Understanding the risks of Internet fragmentation – TOPIC 02 Sub 01-02 2023
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The session dedicated to the Risks of Internet fragmentation will introduce the topic, consider recent work and discussions, and shed light on the challenges posed by fragmentation, looking at the current state of events.
New to the topic or in need to refresh your mind? Watch this brief video that introduces Internet Fragmentation and some of the speakers who will take part in the conversation at EuroDIG.
Internet fragmentation is a complex phenomenon that has been a major topic in Internet governance in recent years. This introductory session will be dedicated to unravelling the contentious topic, not sufferming the discussion on specific definitions, but focusing more on the effects of Internet fragmentation. This conversation will be shaped by four panellists, which will be able to bring different perspectives to the multi-layered situation and its impacts on the Internet:
- Sheetal Kumar, PNIF Co-facilitator
- Elena Plexida, Vice President for Government and IGO Engagement, ICANN
- Zoe Hawkins, Technology Policy Specialist
- Julf Helsingius, Co-chair for the RIPE Cooperation Working Group, ICANN GNSO Council, Chair of Finnish ISOC national chapter
To allow a high level of interaction before and during the event, the session will be structured in the following way:
- Initial 3 minutes of “punchy statements” by each panellist (10-15 minutes);
- Speakers briefly answer questions provided before the session in max 3 minutes per speaker (10-15 minutes). Follow this link to submit your questions to the panellists. The Org Team will then choose a few questions to pose to the speakers during the session;
- Questions from the public (Interactive 15-20 minutes).
- Internet Fragmentation: What’s at Stake?, by Dr. T. Tropina
- Internet Fragmentation: An Overview, by Drake, William J; Vinton, Cerf G; Kleinwächter, W.
- Internet Fragmentation Exists, But Not In the Way That You Think, by Dr. M. Mueller
- Internet Governance Doublespeak: Western Governments and the Open Internet, by Zoe Hawkins
- The Unintended Consequences of Internet Regulation, by Mike Masnick
- Addis Ababa IGF 2022 Messages, p. 5-6
- Misguided policies the world over are slowly killing the open internet, by Andrew Sullivan
- EU Dimensions of the ‘Splinternet’ Question, by Elena Plexida
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- Tatiana Tropina
- Yrjö Länsipuro
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Focal Points take over the responsibility and lead of the session organisation. They work in close cooperation with the respective Subject Matter Expert (SME) and the EuroDIG Secretariat and are kindly requested to follow EuroDIG’s session principles
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- Amali De Silva-Mitchell
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- Sheetal Kumar, PNIF Co-facilitator (remote participant)
- Elena Plexida, Vice President for Government and IGO Engagement, ICANN (remote participant)
- Zoe Hawkins, Technology Policy Specialist (remote participant)
- Julf Helsingius, Co-chair for the RIPE Cooperation Working Group, ICANN GNSO Council, Chair of Finnish ISOC national chapter
Trained remote moderators will be assigned on the spot by the EuroDIG secretariat to each session.
Reporters will be assigned by the EuroDIG secretariat in cooperation with the Geneva Internet Platform. The Reporter takes notes during the session and formulates 3 (max. 5) bullet points at the end of each session that:
- are summarised on a slide and presented to the audience at the end of each session
- relate to the particular session and to European Internet governance policy
- are forward looking and propose goals and activities that can be initiated after EuroDIG (recommendations)
- are in (rough) consensus with the audience
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Rapporteur: Bojana Kovač, Geneva Internet Platform
- Different governments, actors, and stakeholders have different perspectives on what Internet fragmentation is. Thus, it is crucial to address the risks that come with it. Policy proposals that fragment the Internet, whether intentionally or not, prevent it from being a global space, though they may sometimes be necessary to protect other rights and the public interest. The private sector may also fragment the Internet by closing down services into walled gardens and breaking the principle of interoperability through open standards.
