Events: The Internet Governance Lab hosts foreign press at American University

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On June 18th, Prof. DeNardis and Prof. Cogburn hosted a group of eight international reporters at the American University’s School of International Service.The group included eight reporters from Mexico and Cuba, South America (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), Africa (Burkina Faso and Nigeria) and India. The reporters were part of the Department of State tour designed to give perspective on how governments, stakeholders and individuals can help to develop a healthy digital ecosystem.

Prof. DeNardis and Prof. Cogburn were invited to give their presentations as they are helping shape policies governing Internet access and actively add to governance policies through their evidence-based research.

Prof. DeNardis presented on the topic of destabilization of Internet governance and her lecture included discussing “Five Problems of Internet Governance.” The audience was very inquisitive about topics like Internet exchange points, technical functions of the Internet (that are directly pointing to political architecture) and transition of the IANA oversight of names and numbers. Prof. DeNardis touched upon national security issues, trademark laws, human rights and free speech, the dangers of the fragmentation of the Internet and the Internet of Things. The round table discussion also brought up topics like the difference between the Internet (searchable, as we know it), the Deep Web (with encrypted data) and the Dark Web, or data localization and country borders.

The main takeaways were:

  • The administration of critical Internet resources such as names and numbers should be a shared function by a global multistakeholder community, led by both governments and private companies;
  • The control points that used to be solely associated with technical control now have an added dimension of political control: the bottom line is that the arrangements of technical architecture are also arrangements of power;
  • Fragmentation of the Internet and data localization, although intuitive, would greatly impair universal access to the Internet and civil liberties;
  • People have lost trust in cyberspace due to private data collection and government surveillance;
  • We should be aware that the Internet of Things will no longer be a communication system but a control system (where there is a communication between devices).

Through Prof. DeNardis’ lecture, the group gained a valuable insight into the importance of balancing human rights with the technology. This is especially vital as new billions of Internet users are (or will be) in developing countries and the priority should be giving them universal (rather than controlled by gatekeepers) access. Pushing back on data localization and improving data encryption and security of networks would also greatly aid in regaining some of people’s loss of trust in the Internet.

Prof. Cogburn followed with his presentation on multistakeholder approach to bridging the digital gap. He connected with the group remotely as he was speaking in front of the UN on the topic of the involvement of persons with disabilities in global governance processes. (monika: need an abstract or see slides to continue).

We are looking forward to linking to the reports in the participants’ native newspapers!