also, it argues that ‘the FCC is returning to the successful, bipartisan framework that helped the Internet grow and flourish for two decades prior to 2015.’ A number of US states are putting in place net neutrality rules to require ISPs to treat data equally when operating in their regions. Earlier this year the US Senate has voted in favour of overturning the FCC decision to repeal net neutrality rules but the decision is pending before the House of Representatives that have to vote in line with the Senate, and President Donald Trump would also have to sign the measure to restore the old FCC rules.

10 Jun

Qrius reports that on June 5, Egypt’s parliament passed a cybercrime law that establishes regulations that will impose restrictions on social media and other online content, with implications for web censorship and freedom of expression. The law has been under discussion for some time, as authorities seek to stop 'terrorist and extremist ideologies'. According to Global Voices, the law 'gives investigative authorities the right to “order the censorship of websites” whenever a site hosts content that “poses a threat to national security or compromises national security or the national economy”.

9 Jun

At the G7 Summit held in early June in Charlevoix, Canada, G7 leaders endorsed a 'Common vision for the future of artificial intelligence (AI)', recognising, among others, that 'a human-centric approach to AI has the potential to introduce new sources of economic growth, bring significant benefits to our societies and help address some of our most pressing challenges'. The vision outlines several commitments that G7 leaders take, such as (1) promoting human-centric AI and advancing appropriate technical, ethical and technologically neutral approaches; (2) fostering investment in research and development in AI that generates public trust; (3) supporting lifelong learning, education, training and reskilling; (4) promoting active labour market policies, workforce development, and reskilling programmes; (5) facilitating multistakeholder dialogue on how to advance AI to increase trust and adoption; (6) encouraging initiatives to improve digital security in AI and developing technologies; and (7) ensuring AI design and implementation respect privacy and data protection frameworks.



8 Jun

According to a Washington Post report, Chinese government hackers have targeted a Naval Undersea Warfare Center in January and February, stealing 614 gigabytes of data. The stolen materials are related to undersea warfare, including information about missile project Sea Dragon, signals and sensor data, submarine radio room information relating to cryptographic systems, and the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library. Citing unnamed US officials, Washington Post reported that when aggregated, the stolen materials could be considered classified.

7 Jun

In a blog post published by CEO Sundar Pichai, Google described a series of principles which are to guide the company's work on artificial intelligence (AI). In his presentation of the principles, Pichai noted that they 'are not theoretical concepts', but 'concrete standards that will actively govern [the company's] research and product development and will impact [its] business decisions'. In Google's vision, AI should: (1) be socially beneficial; (2) avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias; (3) be built and tested for safety; (4) be accountable to people; (5) incorporate privacy design principles; (6) uphold high standards of scientific excellence; and (7) be made available for uses that accord with these principles. The company also commits not to design or deploy AI in the following areas: technologies that cause or are likely to cause harm; weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or indirectly facilitate injury to people; technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms; and technologies whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights. The announcement of these principles comes in the context of Google employees protesting over the company's partnership with the US Department of Defense on using AI to analyse drone footage. With some of the employees resigning as a sign of protest, Google has reportedly committed not to renew the contract upon its expiration in 2019.​

6 Jun

Vienna Commercial Court vested a groundbreaking preliminary decision, stating that YouTube is not a pure intermediary and that it should prevent third parties to upload material that violates someone else copyright. The case was initiated based on the lawsuit of Austrian commercial TV channel Puls4 against YouTube. Plus4 argued that content from its channel was posted on Youtube without its permission and hence presents the violation of its copyrights. Youtube stated that according to safe harbor rules in E-Commerce directive, it should not be liable since it acts as a pure intermediary. However, the court ruled that since YouTube is sorting, filtering and linking content on its platform, in particular by creating tables of contents according to predefined categories, it can not be considered as a pure intermediary and rely on safe harbor provisions. This is still not final decision since both parties have four weeks for the petition before court vest final decision upon this matter.

The Internet Society has released the ‘State of IPv6 Deployment 2018’ report, which looks at the progress made in the deployment of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) across countries, networks, and service providers around the world. Over 25% of all Internet-connected networks advertise IPv6 connectivity, and the top 10 countries using the new protocol include Belgium, Greece, Germany, the USA, Uruguay, India, Switzerland, Japan, Malaysia, and Brazil. Cited Google statistics reveal that 49 countries deliver more than 5% of their traffic over IPv6, and that there are 24 countries whose IPv6 traffic exceeds 15%. Among Alexa's top 1000 global websites, 28% are accessible via IPv6 (an increase from 23% in 2017). Among the existing 1543 top-level domains, 98.4% have an IPv6 name server addressed and can be accessed using either IPv4 or IPv6. The report notes that more work is needed to drive IPv6 deployment in many countries and that numerous networks have IPv6 on their backbone, but not provided to their end-users. It also argues that 'increasingly, IPv4 is an unnecessary cost and a speculative asset'.