- Geopolitics is another concern, as politicising the fundamentals of the Internet can endanger its technical nature. Content regulations that had unintentional effects on the technical level are now becoming intentional. The call for action is to enhance cross-government education and communication on Internet governance while also ensuring that companies, civil society, and the technical community are included in such discussions.
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>> Nadia TJAHJA: ... That leads me straight into subtopic 1, understanding the risks of Internet fragmentation and I would love to invite the moderator Tatiana Tropina to come join me on stage to start off the first session.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I would like first of all to introduce our speakers, and I would like to invite them to the stage the RIPE corporation working Chair Julf Helsingius, the only speaker online, he may be lonely but we’re joined by four amazing stellar speakers. We have Sheetal Kumar who is also a colead of the Policy Network and fragmentation at the Internet Governance. We have also Zoe Hawkins who is the technology and policy specialist, and by the way, she wrote an amazing Pete on Internet fragmentation, it is on the reading list for this session of the Wiki, if you have not read it yet, please do. Last but not least, we have Elena Plexida, who is the Vice President for IGO and government engagement at ICANN.
Before I will start with asking speakers these questions, I just want to follow-up with what Andrew and Lise had said, explaining the setting of this session.
Both of them mentioned that Internet fragmentation is something that’s very hard to define. Last year I attended event after vent on fragmentation and the discussion is frequently stuck in the definition, how various stakeholders define it, what Internet fragmentation means to you. Guess what, I’m not going to ask this question. I want to approach this all conceptually from the point of risk, and that is what this session is about. I would like to ask every speaker to make your first 3 minutes statement on what are the dangers of Internet fragmentation you are trying to address? Basically what is your cause? What are you trying to prevent? Do we have speakers online already? Are they connected? Yeah. Right.
So if I may start with Sheetal Kumar.
>> SHEETAL KUMAR: Thank you so much.
Hopefully you can hear me there in the room and online as well.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Yes.
>> SHEETAL KUMAR: Great. I just wanted to tell you that I will be speaking in my personal capacity, in fact I join a lot in the work of the PNIF and the expertise I have gained speaking to so many of you there on the bottom-up process which we believe has provided a useful framework for conceptualization in three main areas of what people refer to when they talk about fragmentation tends to refer to fragmentation of the Internet Governance, forms and processes and coordination, or user experience or technical layers. I won’t go into that now because you said we will not talk about that.
What I wanted to say, is that, you know, recognizing that there are all of these conceptualizations, we think it is a useful framework because it provides a bit more detail on what we’re talking about. It highlights the fragmentation to speak to some of the questions, it is not the same as decentralization, it is not about diversity, it is about the Internet, whether infrastructurally and likely infrastructure rally over time as some point, if the trends continue as it evolves, it is very different to what we have now where the control is moved away from the user, people can’t access the information they want to, where information doesn’t flow freely and it cannot function as an enabler of Human Rights and economic growth. You know, what I think is very important, I know we have a hard stop, it is to say that we’re not – I have some points about, you know, what could lead us there, from the PNIF, some of the main elements of risk and concern that we have heard come up in our discussions. We’re not saying that the Internet was ever perfect, doesn’t have elements of concentration, centralization, you know, that the user doesn’t have control, but when talking about getting to a place that’s further away from the Internet as an open, interconnected, interoperable space, network of networks, something different, and that different thing is not an enabler of Human Rights and everything that I have just said. I think that the types of actions and measures that we see leading to that from governments, whether unintended or intended are part of a steady process, if they continue as they do could have that impact. That’s what we’re concerned about.
So it is about a Spectrum, it is about a process. And it is about the end result being different from what we are now. Happy to be more detailed on actions or had measures, intended or unintended that have this effect.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you for watching the time.
We’ll talk more about the technical side of this, we have two people from the technical community in this room and online. Before that, I want to go to Zoe, what is your concern if any?
>> ZOE HAWKINS: Thank you.
How lovely to be with you all today. Sorry I can’t be there in person.
