Sovereignty and the Internet: a risk of fragmentation – FA 04 Sub 02 2022
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Increasing calls for digital sovereignty have been met with complaints against the risk of a "splinternet", breaking the global network into national and regional islands. Can we imagine a good way to reconcile the two viewpoints?
Until a few years ago, the fragmentation of the Internet into smaller national networks was mostly a phenomenon of a few specific countries, whose governments had introduced topological barriers between their network and the rest of the Internet to limit or screen access to global resources by their citizens.
More recently, an increased strive for digital sovereignty over the activity of global Internet platforms has created fragmentation at the regulatory level; to do business globally, Internet business have to cope with the diverse and sometimes conflicting legislations of each country. Sometimes, regulation is also aimed at blocking undesirable content from other countries.
Additionally, the big platforms have deployed private networks on a global scale and have adopted a cloud service architecture which turns the Internet into pure transport for their own encrypted traffic, prompting a decline in the importance of global public interconnection and creating multiple walled gardens.
These trends are often happening in the name of the end-user, to protect consumers from market oligopolies or to offer them better service, but they could also endanger the original concept of a global and unique network, with all the benefits that it has brought.
Is there a line to draw between the normal regulation of telecommunications and the destruction of the Internet as we know it? Where should this line be drawn? How should the Internet community react to these trends? Can we imagine ways to accommodate the need for national sovereignty while protecting the global nature of the Internet?
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- Vittorio Bertola
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- Vittorio Bertola
- Giovanni De Gregorio
- Luc Steinberg
- Adam Peake
- Samo Grasic
- David Frautschy
- Charles Martinet
- Peter Koch
- Irene Signorelli
- Peter Koch, Senior Policy Advisor, DENIC eG
- Jurgita Miseviciute, Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Proton AG
- Esteve Sanz, Head of Internet Governance Sector, DG CNECT, European Commission
- Vittorio Bertola, Head of Policy & Innovation, Open-Xchange AG
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>> NADIA TJAHJA: We’ll now go straight into focus area 4, Internet in troubled times. For those just joining, EuroDIG is now trying a new format which is focus areas, there are four focus areas and now we’re in focus area 4. If you were following focus area 3, this morning, please do go ahead to FabLab where they’re continuing the discussion on the more detailed contents of that topic.
Now that we’re in focus area 4, the subtopic that we’re going to be addressing, it is Sovereignty and the Internet: a risk of fragmentation. I believe that the moderator is already here.
Vittorio Bertola, please take the floor and then we’ll go straight into the discussion.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Welcome. I’m the focal point for this workshop.
It is about basically the splinternet. I don’t know – I think everybody here has heard that term, splinternet, it refers to the idea that the internet that is intended to be a global network will break into splinters, breaking into parts that do not communicate with each other and reducing capabilities to communicate with each other.
We want to address the question of what is a splinternet and whether the initiatives of the governments, also of the private sectors sometimes is really creating splinter nets as some would say or they’re not or more precisely, which kind of initiatives are fragmenting the internet and what are not.
We will have – we have key participants, before introducing them, I would like to just start with a provocation, we have two online, key participants, they should be online. I will introduce them as we go.
First of all, to introduce the topic, I would like to start with sort of a historical reminder. Between 20 and 30 years ago the internet became a massive affair in all parts of the world. Originally it was an academic thing, mostly focused on Europe and parts of Europe and other countries. Then it was a global strength and we started to have a global internet going beyond various sectors and at that time, different parts of the world took very different directions in terms of regulations.
Of course, the U.S., it was the original source of the internet, this kind of an open approach, global, with very few regulations and maybe to the other end of the Spectrum, we had countries like North Korea for example that didn’t even have a proper internet and still today they basically have a closed internet which is using their technology to connect and provide services to their own citizens, but doesn’t really talk to the rest of the internet at all.
Then we have had various degrees in the middle. As we see, you know, Europe has always been near to the America model in a way. Sort of striving for a global internet with as few boundaries and constrains as possible, on the other hand, China, a real constraint and even in top logical, physical terms, what is called the great firewall that separates the Chinese internet from the rest of the world and exercising control over the communication.
In the end, 25 years later, you see this is a different result in terms of democracy and in terms of the economy.
In all of the countries, we have had different degrees of development, and a paradox, maybe it is the protection, it is maybe to have a bigger internet than we did when it was not N democracy, growth, education, the opportunities we enjoy, for example in Europe, it is definitely higher than what we enjoy than other parts of the world. We’re now at the point where governments and the other stakeholder, they’re thinking that if we take the right direction, are we still sure of the direction we took, do we want to correct it in anyway, go on. How can we basically make the best use of the internet and get to the best possible result.
So this is why I would like to ask to my key participants an opinion on basically according to them, I think we all agree we don’t want – what kind of initiatives can fragment the internet and what cannot. Where do we Dru the line between regulation that pro protects and helps and the regulation that risks breaking it. Peter Koch, policy advisor of DENICeG. I ask him for views from the technical community.
>> PETER KOCH: Thank you, Vittorio Bertola.
Good afternoon, everybody.
