Internet Governance Lab hosts Data Hygiene Clinic on 10/13

On Friday, October 13th from 3-4:30pm, the Internet Governance Lab, in collaboration with the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Center for Media and Social Impact, and the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Internet Society, will host a discussion providing practical steps students, faculty, and all members of the AU community can take to protect themselves from a variety of digital threats.

The event will take place in McKinley and is free and open to the public.

Facilitated by Harlo Holmes of Freedom of the Press, the event will address strategies for protecting data from hackers, how to spot and avoid phishing attempts, preventing corporate and state surveillance, and general best practices for securing users’ digital rights in what can feel like an ocean of constantly shifting threats.

We look forward to seeing you there.



Recap: Will the Internet Fragment? A Conversation with Milton Mueller

Following last week’s terror attacks in London, Prime Minister Theresa May stated unequivocally that “enough is enough,” adding that there is “far too much tolerance of extremism” in British society. In particular, Ms. May called out Internet companies to do more to shut down online “safe spaces,” suggesting that her government would look to broker “international agreements to regulate cyber space so that terrorists cannot plan online.”

What such international agreements might look like in practice is unclear, but according to Internet governance scholar Milton Mueller, Prime Minister May’s comments reflect a growing trend, in which nation-states are looking to assert a greater degree of control over global data flows.

“It is an attempt to fit the round peg of global communications into the square hole of territorial states,” explained Dr. Mueller on Tuesday at an event marking the release of his new book Will the Internet Fragment?: Sovereignty, Globalization, and Cyberspace. Hosted by New America’s Open Technology Institute, the event was moderated by Internet Governance Lab Co-Director Dr. Derrick Cogburn and featured Dr. Mueller in conversation with Rebecca MacKinnon, Director of the Ranking Digital Rights project at New America; Tim Mauer, Co-director of the Cyber Policy Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Angela McKay, Senior Director of Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy at Microsoft. 

A video of the event is available here.

In answering the book’s title question, Dr. Mueller began the discussion by interrogating the concept of “fragmentation,” suggesting that the term “realignment” more precisely captures current efforts to assert notions of territorial sovereignty in cyberspace. In this way, Mueller’s remarks contextualized “efforts to set up gateways to filter content, using data localization to keep internet routing within state borders, and requiring governments and users to use local companies to store data” as attempts to “partition cyberspace in order to subordinate its [the Internet’s] control to sovereign states.”

“Governments are trying to have their cake and eat it too,” explained Rebecca MacKinnon, who’s 2012 book Consent of the Networked described new modes of Internet censorship and the ways in which private companies have assumed governance functions formerly reserved for nation-states. But as governments bemoan the inability to regulate content within their borders many of these same nation-states are happy to extend locally developed policies extraterritorially, explained Ms. MacKinnon, citing the Microsoft/Ireland case and efforts to apply the EU’s “right to be forgotten” globally as examples of this sort of extraterritorial extension.

These cases, along with Prime Minister May’s recent comments, help underscore the fact that efforts to realign the Internet to fit Westphalian notions of territorial sovereignty are no longer merely the Orwellian fantasies of authoritarian states but are gaining legitimacy in more democratic national contexts. In response to these trends, Mueller proposes “a liberation movement for cyberspace, in which we recognize that we’re creating a globally interconnected polity around the Internet,” suggesting that “perhaps it is time for this polity to assert its own identity and own authority and come up with global organizations for Internet governance.”

But as Tim Mauer pointed out, the prospects for such a liberation movement seem increasingly remote given large-scale structural changes to the existing liberal order. As geopolitical developments point towards a more neo-realist order, Mauer argued that we could expect to see more “contested forms of [Internet] governance” as opposed to international agreements and transnational consensus.

Meanwhile, Angela McKay of Microsoft presented several ways in which emerging technologies like the adoption of cloud computing and the Internet of Things might present challenges and opportunities for realignment. In particular, Ms. McKay highlighted cloud adoption as an example of a fundamental change in Internet architecture and the way its governed, with a more homogeneous set of firms managing a more diffuse, heterogeneous set of end-points. Conversely, with the growth of the Internet of Things, a new set of formerly non-technical industries will be thrust into Internet governance and information technology policy discussions, bringing with them a new set of norms, best-practices, and values that will alter the dynamics of existing private-public partnerships and require new modes of Internet governance going forward.