I will build off of Sheetal Kumar’s comments, it dovetails with what I was hoping to contribute. She slayed out some risk of fragmentation in terms of an end state, what that means for users that cannot access the same information as freely around the world. A risk that I think about is how we might accidentally as democratic governments contribute to that outcome and potentially unintentionally. It is around the fact that I think governments are grappling with very valid domestic regulatory challenges around online harms, privacy, the list goes on as we’re all familiar with. The conundrum that governments face, how to meaningfully address those responsibilities to their domestic populations through the reforms we’re seeing around the world, particularly in the E.U., if it is the U.K. online safety bill, the Australian equivalent as well, it is having an impact in terms of I guess an impression that it is giving, a sort of message that to an outside observer, which I tried to articulate in the piece that was mentioned, you could step back, say how does this fit with – how does it reconcile with the democratic narrative of open, free, secure Internet and a tradition of non-intervention from governments.
The risks I see, it is a failure to explain the nuance and when we talk about moving away from this question is fragmentation good or bad is binary, not only is the framework that Sheetal Kumar had mentioned, breaking down the different types of fragmentation really helpful, even within that user experience layer, the one I’m referring to when speaking about the content regulations, I think we need do a bit of work to flush out what do we mean by the type of intervention that we’re okay with it and the one that we’re not. I think that sometimes we’re relying on a bit of I know it when I see it sort of attitude. I think we can really do some work to flesh out what is a good reason to allow for that slight disparity between regulations between jurisdictions that we’re comfortable with and when is that okay, and when is it not? I think working together do that will be important so that the really important values that sit behind that international multistakeholder Internet Governance can retain credibility, particularly for governments that are still trying to work out where they fall in that debate. I think making sure that we can really explain how governments should grapple with the hard questions about how to be a good government at home and also support a global Internet, I think we need to equip those governments by doing the hard work to put some more language around a new narrative on what fragmentation looks like.
I’ll leave it there for now.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you very much.
Let me go over to you, you’re part of the technical community, shall we move from the user experience to more technical things? What is your concern?
>> Sure. I mean, of course I share the concerns of the previous speakers have already articulated on political, regulatory, other concerns. But I want to bring a completely different angle of this as someone involved in building and running networks for something like 40 years, and I do have to say to me, it is always groundhog day. We seem to run into the same issues all over again and it has to do even with the architecture of the Internet. The Internet was really designed as something where any computer could talk to any other computer, and we all kind of had the same value on the network. It was contrasted with the model that used to be around and keeps coming around every now and then, which is that we sit at a terminal, connect to a central computer, log into a URL, and it is similar to that out there, what I would like to highlight, the threat of horizontally integrated players, what we all do now, we use the Internet on things like these which are dominated by a few big players, Google, Apple to some degree Microsoft., who not only determine what software runs on this phone, but they actually have their own network infrastructure, they run the servers, and the application you use, actually uses their own protocols, which, of course, are open protocols, they have submitted them, so on, but still where you have basically a direct pipe from this to the server and they control it total y not necessarily doing an DNS search any more, when you do an address, it looks at what the Google server say, the Apple server says, what the open network servers say. They have full control over the whole path and in a way move back to that old closed model where we suddenly are part of some closed central service which doesn’t talk to the other ones, and this is for us who run networks, a major issue and I am afraid it will become an issue for users as well.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you very much.
Elena Plexida, you are the last speaker intentionally, because somehow looking at the profiles of other speakers, I saw that you might connect all these layered approach to fragmentation and as I figured out, Zoe comments about when fragmentation is good or not, it is not binary, and now Julf has commented about the DNS level, what is your concern, what is your main danger for you?
>> ELENA PLEXIDA: Hello, everyone. Thank you.
Thank you for this difficult task. I don’t think I can do this in 3 minutes but we will in the discussion.
I will mention some things that the previous speakers have said, I’m referring to the technical level mostly, in particular. ICANN, other areas, other organizations, IGF, it is a family of organizations that give you the durability. We work to maintain the global Internet. Apparently this is a concern, this is a key focus, and our work is focused on to avoiding Internet fragmentation, it goes against everything we were created to do.