So just to immediately respond to your question. First let me say that regulatory approaches aren’t bad per se. We’re beyond that point where we say we don’t want any regulation at all. As you already alluded to, there may be some risks and some risks that we see that are multiple.
One example, it is for regulatory approaches to target the big dragons, as we say, to tame them, and to not look at the side effects that it may have on the smaller participants, the smaller dragon, the smaller participants and the contributors to the internet infrastructure. As we know, there is lots of important core infrastructure that’s not ran by American platforms, but by international and European in this case, small, medium enterprises.
There is sometimes a paradoxical affect that what is said to tame the big platforms is actually supporting them in a way. They can afford big compliance departments and armies of lawyers so to speak, where small enterprise, potential new entrants to a market, even if they on paper get some waver, exemptions from the regulation, they have big steps to make to comply with regulation and to have to invest lots of money to adhere to this. That’s one thing.
By the way, it is probably not a real coincidence that me working for the dominion industry, my fellow panelist, they’re coming from the other business, both protocols by design are highly decentralized and both have – an email system, the frontrunners, so to speak, they were seeing a significant concentration. It not really a law of physics, a natural law, a law of economics, and also a bit of a follow-up, so the splinting, it all belongs to this basket that we’ll discuss today fostered by both and regulation that doesn’t view side effects and also by economic affects, the economies of scale, the winner take it is all approach, two different things, and sometimes the queuer is at least as bad as – sometimes the cure is at least as bad as the disease. Thank you.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you, Peter.
Coming from SME myself, I do agree, sometimes the regulatory burden can be higher for SMEs than big companies.
Then I would like to call into play an SME, we have Jurgita Miseviciute, head of public policy and government affairs from Proton, it as Swiss company providing secure email. I also would like to get the views actually from an SME driving those services in Europe. Please.
>> JURGITA MISEVICIUTE: Thank you.
Thank you very much for this opportunity to talk about this very important and interesting topic.
As mentioned, I will provide the perspective of a European private tech company that builds tools for a better, more open, more private internet and as some of you know, our tools do not only enable people across the world to protect the privacy, they also enable people to keep their data safe and to freely express themselves. That’s why not only millions of citizens but also Human Rights activists, journalists use our services in more than 180 countries around the world. Especially countries with non-democratic regimes our technologies protect most vulnerable ones and give access to the uncensored internet. When it comes to regulation and its impact on internet fragmentation, I strongly believe that it is all about finding the right balance and we cannot continue to function in a completely unregulated digital space, but we also cannot over regulate it. In my opinion, regulation, it can foster innovation, providing more choice, it can also address the digital sovereignty goals. With the right tools, many great things can be achieved. For that purpose, regulation is very welcomed and it is already happening. In fact, what we currently see in the tech space is a natural development. The same thing happened with telecom, financial, other sectors and overall regulation in the sectors had very positive effects and it was simply meant to happen. Tech regulation is no exception and now it is the time for good and balanced rules to be put in place in order to make internet a better place for issue.
The specific examples of regulation, I could name the digital market act, the digital services act and the recent proposal on the Big Data act. For example, the digital market act, the GME, they will set a level playing field for many innovative tech challengers to thoroughly compete with the dominant tech companies. We know that today’s internet, it is characterized by a handful of dominant tech companies choosing to deliberately create close and impossible to replicate ecosystems. It is, therefore, not surprising that we’re heading into increasingly disconnected and close the internet systems. The GMA and to some extent the data act, they’ll rebalance this and it will open those closed ecosystems. For example, the GSA, it will impact how data in sectors favoring a large factor and will mandate the interoperability that’s crucial for open, fair internet.
So in addition, when it comes to regulation, like the GMA, we see a global trend of regulators looking into these types of rules, which is very encouraging because digital economies global and we need as many uniform rules across the world as possible. Therefore, regulation that makes the internet more open, innovative, secure, which promotes, for example, choice, interoperability and data portability, that’s very welcome. Such regulation will certainly make the internet a better place.
However, good regulation in my opinion also has to promote privacy and privacy and cybersecurity enhancing technologies that are critical not only to reshaping or respecting the fundamental Rights of citizens, also for ensuring the cybersecurity of data, not only of the citizens, but also the same governments.
Therefore, certain regulations may fragment the internet and hamper cybersecurity and privacy of entire countries and millions of citizens. An example of this, it is the recent proposal on the regulation. While I completely support the important goal and reason bees behind this regulation, it is to protect the children, I believe there are other ways to achieve this and in fact, more effective ways to tackle this problem.
Mandating mandatory mass surveillance of all citizens, including monitoring of their encrypted communications unfortunately will not make our societies more secure.
Moreover, regulations like this may have this spill over affect and impact similar situations across the world.
In conclusion, I will close the remarks with the same phrase as I started, in my opinion, it is really all about bandwidth, regulation can definitely make internet a better place, but it can also break it.
>> PETER KOCH: Thank you. Thank you.
So now we actually have the regulator. Not directly the regulators, since the Commission had made proposals and approve the regulation. We have Mr. Esteve Sanz, head of Internet Governance sector at DG CNECT from the European Commission. It will be interesting to see his reflections from where to draw the line from protection of it and the initial key participants, what they have said. Please.