Recap — Cybersecurity in an Age of Uncertainty: US-Israel Perspectives

Cybersecurity experts from academia, industry, government, and civil society met at American University last week to discuss some of the key challenges and opportunities facing citizens, private enterprise, and policymakers as they wrestle with questions over how best to manage information security threats.

Hosted by the American University (AU) Center for Israel Studies, AU’s Internet Governance Lab, the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, The American University Washington School of Law, AU’s School of International Service, the Kogod School of Business, Kogod’s Cybersecurity Governance Center, and the AU School of Communication, the two-day conference drew on US-Israeli perspectives to address some of the most important cybersecurity issues facing citizens and governments in both countries and beyond.

How can cybersecurity and human rights coexist in the digital era? How should private and public entities in Israel and the United States work to prevent and respond to cybertheft while preserving innovation essential to economic growth and national security? What are the national policies of each country with respect to the protection of cyber infrastructure and the role of cyber operations in national security strategy? At the same time as these global cyber challenges emerge, the United States and Israel have two of the most robust and innovative cybersecurity industry clusters. What cooperation and collaboration is necessary to support the massive cybersecurity industries in these countries?

To begin to answer these questions the conference kicked off with a keynote address from Professor Yuval Elovici of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Department of Information Systems Engineering and the director of the University’s Cyber Security Research Center. Titled “The Internet of Things: The New Frontier of Cyber Conflict,” professor Elovici’s remarks provided an accessible yet in-depth assessment of the state of play at the intersection of the Internet of things (IoT) and cyber security. Citing multiple examples of his research teams’ experimental approaches to testing various IoT security vulnerabilities, professor Evolici left many in the audience rightly concerned, as Internet-connected devices become increasingly embedded in our homes and lives.

On Tuesday morning the conference began with a networking breakfast and opening remarks by AU President Cornelius Kerwin. This was followed by four panel discussions, the first of which focused on Cybersecurity and Human Rights. “Cybersecurity is the great human rights issue of our time — human security depends on cyber security,” explained AU School of Communication professor and Internet Governance Lab co-director Dr. Laura DeNardis, who moderated the panel.

Left to right: professor Jennifer Daskal, Benjamin Dean, Michael Nelson, Eldar Haber, and Dr. Laura DeNardis.

Joining Dr. DeNardis were Washington College of Law professor and Internet Governance Lab Faculty Fellow Jennifer Daskal, Eldar Haber of the University of Haifa, Michael Nelson of Cloudfare, and Benjamin Dean of the Center for Democracy and Technology. Replying to a question from the audience regarding law enforcement access to data held outside the U.S. (even by U.S.-based companies, as in the recentMicrosoft/Ireland case), professor Daskal explained how approaches to jurisdiction that turn on physical location promote data localization, which paradoxically imposes local consequences on human rights.

Left to right: Stephen Thomas, Eli Ben-Meir, Yuval Elovici, and professor Erran Carmel.

The next panel saw Kogod School of Business professor Erran Carmel moderate a wide-ranging discussion titled “The Cybersecurity Industry”. Participants included Eli Ben Meir of CyGov and former chief of military intelligence research for the Israeli Defense Forces, professor Elovici of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Stephen Thomas of Cyberbit, a cybersecurity company with offices in Israel and Austin, Texas. Highlighting the important role that Israel and the U.S. play as key nodes in the geography of cybersecurity and technological innovation, the panel discussed ways in which each country can learn from the other as governments and the private sector look to cultivate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Following a networking lunch, the conference continued with a panel on “Cybertheft Prevention and Response” moderated by Washington School of Law professor Melanie Teplinsky. Professor Teplinski was joined by Rebekah Lewis of the Kogod Cybersecurity Governance Center, Jonathan Meyer of Shappard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLC, Ran Nahmias of Check Point Software Technologies, and Eric Wenger of Cisco. Together the panel discussed varying strategic approaches to thinking about cybersecurity in an environment where the volume of attacks and number of threat vectors continues to increase. The conversation sought to distinguish between headline-grabbing acts of cyberwar and espionage and the sorts of attacks that keep chief information security officers (CISO) and everyday users up at night.