Now, in our space, you have to ask yourself what is it technically that gets you on Internet, it is true as everyone has heard, the Internet is not one, a network of networks. What is it that keeps it together? It is the unique identifiers, as they say, the name, Domain Name System, IP addresses and the protocols, the fact that they’re unique. They know no borders and they’re global by nature.
The Internet, we live at a point in time moving from nations to globalization and we felt good with each other, if you will, this kind of sentiment, this kind of era is reflected in the Internet itself as an invention, and in its governance, not only the Internet, but also the governance, the so-called multistakeholder approach to the governance, operates as you will out site of sovereignty, there are no borders to that, everybody comes together, everyone makes policies for it.
With that, the world is not the same place any more, Geopolitics are becoming an increasing concern, we see tensions between the national actor, in effect, these kinds of tensions have started to, you know, be seen or felt even at our level, at the technical level. It is for good reasons, governments need to do their job, but you see the fundamentals of the Internet, what I’m talking about and there it doesn’t make sense because we’re talking a global thing. There is no such thing as protecting my part of the Internet, technically, my part of the Internet, your part of the DNS, either it works for everybody or it doesn’t. We see sanctions with addresses, requests here and there in respect to the politicalization on the fundamentals of the Internet. That can be – can endanger the very single nature of the Internet and I mean, at this technical level again. If you drag Geopolitics into the agenda, that’s what we have seen lately, I completely agree with what Lise said before, Internet fragmentation is not a new thing, neither is this discussion. What I find new and worries me, it is how the world looks around us. So to me the million dollar question is will the global Internet survive a fragmented world, if you will. To add on to that, as we have – governments rightly so have to consider how to protect citizens, I would go to the previous speaker, a concern I have, we bring everything together and when we’re discussing, we tend to bring everything together, content level, and user experience level with a technical level and not really discriminating between the two. That is tricky when having the discussions of the global Internet.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: We did have a couple of questions and the audience here, all of the partition pants, they would like to go back to – you addressed the questions partially already. I’m going to rephrase them a bit and reask them still. The first question, about the whole notion of fragmentation, it was addressed partially, the question was the whole notion of fragmentation makes very little sense because Internet is fragmented by designs so it is not a bug, but a feature.
The question, what is precise development, you object to in terms of fragmentation because apparently it is already fragmented.
The second question is about the notion of the diversity in the concept of fragmentation.
The comment that was – fragmentation is a slogan against diversity, what is bad about diversity of the Internet? Anybody wants to speak about this, you can raise your hand on Zoom I guess, shall I just – just wave at me.
>> ELENA PLEXIDA: Others will come in of course, diversity is necessary, it is absolutely at the user experience, what needs to be done. This is what the Internet is supposed to be doing.
We are working for example domain names in other non-latin scripts, the world needs to be diverse, not everybody has to understand or speak English to go online, right. The diversity that we are worried about, it is at the technical layer. Again, at the layer where you have the networks on networks brought together.
If you don’t have that. You don’t even have the basis and then we’re splitting to different, different, different networks that do not speak to each other.
So a problem. Thank you.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you. I know that you have wanted to answer as well, bullets take two more questions from remote participants and then sort of address something and then we’ll go to speakers against.
For the first question, it was what kind of development is seen regarding the balance of free and distributed Internet versus needs to make it more efficient and controlled, and the reason the person is asking this is that all human systems that evolve towards efficiency, it is more tightly controlled processes, that control usually includes cybersecurity and safety aspects and due process and control efficiency expectations poses a risk of fragmentation and how to manage this phenomena in a larger sense.
The second question was directed to Julf, what could be done to prevent the Internet splitting into a number of big walled gardens.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Let me go to you first. We have diversity, we have efficiency, we have fragmentation and we have everything else.
You pick up the question you want to answer.
>> JULF HELSINGIUS: I could try to answer a couple of them in one go.