>> ESTEVE SANZ: Thank you so much. Thank you to the panelists and the very interesting interventions.
Let me start by saying that the core topic of this discussion, the splinternet, it is something that keeps the E.U. extremely worried. We see tend circumstances serious tendencies, that may bring to a very significant structural break in the internet.
Here there are papers written by Wolfgang Kleinwachter, he’s here, Vint Cerf, what it means, the different dimensions there, the technological dimension that will bring the fragmentation to the internet and the government dimensions bringing the fragmentation of the internet. Why is this important? This is important for economic reasons, for sure. It is also important for something that we have suspected but now there starts to be evidence on this, there are studies being dedicated on this.
It is basically that if the internet gets fragmented, if citizens, if businesses have a different experience when they go online across the globe, significantly different experiences, then this perception of interconnectedness, the practicalness of interconnectedness is lost and then you enter into serious geopolitical conflicts.
Supporting the open and global internet was important in itself and it is even more important as we see, as we always suspected, it is really what’s keeping the world together somehow in many instances.
This is really a crucial, fundamental topic that goes beyond technological aspects, that goes beyond the internet, it taps regularly into the political systems and of countries and organizations. We’re worried, we want to keep the internet global, interconnected, the networks of networks, the idealism of the internet from the beginning where we live in it, there is always a more experiential perception of the internet. I think that the Americans stand to have a different version of the internet, China has a more practical vision of the internet, the internet is a tool. In Europe, we see the internet as an experience of the citizen that needs to trust, that needs to feel empowered, needs to feel the openness of the internet and needs to feel it is privacy protected.
Splinternet, a serious issue, we’ll discuss that for a long, long time.
Second thing, very briefly wanting to mention, it is that our perception, it is that we are really being confronted with something that goes at the technological core of the internet in terms of the splinternet. It is true, at some level, and there is people who argue about that, that the internet is already fragmented, we have Chinese internet, the Korean internet, et cetera, but the key, it is that the core infrastructure of the internet, it is the same and it keeps a frame of reference around the world on that internet. It is based on the protocol and the DNS system, all of the underlying infrastructures that are fundamental for the running of the internet and are still global. This keeps the notion of the global internet real.
What we’re seeing, it is certain countries pushing for a change on that technological architecture. Pushing for the introduction of new protocols that would not be compatible with the existing protocols and that it would force the states, countries, to pick, to choose one internet over another. That’s very concerning, the energy that those countries put into promoting the model, it is very strong. They’re very committed. That’s something that keeps us extremely worried. It is not only technological. In the end, this would lead to and split the Government of the internet so if you have protocols, you would have new institution, new governments, bodies, that would deal with the protocols.
Then there is really no way back.
Generally, the technology that would have changed, also the institutions that would get bureaucratized, producing their own mean, it is difficult to change the system into returning to a one single internet. In terms of the splinternet, we confront the fundamental issue, it is good that they’re well-known. It is keeping us very busy. They will keep us very busy in the near future.
Now, the regulatory level, of course, what governments do, contribute massively to the experience of the internet, it is everyday life experience of the citizens of the internet. That’s not going to change. Governments will keep regulating the internet in their own way. I think, you know, we’re in a moment where we have to accept that the internet as such is continuing to be an extremely innovative, powerful tool for certain, positive things, it has negative things and then there is the obvious political pressure across the world to deal with those things, those who are responsible and accountable to the citizens. So regulation would be there, the question, what type of regulation is there and I think to not avoid the question of the E.U. regulation, I think we have gone through many regulations, it would take hours to discuss the specifics of the regulations and I have to confess, maybe I’m not the right person to go into details on many of the regulations, but just to tackle the two elements that have been already presented in this which I think underline any regulatory projects of the E.U. Not only on the internet, but generally. They are very important E.U. legislature, regulator, they take them always into account.
The first one, it is fundamental rights. In Europe, we have the charter of fundamental rights. It is somehow complicated legally speaking. It is not something that applies directly. It is not a European Constitution. You need the Constitution for a charter of fundamental rights to apply directly. It is something that should be reflected in every piece of legislation, that it is in – this involves the policy process, the process of drafting the legislation, going through this, and all parties involved in the legislative process has that as a frame of reference. It also is an element of control exposed. Any legislation will be brought to court on the grounds that it does not reflect the charter of fundamental rights. This, in terms of creating the common world, global common denominator for regulating the internet, it is very important. We have had a session before, where we discussed the declaration for the future of the internet and we have in Europe the declaration for digital Rights and Principles, Human Rights, they’re at the centre of, this Human Rights is at the centre of the charter for fundamental rights. This is the centre piece that we all need to look at when regulations are passed across the world. It is what really keeps the internet global and open at that level. There is a fundamental understanding that Human Rights has to be respected in any piece of legislation.
This is unavoidable in the E.U., every regulation that we can discuss here will be accountable with the charter of fundamental rights. That’s very important.
The second thing that we always try to do when discussing regulatory measures on the internet in the E.U., it is really to be aware of the different sizes of companies and those affected by the regulations.