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) in Singapore has announced three initiatives aimed at 'engaging key stakeholders including government, industry, consumers and academia to collaboratively shape IMDA's plans for the artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem. First, a multistakeholder Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data, to be appointed by the Minister for Communications and Information, will assist the government in developing ethical standards and reference governance frameworks for the development and deployment of AI. Second, to support the work of the Advisory Council, a discussion paper on AI and Data Governance Frameworks was put forward to encourage discussions around two key principles: (1) decisions made by or with the assistance of AI should be explainable, transparent and fair for consumers; (2) AI systems, robots and decisions should be human-centric. Third, a five-year Research Programme on the governance of AI and Data Use is to be set up at the Singapore Management University, to carry research on 'research on policy, legal, regulatory, governance, ethics and other issues relating to AI and data use'.

In May 2018, a bill was introduced in the US Congress under the heading 'Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018', intending to 'assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in preventing emerging threats from unmanned aircraft and vehicles'. The bill would, among others, authorise the DHS or the Department of Justice to take actions necessary to mitigate the threats that drones could pose 'to the safety and security of a covered facility or asset'. These actions could include detecting, identifying, monitoring and tracking the drone, disrupting control of the drone, seizing or exercising control of the drone, or using reasonable force to disable, damage or destroy it. The bill was subject to a hearing in the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, on 6 June 2018. During the hearing, officials from the US government argued in favour of the bill, noting that 'the threats posed by malicious drones are too great to ignore' and expressing concerns that 'criminals and terrorist will exploit [drones] in ways that pose a serious threat to the safety of American people'. While US authorities advocated in favour of new powers to allow them to counter threatening drones, civil society groups expressed concerns over the bill's provisions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation noted, for example that 'many of the bill’s key terms are undefined, but it is clear that it provides extremely broad authority, exempting officials from following procedures that ordinarily govern electronic surveillance and hacking, such as the Wiretap Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act'.

The European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement to update the EU's telecoms rules, announced the European Commission. The new European Electronic Communications Code will modernise the current EU telecoms rules, which were last updated in 2009. The proposed changes will:

  1. Enhance the deployment of 5G networks by ensuring the availability of 5G radio spectrum by end of 2020 in the EU and providing operators with predictability for at least 20 years in terms of spectrum licensing;
  2. Facilitate the roll-out of new fibre optic networks by making rules for co-investment, promoting sustainable competition, and a specific regulatory regime for wholesale only operators;
  3. Protect consumers, irrespective of whether end-users communicate through traditional or web-based services. This measure will include a better tariff transparency, price caps on international calls within the EU, easier change of service provider, and many more.

The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) is not in favour of the new code. The law foresees only limited progress on spectrum policy and a complex and weakened compromise on incentivising fibre investment, according to ETNO.

5 Jun

In a Notice of inquiry on International Internet Policy Priorities, published in the US Federal Registry on 5 June 2018, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invites public comment on four broad digital policy issues. Under the heading 'The free flow of information and jurisdiction', the NTIA inquires about the main challenges to the free flow of information and freedom of expression online, and the role of stakeholders (including the NTIA) in ensuring free expression online. Under 'Privacy and Security', the public is invited to indicate ways in which cybersecurity threats are harming international commerce and to suggest the international venues that are the most appropriate for addressing online privacy issues. A section on the 'Emerging Technologies and Trends' asks which emerging technologies should be in focus in international policy discussions, and where they should be discussed. The section that seems to have attracted the most attention is entitled 'Multistakeholder Approach to Internet Governance', and tackles issues related to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). On the one hand, the NTIA asks the public whether (and why) the Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA) stewardship transition should be unwound. On the other hand, suggestions are sought on how to lower the barriers to engagement at the IGF and how the IGF can be improved.

4 Jun

The government of Cambodia has issued a prakas (regulation) 'to prevent ... the spreading of information whether in the form of text, voice, picture, video or other media that would cause chaos and threaten national security and defence, harm relations with other countries, the national economy, public order, and discriminate against the cultural integrity of the country', according to The Phnom Penh Post's Government Beefs up Internet Surveillance. According to a government official cited in the Southeast Asia Globe, the degree was not a crackdown, nor had anything to do with the upcoming elections. However, Free Malaysia Today called it 'the government’s latest move to control information ahead of a general election in July'. Staff from three government ministries would monitor content, and ISPs will also be required to filter or block any content that violates the law.

31 May

United Arab Emirates human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor was given a 10-year jail sentence for his social media use. According to Gulf News, 'He was found guilty of using social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. to publish false information, rumours and lies about the UAE and promoted sectarian feelings and hatred that would damage the UAE's social harmony and unity'. Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf said, however, that 'Ahmed Mansoor is one of the few openly critical voices in the UAE, and his persecution is another nail in the coffin for human rights activism in the country'. 