Yes. On a technical level the Internet is extremely diverse. We run wireless links, satellites, fiber, copper, carrier pigeons, you name it. But the idea is that we have them on the IP level one uniform network where everybody has the same address space and can address anyone. The problem is, we even broke that model a long time ago, we ran out of IP, before addresses, so we had to invent network address translation where whatever address you happened to have actually isn’t a global address. We then DNS started fragmenting in that what you actually got from your DNS depending whose DNS server you talk to. The answer could be very different.
Often there were good technical reasons and efficiency was one of the reasons, because suddenly the DNS could direct to you the most efficient server, the server closest to you, and, of course, we open the flood gates for directing it to wherever.
What can we do about this horizontal silos.
Well, one, of course, to insist on open standards, also trying to actually encourage diverse software environments, diverse technical environments, but it is an uphill battle, I admit that.
We have allowed some technical giants to assess as the saying goes get too big to fail.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you, Julf.
So I think the question about efficiency, cybersecurity, evolving systems spoke very well to your initial points.
Would you like to address any of them or that in particular?
>> SARKA DUSKOVA: Absolutely. Thank you.
The thought that was coming up in my mind, you know, just talking about the central issue of centralization and the big tech giants that may be involved, and I saw some comments in the chat about people more concerned about that than fragmentation, what’s interesting, tying that into the diversity point, there is a reality as mentioned that we’re living in a different political climate right now, there is pressure on governments to address some of these issues, and in doing so in many cases the burden of the compliance for the regulations as designed is so high, it actually is possibly exacerbating this centralization because it is the bigger players that are able to comply in many cases and makes it harder for that sort of multiverse landscape. We have to think of how the issues play together and how solving one problem in one place can actually make it harder for there to be competition in another space for smaller players, that was my comment on concentration.
Just another comment that was about I think Elena made on the geopolitical context and some of these discussions are politicalized, I want to underscore that. I think there are definitely valid policy problems that governments are grappling with at home, I certainly feel that it has become quite a retail politics issue, the harms of the Internet, so separate to more hard cybersecurity issues around Geopolitics, some of this sort of safety online, you know, misinformation, these kinds of things whilst very valid issues have become kind of political hot topics that I think governments feel the need to be seen to be doing something on, that’s contributing to some of the slightly hazard, the rushed ways that some of these regulations are being designed and that’s probably contributing to some of these issues as well.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Instead of problem solving solution, we’re creating – we’re creating problem creating solutions. I will go to new a minute, I will just ask Sheetal Kumar very briefly – no. No. Okay. Let me do it like this, Sheetal Kumar, before going to you, you have the first word, but we’re going to except two interventions from the floor because I see the queue.
You go first and then Victoria.
>> Thank you for allowing me to talk here.
I wanted to take a little step aside, as end user, the fragmentation of the Internet, I know that you can tell me that it is not Internet but it is on top of Internet, it is a web but end user don’t make the difference, they talk about web, Internet, so on.
My problem is, I am in one network and – sorry, one application, and I can’t talk with my children, they’re on another application and that’s the Internet, I’m not able to have exchange with the people I want to exchange. What can we do against that? With.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Great question.
>> I’m from open exchange and I have many things to say, I won’t expand but save them for later. I have one question, I really wanted to hear the answer, because I mean, now I’m sort of confused, this morning was all about we have to stop Russian propaganda, misinformation, we have to block Russia, today we have to – even people there, they need to write a – the link, if it is criminal, it must be taken down, now we’re all content must be global, there is no content difference anywhere in the world, so I think we as a community have to understand what we want. The two things can’t be true at the same time, either we believe in a network where nothing ever will be blocked or we believe that there are cases where things have to be blocked and by necessity this will be local, because they depend on the values of each country. I like to make this example, that in Europe we have countries where there is different forbidden symbols, not allowed to show it, that’s fine, there are historical reasons for that. How do you solve this problem? Especially today, the people that we’re talking about, totally global content and all kinds of content blocking diversity.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: I see great questions here.
First of all, how do we understand what we want and secondly, what do we do about this? I will go to Sheetal Kumar first to continue the discussions. Feel free to pick up any question that you want, but I also want to point out the fact that you spoke that fragmentation is not about diversity, you said that fragmentation is not about network being already fragmented. We can tie it out on what do we want and what we can do about this.