In every regulatory consultation, in every discussion, in every brainstorming, in every study we do this impact assessment when we draft initial proposal for regulations. There is always this component, an analytical component that obliges us to actually look at the impacts that such and such regulation will have in different groups of stakeholders in relation to their size. Big platforms, big players, they’re singled out as players that need to apply certain measures if they want to keep the liability framework of the DSA. While there is a very strong sensitivity of leaving other players out of the most cumbersome measures because, of course, you know, the E.U. is in a good position to regulate and we want to grow. We want the SMEs, the digital sector to grow and to have the same possibilities than the big companies have had.
This level playing field, this idea, it is deeply embedded in every regulatory proposal that the Commission produces.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you.
Yeah. I say also like what I heard about that. Especially the reminder that the internet has brought a sense of friendship around the world.
I’m fed up with the workshops that there are five people in the line, there is no time for questions.
I would encourage people to start coming up to the microphone, we can respond and make this interactive and if necessary, we’ll devote the interactions to the online people and if not, we can pose questions to the panelists and explore things that were said.
>> Thank you very much.
Just on the points that were made there in terms of the politicization, the influence seen weekend tech setting organizations and the threat that if certain technological standards that weren’t in keeping with our current sort of version of the internet, they were changed, the implications of this, it could have flaps developing country, for example, I guess I was wondering, to what extent is industry a buffer here as well in terms of if technical standard, it was produced that perhaps was a solution looking for a problem with a political agenda. Would there be a buffer produced by industry where the adoption, the cost of updating networks, with this sort of a new technological standard would in fact be a buffer to its actually implementation and usage and render it inert then? I was wondering if the panelists had any thoughts on that?
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Does any of our key participants want to take that question?
>> PETER KOCH: You raise an important point. we’re doing outreach, global outreach, on the new protocols. We think they believed a political mess but an economic mess also for countries, developing countries that would deploy them. Indeed, one of the key reasons, this is in close consultation with the industry in general, it is the fact that if you deploy internet standard that do not connect with the current standards, then basically the reinvestments need to be redone. Any country that reflects signals to deploy these, they’re sending a signal to the global markets, well, you may switch the whole infrastructure here, we better not miss you, what’s the problem here? There is investment from one particular country that has a lot of political power, has huge capacity to innovate technologically, we should not underestimate that and that they’re ready to cover these supplements. We think that the balance would be completely not good, they would lose in one way, win another, plus they would get engaged in a strong dependency with that country.
Yeah. It is still there. And there is a danger. We have to bare that in mind.
There is one in the E.U., the global gateway, it is a new connectivity strategy that offers partnerships, equal partnerships with developing countries, to deploy among other, digital networks, digital infrastructures and these global gateway, they’re connected to the open internet which again brings a lot of interest by the international investors on those countries. We should not underestimate that pressure. It is not only about, you know, we just are relying on that buffer, it is not – it is not going to go. There are powerful economic interests around those projects.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: I think Peter also wants to say something.
>> PETER KOCH: Yes. Thank you.
I wanted to add, there is only one internet. All of these internet technical standards are about interoperability and further development of protocols is reacting to new challenges to technological advances and also promoting technological advances. An alternative internet is something else, it is not the internet. This is all about interoperability. We should not let ourselves be diverted into a discussion about alternatives or problems that aren’t or as others have said, the person at the microphone said, the solution in search of a problem. That is something that needs to stand the test of acceptance in the market and, of course, if there are forces that wholly control their own market, they may have the power to enforce, deploy, that’s not part of the internet then. We have to make that distinction, there is only one, it is about interoperability and global operations that lead together.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you. Unless you want to say something specific, I have two questions online and two questions in the room. Maybe we take two and then we have a round of replies.
Let’s take one online and then we’ll take one in the room.
I would like to invite Andrew Campbell to unmute himself. In the meantime, there was a question also by the Swiss government and his question is what key principles and commitments should the Global Digital Compact include in order to prevent fragmentation and bolster the open and interoperable internet.
Now we go to the question by Andrew.
>> ANDREW CAMPBELL: I think I’m unmuted, hopefully.
I’ll give you two questions maybe. One, given the significant cultural differences, for example, between Europe and the U.S. and the deeply flawed legislative, regulatory frameworks in the U.S., isn’t greater emphasis on the internet being at a network of networks inevitable and is this exacerbated by internet standards being created without regard for their policy impacts especially given the disinterest of some mainly U.S. tech companies not really wanting to comply with non-U.S. regulations. So from that, therefore, some form of splinternet in my view seems inevitable if there is going to be autonomy in different parts of the world.
Briefly, secondly, there was the mention of the proposal on content, and I think it was referencing the benefits of end-to-end encryption for cybersecurity and privacy. In my view, the current trend in end-to-end encryption, if it is unchecked, it is really leading to application services and even some devices such as IT devices going dark with their users and others having absolutely no idea what communication is taking place from those applications and devices and with which targets. In my view, I think that significantly weakens cybersecurity. It is a huge backwards step if we can’t tell what communications is going on, which really creates significant new privacy vulnerabilities.