Left to right: Eric Wenger, Rebekah Lewis, Ran Nahmias, Jonathan Meyer, and professor Melanie Teplinski.

The conference closed with a panel titled, “Cyber Security and National Security Policies — The U.S. and Israel,” moderated by AU School of International Service professor Eric Novotny. Joining professor Novotny were Amir Becker of the Israeli Embassy, Camille Stewart of Deloitte, and Lior Tabansky of the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Centre at the University of Tel Aviv. Placing cybersecurity in a geopolitical context, the discussion allowed for a wide-ranging discussion of the national security implications for both the U.S. and Israel, as well as the impact that recent domestic political controversies could have on the global cyber order.

Left to right: Amir Becker, Camille Stewart, Lior Tabansky, and professor Eric Novotny.

Conference on Cybersecurity in an Age of Uncertainty: U.S. – Israel Perspectives


March 20-21, 2017 at American University in Washington, DC  RSVP Here 

Power struggles over national security, human rights, and the global digital economy now play out in the cyber arena. Control of cyber policy is distributed over a combination of private actors, government agencies, civil society, and technical institutions. Bilateral relationships among nations now include a significant cyber policy dimension that has the potential to foster cooperation, competition, and/or conflict among nations.

The purpose of this conference is to explore issues of global cyber power from American and Israeli perspectives. How can cybersecurity and human rights coexist in the digital era? How should private and public entities in Israel and the United States work to prevent and respond to cybertheft while preserving innovation essential to economic growth and national security? What are the national policies of each country with respect to the protection of cyber infrastructure and the role of cyber operations in national security strategy? At the same time as these global cyber challenges emerge, the United States and Israel have two of the most robust and innovative cybersecurity industry clusters. What cooperation and collaboration is necessary to support the massive cybersecurity industries in these countries? Through a series of four expert panels, we will explore cutting-edge U.S.-Israeli cyberpolicy issues involving national security, crime, human rights, and the digital economy. Topics to be discussed include active cyber military operations, Internet freedom, cybertheft, and technological capabilities. Each panel will explore the responsibilities of various governmental agencies as well as the roles of the private sector and the public in each country.

March 20: Keynote Address – Yuval Elovici on “The Internet of Things: The New Frontier of Cyber Conflict” and Opening Remarks by American University President Neil Kerwin 

7:30 PM at Abramson Family Founder’s Room, School of International Service

Professor Elovici, a member of Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Information Systems Engineering, is the director of the University’s Cyber Security Research Center. He is also the director of the Deutsche Telekom Innovation Labs@BGU, a ten-year collaboration between Deutsche Telekom and BGU focusing on mobile data protection.

March 21: Washington College of Law Claudio Grossman Hall.

  • 8:00-9:00 AM Breakfast and Registration
  • 9:00-9:15 AM Welcome and Greetings
  • 9:15-10:45 AM – Panel 1: Cybersecurity and Human Rights
  • 10:45-11:00 AM Coffee Break
  • 11:00 AM -12:30 PM – Panel 2: The Cybersecurity Industry
  • 12:30-1:30 PM Lunch
  • 1:30-3:00 PM – Panel 3: Cybertheft
  • 3:00-3:15 PM Coffee Break
  • 3:15-4:45 PM – Panel 4: Cybersecurity and National Security Policies – the US and Israel


Amir Becker, Cyber Attaché, Israel National Cyber Directorate, Embassy of Israel

Erran Carmel, American University Kogod School of Business

Jennifer Daskal, Associate Professor, WCL, American University and former Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, U.S. Department of Justice

Laura DeNardis, American University Professor and Director, Internet Governance Lab

Prof. Yuval Elovici, Director of Ben-Gurion University’s Cyber Security Research Center

Eldar Haber, University of Haifa

Omri Lavie, NSO Group

Rebekah Lewis, Kogod Cybersecurity Governance Center

Jonanthan Meyer, Shepherd Mullin, formerly Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Ran Nahmias, Head of Threat Prevention & Data Center Security in the Americas, Check Point Software Technologies, Ltd.