I know the question, what do we do with this, that’s the next session.
Let’s open the discussion.
>> SHEETAL KUMAR: Thank you for the great questions. .
I agree on the more nuanced discussion on all of this which goes to some of the questions.
Speaking from a Human Rights perspective, I think what we want is an open interconnected interoperable Internet where we solve the issues arising from its use of its politicalization, from power concentration in a way that’s aligned with the global standards on international Human Rights which exist, which have been evolving, which are involving to address – evolving to address the digital transformation technology, the changes arising from digital technology, that’s happening.
We have to move more in that direction and I think that what we are seeing, unfortunately, it is, like, I think Zoe said, an attempt to address problems in a knee jerk, haphazard way in some ways, and even in democracies, not aligned with international Human Rights law. If we saw more alignment with that, then I think we would see less of the type of fragmentation we’re seeing and it is also very important for us to committer to I think common values and norms that relate to, for example, ensuring that regulatory frameworks do not create more consolidation in a way that impacts the ability for standards and applications to interoperate, I think there is a lot that can be done. That what we want to see is the Internet not only maintained as an open network of networks, but evolving in a way so that more people that come along to it benefit from it as an enabler of their rights. I think that’s possible, you have a framework already, you know, and it is there, and we can continue to use it and I think we must.
I just – there was something else that I wanted to say which I can’t remember, so you know I’ll give up the floor now to somebody who has something to say. Thank you. I hope that was helpful in some way.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you very much.
We have remote question.
>> Two questions online.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: If you have more question, come to the microphone.
>> For the first question, is the E.U. wanting to build a walled garden to keep their citizens’ date within the E.U. only, what happens if citizens visit a website outside of the E.U. and they don’t comply with GDPR.
Second question, reflecting on diversity of the Internet at the IP layer, should developments such as private relay, mask, et cetera, what allows companies like Apple and Google to determine traffic routing to be regarded as an attack on the Internet.
>> JULF HELSINGIUS: I wanted to talk about something that Zoe talked about earlier, I want to emphasize that message.
Regulation tends to favor the big giants, they are the ones who have the efforts and resources with politicians and the regulation in their favor, they can afford to comply with regulation and the regulation often keeps newer competitors away from the field.
It’s almost like the only regulation I think that the Internet would need, it is anti-monopoly regulation, that’s a rather difficult issue to tackle.
I also wanted to address the question, which is an observation, I’m sure we all have made, a person of certain age, I have faced the problem, I have talked to younger people, how do we communicate e-mail, we don’t use that anymore.
Okay, are you on WhatsApp? Oh, that’s only used by old people. Don’t you have a TikTok account, no, I don’t. So, yes, we have all of the different islands already and there I think we need to push for federated open means of communicating. That’s again, as I keep saying, an uphill battle as well. Whether we look at what Google, Apple is doing, breaking the network, disturbing the network, yes and no, they all make right gestures on how the protocols are open and anybody do it, the problem is nobody can.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: I find it is interesting that we talk about governmental intervention and here we have a question about regulation breaking the Internet. In this premise somehow we’re going a lot into private players, big digital platforms, consolidation, walled garden, I still want to bring it to an earlier question on regulation, but in a more general sense to Elena Plexida and Zoe Hawkins can regulation break the Internet? Is the only regulation for the Internet could be anti-monopoly, antitrust regulation, competition regulation? What’s your take about this interplay between regulation and Internet fragmentation? Is it a risk?
>> ELENA PLEXIDA: Thank you.
Can it break the Internet, again, I need to highlight the concern at least from the technical side is whether we break the Internet at the technical level. Right now the Internet is not broken. We have one global Internet.
At the content level, yes, we have different islands. That’s always been there.
If you will, it is not my place to say that, but I tend to agree with the fact that the only regulation that might be needed for the content level, again, could be an anti-trust. Again, that’s not for me to say or for technical organization to say.