I think it is worth remembering that many of the proponents of end-to-end encryption are also themselves leaders in surveillance capitalism. They don’t have a great track record and they can respect user privacy. I don’t think we should blindly assume that encryption is a good thing and beneficial to use, there is plenty of evidence to say that it isn’t in every case. Thank you.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: I agree. There is a tension between encryption and enforcement of the national sovereignty and the potential to the end-to-end encryption applying in some cases. In some cases, it is useful and other cases, it is seeming not to be. We’ll take another question from the room and go to the panelist for answers.
>> Hello. Thank you for this session.
I am from Georgia, a participant of the YOUthDIG this year. (Audio distortion).
I would like to hear more about the defragmentation and the possible future of politics, as we mentioned, this has a huge contribution to the politics nowadays and the internet policies and the international affairs literally developed together and it has influenced the U.S. elections and the Arab Springs in 2012 and I’m afraid it might result in divided orders for the upcoming future and what can the big states or the actors, what they can do to avoid this, do you think that they’ll have a will to avoid this when they can act with the internet for their own favor and benefit out of it? Will they even have the will to avoid internet fragmentation which actually harms the current primary principle of internet, that’s to bring people together and to make them more connected, create networks and make them more united? Thank you.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: This is important questions. We’ll start with Peter again if you have comments on any of the questions or comments.
>> PETER KOCH: I prefer to take Andrew’s contributions a comment since we have discussed this three times in this EuroDIG already I think. It is clear that protocols should not – should enable policymaking, not dictate it. Given that we’re talking about a globally connected internet, there is a certain limit of compatibility of policies that can be implemented. That is exactly what leads to this fragmentation. Namely, extra territorial application of regulation, which will lead to incompatible requirements for users and more importantly, the service providers and others the providers will be forced to differentiate services based on user of origin, residence, anything like that, which will not contribute to the easier global communication. It will hamper or hinder it. It will also lead to voluntary retraction of service providers from certain markets or countries, you name it, if they can’t afford to imagine compatible requirements in different places.
I think that’s the point to add to that.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you.
>> JURGITA MISEVICIUTE: I’m happy to take the question and to address the encryption.
Well, I was actually speaking from our perspective. From the perspective of our products, which are using end-to-end encryption technology and they are securing the data and the privacy of the citizens. The benefit, it is that they can in the access the data, also others cannot access the data so they have the cybersecurity of the communications and also as opposed to some other bigger platforms and providers of the similar services, we do not use advertising models and things like that so our customers can be sure that we do not apply any intrusive processes to somehow take that data and sell it.
It is, for me, it is really more from this perspective that I would see a massive benefit of end-to-end inscription. I guess maybe you can answer more from the technical perspective, Vittorio Bertola, you know, for the other part of the question. Really as far as our mission, as a company is concerned, our products, our goal is to really secure the privacy of people and protect also the vulnerable communities and the end-to-end encryption really enables that.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: I’m supposed to be the moderator, I won’t make too many points! Maybe sometimes! I first want it hear from Esteve Sanz.
>> ESTEVE SANZ: Yes. I think I’ll cover – fundamentally, I agree with what my copanelists have said. Maybe on the more general political questions, the focused question on the role of the digital compact in the UN, et cetera, I think there is a very firm willingness by many countries around the world to keep the internet global and running. Precisely, we realize how damaging economically and politically a fragmented internet, fundamentally, an architecturally fragmented internet can be. There is a clear recognition of that by many, many countries. They will put, we will put all of our weight to keep the internet open and global at that level. There is no compromise on that.
Whether we’re going to get there or not, it is an open question. Here, to link it with the United Nations, the United Nations will have a very important role here. The Global Digital Compact will be very important. As I said, at the regulatory level, what keeps the internet moving and having a similar experience of openness and empowerment, it is the Human Rights aspect. The UN should propriate better. We have all of this resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council, we have a lot of the documents talking about Human Rights. At the level of implementation, at the level of visibility, digital Human Rights, it should not only be part of the agenda, theoretical agenda of the UN, it should be a very visible role of the UN to implement them. Here we have two things that offer an opportunity for this. One, it is indeed the digital compact, fundamental rights at the core, you will contribute to the Global Digital Compact with that in mind to keep the internet open, to have this common denominator, and the second thing, the tech envoy. The new tech envoy is being appointed in the E.U., in the UN, and this is a new figure, it is extremely important because precisely it can contribute to the implementation of the digital Human Rights agenda of the UN. Here the E.U. is very adamant to have that crucial part of the UN mandate into the tech envoy mandate. So that it can really take the stage, complain, make it visible, implement, when he or she sees that there is a Human Rights violation in the digital realm which this can be very massive let’s say.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: I think we can take more questions.
>> I’m coming from the technical University. I have a question about how, can we make – if we assume that the internet, the splinternet is in effect, I wonder if you can make the services more resilient. As someone in the last ten year, a lot with the farmers in the rural areas, I can say that we’re really, really vulnerable when it comes to internet services and I can give you a couple of examples for instance of how farmers were unable to plant their crop because one of the local stations went down, they were basically without mobile connectivity and the second one, it is they were in the able to find the herds because the server was shut down. What I wonder, is there any way to regulate the infrastructure of the services themselves. What I see, it is that we’re really heading towards our centralized internet services that are really, really vulnerable to any kind of an internet outage, even if just a temporary one. Thank you.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you. We have another question here.