Michael Nelson, CloudFlare

Eric Novotny, American University School of International Service and U.S. Department of State (Moderator)

Gabe Rottman, Deputy Director of the Freedom, Security and Technology Project, Center for Democracy and Technology

Camille Stewart, Former Senior Policy Advisor, International Cyber & Critical Infrastructure, US Department of Homeland Security

Lior Tabansky, Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Centre at the University of Tel Aviv (TAU-ICRC) (author of Cybersecurity in Israel)

Melanie Teplinsky (WCL) American University

Eric Wenger, Director, Cybersecurity and Privacy Policy, Global Government Affairs, Cisco

American University Co-sponsors: Center for Israel Studies, Internet Governance Lab at American University, Washington College of Law, School of Communication, Washington College of Law, School of Communication, School of International Service, Kogod School of Business, The Kogod Cybersecurity Governance Center, Department of Computer Science.

Partner Sponsors: American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the NegevInternet Society Washington DC ChapterIsrael Cybertech 2017Future of Privacy ForumMaryland/Israel Development CenterChristian Science Monitor Passcode

Recap: Content Rules?! Newsfeeds, Algorithms, Content Moderation, and Ethics

At Donald Trump’s first official press conference since his election the President-elect engaged in a heated exchange with reporters that culminated in him referring to CNN as “fake news”. Two days before Trump’s inauguration, the Washington, DC and New York chapters of the Internet Society (ISOC), in partnership with the Internet Governance Lab, hosted a panel of experts to interrogate the question: what is “fake news”?

Moderated by AU School of Communication Professor Aram Sinnreich, the panel included AU Professor and Executive Editor of the AU Investigative Reporting Workshop Charles Lewis; Jessa Linger of the Annenberg School of Communications; Andrew Bridges, Partner at Fenwick & West LLP; and, in New York, Gilad Lotan, head of data science at BuzzFeed; Shuli Hallak, Executive Vice President of ISOC-NY; and Harry Bruinius, author, journalist, and staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor.

“Just as trust in the institutions of government is important for a functioning democracy, so too is trust in the Internet,” explained David Vyorst of ISOC-DC. But how should we design trust into the algorithms that now mediate content for users? Should platforms bear any responsibility for the content spread across their networks? What role does the traditional news media play? And at what point do end-users bear a responsibility to speak up and develop tools and methods to combat fake news?

Grounding the concept in a historical context, AU Professor Charles Lewis began by explaining that“fake news” is not an entirely new phenomenon but fits within the rich and storied tradition of propaganda. “From truth to truthiness to post-truth society to, now, fake news, we’ve had these issues for some time,” argued Lewis. But whereas traditional propaganda models were more top-down, today’s algorithmically negotiated information spaces create distributed networks for the dissemination of propaganda.  

Here, data scientist Gilad Lotan presented findings from his own analysis of personalized propaganda spaces. “Even though fake news and propaganda have been around for a while, the fact that these algorithms personalize stories for individuals makes this very different,” explained Lotan, adding that one of the important issues at stake is the distinction between search engine optimization and algorithmic propaganda. On this point Jessa Lingel of the Annenberg School of Communications made the case for increased algorithmic transparency in order to identify how code influences public opinion and in order to provide individuals with a means of engineering tools, both technological and social, to combat the spread of fake news. 

Meanwhile Andrew Bridges of the law firm of Fenwick & West suggested that placing responsibility squarely on the shoulders of content platforms ignores larger technosocial dynamics and the important role that algorithms play in “giving us what we want.” And yet, as several audience members pointed out, engineering algorithmic solutions to the spread of propaganda and fake news should balance not only giving users what they want but also what they need, which in some cases may involve hard political and economic choices about the communication technologies we build and use.

Watch the discussion here.