The Ugandan government has decided to impose a tax on the use of social media in an effort to increase revenue. Users will be charged with a daily rate of 200 shillings ($0,0531) to use services such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. The government’s plans have drawn criticism over the last months and is feared to stifle freedom of expression and political organisation. The law is due to take effect in July 2019 and will be collected daily by mobile phone operators.

As a result of Australia’s new tax laws - which require online retailers to collect a 10% goods and services tax on all overseas purchases from 1 July - Amazon has announced that it will no longer provide Australian shoppers with access to its international websites. Instead, Australians will only be able to use Amazon’s smaller Australian site. Amazon states that while regretting the inconvenience caused by the measure, ‘we have had to assess the workability of the legislation as a global business with multiple international sites’.

Medianama's UN Rapporteur: Human rights central to content regulation notes the publication of UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye's latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, the 2018 thematic report to the Human Rights Council on content regulation. The report is the first to examine the regulation of user-general online content, as it makes recommendations for both states and companies, particularly about fake news, disinformation, and online extremism. Global Partners Digital has highlighted three points among others:

  • First, the clear assertion that states must ensure that the legal and policy framework ensures an enabling environment for freedom of expression online
  • Second, the report calls for online platforms to use international human rights law and standards as the basis for developing and implementing their content standards.
  • Third, the report’s call for greater means for users to appeal and obtain remedies for wrongful decisions, as well as public accountability

30 May

Despite industry objections, a strict net neutrality bill is getting close to becoming law in California, USA. In a 23-12 vote, the California State Senate approved the bill that will impose net neutrality rules considered as tougher than the 2015 order of Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Besides basic rules on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritisation, the bill would ban paid zero-rating arrangements in which Internet access providers charge online services for data cap exemptions. Senator Scott Wiener, the bill sponsor, said in an announcement after the vote: ‘I want to thank the enormous grassroots coalition that is fighting tooth and nail to help pass SB 822 and protect a free and open Internet. We have a lot more work to get this bill through the Assembly, but this is a major win in our fight to reinstate net neutrality in California.’ Now the bill goes to the State Assembly.

29 May

The government of Papua New Guinea has decided to block Facebook for one month in an effort to counter ‘fake users’ and study the social effects of the social media platform. During the month, researchers will identify and remove users behind fake accounts and those posting pornographic images or misleading information. According to communication minister Sam Basil, ‘This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly’. The government estimates that 600-700,000 citizens use Facebook, which is less than one-tenth of the country’s population. The measure has drawn criticism, one member of the opposition claiming that ‘the government’s intent is to prosecute those that have been aggressively critical of their policies and be able to monitor and establish who are those that are driving this public discontent.’

28 May

Microsoft announced its intention to extend the rights granted by the Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation to all their users worldwide. This includes the right to know what data the company collects on its users and the ability to correct or delete that data, as well as to take it to another service provider.  Julie Brill, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Privacy and Regulatory Affairs at Microsoft, said ‘At Microsoft, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right. … Privacy is also the foundation for trust. We know that people will only use technology that they trust. Ultimately, trust is created when people are confident that their personal data is safe and they have a clear understanding of how and why it is used. This means companies like ours have a huge responsibility to safeguard the privacy of the personal data collected and the data managed for commercial customers.’ At the Microsoft website there is a dedicated page providing information on compliance, how its products help users comply with the GDPR, as well as resources such are webinars, videos, white papers, and FAQ about the regulation itself. As the media notes despite Microsoft’s extension of the privacy rules, there is not a law to enforce it globally, therefore no one outside the European Union will be able to file an official complaint based on DGPR, not will Microsoft be required to pay fines for not following the law outside the EU.

25 May

[Update] The Regional Court in Bonn dismised the case, opining that the collection and storage of the data of the administrative and technical contacts for a domain name was not necessary, and that the collection of personal data of the domain name registrant was sufficient for purposes related to safeguarding against misuse of domain names​.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has filed a legal action against Germany-based domain name registrar EPAG, over the registrar's decision to stop collecting administrative and technical contact information when domain names are registered. While EPAG – an ICANN accredited registrar – is of the view that its decision is in line with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ICANN argues that the registrar is breaching its contract by not complying with the requirement to continue to collect WHOIS data. The ICANN Board has recently adopted a Temporary Specification regarding the collection and publication of WHOIS data, which the organisation believes to be compliant with the GDPR. Through this filling against EPAG, ICANN is seeking 'a court ruling to ensure the continued collection of WHOIS data, so that such data remains available to third parties demonstrating'. The organisation also noted that it 'does not seek to require its contracted parties to violate the law', but that it has filed the lawsuit to seek clarification on the different interpretations of GDPR provisions.


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