>> Thank you very much. From the youth IGF.
I was wondering, you mentioned on the stage that the focus should be on the digital Human Rights and implementing this in the UN bodies and I’m wondering if this should not be the agenda of private companies and especially key stakeholders that act as a sort of gate keeper because this is really where the implementation takes part and not really at the intergovernmental level.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you.
I will go around the panel and continue with the questions.
Peter, do you want to comment on any of these?
>> PETER KOCH: Yeah. Maybe on that last intervention. Not really sure I understood what the person at the microphone was aiming at. Of course, to a certain extent Human Rights and neutrality should be a guiding principle for at least infrastructure provider, not necessarily for providers of other services but for infrastructure providers.
The question is, what do you derive from that? It would either mean balancing the various rights where when it comes – it is always down to content regulation again. That is something that I would like to respond to in response to the comment made in the chat by Andrew. I believe we are – lots of confusion around this fragmentation, it is arising because we do not separate the discussion around content regulation or content moderation from the governance of the core internet infrastructure. This is something that is I think key to solving this issue. We make sure that on one side we can have neutral infrastructure providers and deal with content which is, of course, touching on sovereignty, on culture, diversity, so on, so forth, of course then by means of touching all of the other aspects, also Human Rights and maybe competing Human Rights, free speech versus others so that we separate that and address this in different ways, which is also reflected in various scholars approach to having a discussion of governance of the internet, talking about the infrastructure or governance on the internet. Talking about the content. I think it is important that we more and more have this discussion, to make this discussion, recognize the important difference between the two.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you. Jurgita Miseviciute, any comment?
>> JURGITA MISEVICIUTE: Yeah. Definitely, especially from our company’s perspective.
When it comes to the last question, I do agree, I think it is very important that those Human Rights, their respect for Human Rights are embedded not just by the regulatory authorities but I think they should be really the centre of any business and that’s where we’re supposed to go as a society, not just the government should, you know, look after the Human Rights but it is the businesses that should take them as their core values especially when it comes to the fundamental Human Rights for the respect of one’s privacy. It is really important that people’s privacy and that the data, that it is respected, that their data is not used or abused in the ways that people are not comfortable with.
That said, if people are – you know, some people are willing to have more privacy, some less, they should always have a choice and they should have a possibility of being informed about how the data is used and they should have a possibility to choose whether to give access to this data, whether or not, for me, from my perspective, when it comes to the digital sector, I think especially companies should really keep those fundamental rights and especially the rights for privacy as a cornerstone, I think this is really the way forward.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you.
Esteve Sanz, of course.
>> ESTEVE SANZ: Thank you.
To answer the colleague’s question on centralization, the fact of centralization in parts of the internet infrastructure, it is in the – it is something that we have detected and we’re worried about. The way that we tend to – precisely, it is as if you said, if there is a niche in part of a centralized system there is an issue that affects fundamental elements of that system and then you have a serious problem. This we observe in different levels of the internet. The way that we have so far tended to deal with this, it is with funding. Detecting certain elements of that system that we see there is a centralization tendency, a trajectory and the funding alternatives basically that end users can use.
Here we have in the European Union one project that it is very much based on this, this sort of net generation internet that really has score, that we need a more decentralized internet to benefit the reliability actually and the resilience of the available infrastructure.
We also have a very recent project that was mentioned in the keynote speech, DNS For You, it is a project that responds to the fact that we have seen very serious centralization trajectories in the resolver markets. So the resolution, it is getting done by fewer and fewer companies. We felt – and if there is a problem in any of the company, then it is a very, very, very dangerous economically costly, socially costly hiccup on the internet. It can be a very massive internet outage. So we’re basically funding a resolver, decentralized, there will be a consortium of companies running that, it is a problem that we recognize, that we’re worried about this, but then on private companies, of course, we completely agree that private companies will have a crucial role when implementing a Digital Human Rights agenda. The primary way of dealing with this in Europe, it is regulation as well.
You need to count on companies to do the right thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work, you have the GDPR, the digital services act, precisely they deal with all of the dynamics on privacy, content moderation, the reliability and again this has Human Rights at its core and they’re regulated, they have to comply and they cannot call the shots on fundamental issues for which they’re not accountable. It is, you know, it is the citizen, their representatives that are accountable for that by the regulation, this is a problem that we have. The issue I would say, it is when you go beyond the E.U., what do you do with companies that operate in territories of authoritarian countries that impose certain things on them. This comes a very tricky, a very tricky decision making process by these companies that’s going on for ages and I’m sure that it leaves many boards of the companies without proper sleep for a while. Here, sorry to refer to it again, but I think it is very important, we launch this declaration for the future of the internet, whether with 60 country, 60 partners, it has this Human Rights agenda on the background, in everything that’s in the principles and that it is really open for the multistakeholder community, including internet companies to subscribe.
We would hope that that agenda, the declaration for the future of the internet also offers a framework for this company to rethink a bit.
What they’re doing in outside territories where regulation does not protect Human Rights. That’s an instrument that we should use to that level and we will explore it in the implementation of the instrument for sure.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: We have around 15 minutes. There is time for questions. I have one in the room and we’ll take one in line and continue until the end basically.
>> Good afternoon. Thank you, key participants, for the discussion.
I’m a master student and a YOUthDIG participant. You have all mentioned how having and maintaining the internet is a very important priority, for economic prosperity, for maintaining interdependence between country, so on, but in Europe, as you also mentioned, we want the digital space to be governed by Human Rights and we want to be able to govern the internet following our own aspirations, usually covered by digital sovereignty, by following digital sovereignty, we may go further away from the U.S. model of internet governance, even if it is not the intention and even if the countries about the U.S. model are justified in my opinion.
My question is, do you think that the European efforts to achieve digital sovereignty contribute to the splinternet or do you think that this trade-off between achieving digital sovereignty and keeping a global internet is not a real trade-off? Not a real issue? Thank you.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you. That’s an interesting question. Let’s take the online question and then I’ll go to the panel.
>> NADIA TJAHJA: Thank you very much. All panelists are asked what can be done to avoid a splinternet?
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you. That’s a really basic question.
I would like to maybe before giving the floor to the panelist, I actually would like to build on this. I think every stakeholder group would think of what they could do to accommodate the other views because the attention to us, the fragmenting, the internet, creating barriers to communication, they exist for a reason and they’re not always evil reason, not always bad. Sometimes there are real reasons that people are for example asking countries to set content control or wanting to change parts of the infrastructure or some of the governments. At the same time, if we, since we are convinced of the superiority of our idea, having a global internet is better for everyone, we may convince parties that they have more to be gained to be a part of this unfragmented, free, open internet. What can we propose, each of the stakeholder groups? I will go around the panel, if you have a reflection on this, also on the other questions that were made.
>> PETER KOCH: Thank you for asking the question to solve all of the world’s problems.
That’s message to two actually questions. Going to the microphone intervention first.
I’m struggling to understand the U.S. model of Internet Governance, when we, again, when we talk about the Internet Governance, we need to consider what exactly are we talking about. Governance of the infrastructure, it has been working well over the last 30 years, including an important multistakeholder effort of the transition which made at least ICANN and others an international endeavor but I would read between the line, again, this is about different approaches to both maybe privacy and free speech. Of course, they’re competing legislations in competing jurisdictions.
The problem is, the risk is, by applying rules out of territory, cross jurisdiction, globally, not only are they competing, competing regulations that end users, providers, need to adhere to. This regulation, it may inspire other, maybe more additional parties to come up with their own regulation and try to achieve global reach.
Recent regulation, and it is a good counter example by the way, the recent discussion about the directive that came to regulating the route name server, to the best of my knowledge, where it was specifically mentioned, in the two drafts, it has been left out for good reasons, not to set precedent for other jurisdictions, for other players, and a couple have been named, China, Russia, there will be others, to do the same thing. Putting all of the providers of the core infrastructure into that. In that unfortunate situation, to do something in the opposite at the same time.
So that’s also partly responsible, to be done to avoid the splinternet, this is only a tiny part, of course, we need to avoid to have competing incompatible regulation for the infrastructure.
On the other hand, there is also talk about draw bridges and splinternet if countries and jurisdiction decide to decouple themselves from the internet. That’s also interesting but a different issue because that’s so much about enforcement. If I have an infrastructure that I’m connected with only a limited number of lines I should say and that’s not technically correct in the age of satellites, but still you have grant stations, they may otherwise control that connectivity, you enforce that by means of force maybe. There is little that the outside world can do. We actually see the counter measures in the Ukraine and in attempt to deliver internet to parts of Ukraine where the world will not otherwise allow the connection. This is not an example for day-to-day operations.
That should be distinguished, where was the splintering, what’s the motive behind the splintering that needs to be researched and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to that.
With that I yield to the next panelist.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you.
Let’s go to Jurgita Miseviciute.
>> JURGITA MISEVICIUTE: Perhaps I will answer – try to answer the question about the digital sovereignty and internet.
For every jurisdiction, for every major country, it is important to have critical, important technologies. A country, a jurisdiction does not have it, well, it is a problem going forward. It is difficult to somehow see countries or certain regions, technological futures if that particular region completely depends just on other countries’ technologies. I think this imbalance does not lead to anything good especially when we talk about technology.
It is natural, normal, important for regions and countries to work on the digital sovereignty when we speak for example, Europe, there are different ways of how to do it. I think that the right way to do it, it is, of course, to promote the values-based regulations because, you know, in Europe, as my colleague had mentioned, we put so much importance on the fundamental rights and the Human Rights so we really want to have regulation that embodies those principles. It is normal that we legislate such regulation, at the same time, it is important that governments promote companies that create those value-based technologies and services to citizens, to company, to other governments. I think it is a very complex topic, it is very difficult to answer it in a simple way. Everything is about balance. For me, the fundamental, it is that countries can never depend just on other country’s technologies and it is possible to combine everything, your value, Human Rights, to support the industry that really creates products that respect those values and lead in the world. Maybe this can lead to a splint internet, maybe not. It is a very complex world and there will always be countries that do not share the same values, do not share the same views towards the world or towards the internet.
Creating your technologies based on your beliefs and values, I think it is critical for every region.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you.
>> ESTEVE SANZ: I think I have nothing to add really. I fully agree with everything you say.
I think as we have seen in this conference, in this sense, EuroDIG was interesting with the notion of sovereignty on the table, this is something that the best way to understand what we mean in the E.U. when discussing about sovereignty, look at what we’re doing. What we’re doing, it is a series of regulations, a series of public investments on certain technological sectors, and that’s what we mean. What we don’t mean at all, it is to fragment the internet, to forget about Human Rights, to forget about the charter, the Fundamental Rights of the E.U., that’s not what digital sovereignty means for the E.U. What it means, it is really what we’re doing.
The best way to understand how this concept is being applied at the E.U., it is to take a close look at the Digital Services Act, at the Data Act, at the Artificial Intelligence Act, other acts and all of these elements that are very intensively discussed by the systems of institutions in the E.U. This is not the product of vision of one country, of one group, of one stakeholder, it is really the product of a very difficult consensus. Sometimes I think it is a miracle that we get to some sort of text because there are so many interests, so many visions involved there that, you know, it is very difficult to get the consensus and if we ask different Member States what they mean by sovereignty, digital sovereignty, they would come up with different questions and if you ask the colleagues in the Commission about digital authority, they would come with different practical examples.
I would say let’s look concretely at what we do, that’s what I mean by digital sovereignty, the end product of the E.U. policy action and I think in general we’re conscience that this is a big experiment. The internet is relatively new in terms of the strong shaping characterizing in our societies and we’re fine tuning how to make the best of it with this regulations with one common denominator again, it is empower Human Rights and fundamental Rights of citizens.
Maybe things will not go well when we have the mechanisms to trick them, to change them, but I think we’re at the forefront of that experiment making us very proud.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you for giving the answer that engineers like me like to give to any question, it is that it depends. It is true, what we take out of the discussions, it is that we really have to look at each individual piece of legislation and country and try to understand why they do certain things and where is the specific regulation that will help or not to help them, the idea of a globally enter connected internet.
We’re at the end of this very long workshop. We just have three, four minutes left. What I would like to do, to go back to panelists for 30 seconds, one minute, if you have final remarks to make, a specific request or proposal that you want to make to other stakeholders and the community. Peter, as usual.
>> PETER KOCH: Thank you.
I would like to thank the people at the microphone and online for the interventions and questions. It is really challenging because the questions have all been kind of easy and justified and the system, that’s something that we have as a take away maybe, it is that this whole discussion, the various aspects of fragmentation, splintering, they’re highly complex, which is a reason why most of the responses had something to do with as you friended, it depends. That’s also indicative of the complexity of the solution because we have so many interconnects so to speak and so many interactions between both policy and tech and society that it makes things really hard, that it makes it really hard to find that silver bullet for example, to avoid the splintering.
It is much, much harder to avoid this than to create it.
That’s my bottom line.
Thank you for having me.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you.
>> JURGITA MISEVICIUTE: Thank you very much. As I mentioned, for me, balance is really the key, it is the speaker, other speakers have mentioned, these topics are incredibly complex and it is very difficult to simplify that. You know N a nutshell I think from our perspective, I strongly echo the Commission’s approach that really Human Rights value, fund mental Human Rights should be the core of society, should be the core of all businesses. If we want to live in the future where people are respected, where the basic rights are respected, it is really the way to go forward, each of us, we have to do our best and have this in everything that we’re doing, including our businesses. Then as far as the different regulations and the internet is concerned, it’s very complex and I really believe that cooperation and different governments across the world, it is really critical. I know that it will never be probably the case that all the government, all of the regions have the same idea of the internet and how it should work.
Nevertheless, to as much extent as possible different governments should really work together to come up with the rules that really protects the internet, the free, open internet and embodying the Human Rights values. That’s the goal that we’re really working for many years forward.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: Thank you. Finally, a quick message from the Commission.
>> ESTEVE SANZ: Yes. First of all, thank you for this stimulating conversation. I think that the bottom line, it is something that we all share, digitalization, unstoppable, everyone agrees, we all need to bridge the digital divide and digital technologies are here to stay, they’ll change society, the open internet, the global internet, that’s a different story.
We should not take it for granted t requires a lot of work.
There is no structural trends towards the open internet. It is something that requires conscience efforts by governments, by companies, by Civil Society, by European Commission and it is something that is worth it. In the end, as you suggested, it is a very good pitch to make, to convince those that live in the system and to come in to the system. It is convincing, not threaten, we have the arguments to convince everybody that that is the way to go.
Let’s go for the best. Yes.
>> VITTORIO BERTOLA: I would like to thank you, coat participants, for answering the questions that were not prepared in advance. You came up with answers. Thank you to all of the people that participated. I think it is a really interesting, interactive discussion and this is how I like it to be. Thank you, all.
I leave the floor to the next workshop.
>> NADIA TJAHJA: Of course, also, thank you to the moderator, Vittorio Bertola. Thank you very much for moderating this session.