If I may, I would say, someone made the comment before, we have to make up our minds, what is that we want at the content layer. Once we want that, then we want the other one. We have to make up our minds. That’s mainly for governments if you will.
At the technical level, there is no need for regulation. As I was saying before, we’re talking a global system that works without knowing borders and we’re talking about the governance of the global system that again works, if you will, outside sovereignty. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need rules, we need rules but we need them the way that you will, that they’re made now with everyone participate, everyone’s participation, the engineers, government, Civil Society, they come together, they make the rules. Because they altogether make the rules, then we globally apply them, we have a sort of common technical language that all of the different networks speak and that’s how we have the global Internet.
If I may, go more directly to your question, something to bring to the attention of everyone, yes, we do see the strength that joy was talking about, real problems that are needing to be addressed, so governments coming with more initiatives, and a slight difference I see over the past couple of years, and it is due to Geopolitics, again, it is understandable, but it is a slight difference, we tended to see and intention – an intentional effects from regulation that was targeting the content level on the technical level. Lately we also see intentional regulation that is targeting the technical layer. That’s – it goes to your question and to the concern. Coupled with a couple of other things that are, of course, playing out from the world of politics.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: I will hand over to Zoe to talk about this or tell us what needs to be done. I know that’s the next session question, but I want to still answer it here as well!
>> SARKA DUSKOVA: I’ll leave that hard, hard question to our lucky next panelists and instead build on – I think the point about the geopolitical context is really important, and as much as I would like to agree with you about imagining a world where governments aren’t intervening in other forms of regulation, I think I’m a – call me a cynic, a pragmatist, I think we have seen that ship sail and I’m not confident we’ll see that regulation roll back any time soon.
The question for me then, it is incumbent on us to think about how we do that, and I think not rely on a difference of narrative that is okay because it is our regulation and that’s the difference.
You know, if it is becoming harder and harder to see the fundamental differences of, you know, governments playing in spaces of moderating legal but harmful content I think we’re getting into an area where if governments feel compelled that that, there is high responsibility to explain why and how that’s okay. I said it before, but I want to underline it, I do think that fail doing so also creates a blueprint for other governments that we would say would do so with poor intent, if the blueprint is there, it is hard to argue against it. I do also think that from my time in Amazon, I know it gets frustrating and hard for companies that are finding it harder than to distinguish between, okay in, what context should I comply with various government requests that start to look kind of similarly interventionist in terms of content.
I think that’s an interesting question in terms of if the private sector companies, which, of course, have been mentioned in this conversation have their own role to play in a lot of the harms we’re seeing.
I think that we’re often put in a position of adjudicating these questions and in some context we expect the private companies to take a value driven stance when certain pressure comes from certain types of governments and we don’t expect them to do so with democracies and I think that we need to be mindful of how clear that distinction is for those companies.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you. I see a hand up from Sheetal Kumar, you go ahead, I encourage anybody that wants to ask a question, make a comment, come to the microphone. The floor is yours.
>> SHEETAL KUMAR:
I just wanted to react quickly to that point that was made about the intersections between what’s happening in one mace to another, and if in the end it goes to different people not being aware of the result of their constituency having on another and of course, in our interconnected world it is very important to be aware of that.
If you spoke about intentional regulation, the regulation of content that’s an impact on the technical layer, unintended, intended, that requires to go to what we can do for us to be more aware of these different impacts in different constituencies in which we works those working in standard bodies, for example, can and should be aware of I think of regulatory developments and how they are impacting and where they can provide inputs and speak from the expertise and consultations.
I think that they should make policymakers aware of those on impacts and policymakers as well should assess the impact – contest the impact of regulatory frameworks they’re proposing, Human Rights impact assessments, the Internet Society, Internet impact assessment, they are tools that can help do that.
We have an obligation I think at this point as we have discussed, there are threats, risks, not all have fully manifested, but in order to make sure that we don’t get there, I think that we need to have more of that inclusivity almost of the discussions that are impacting the different areas. Almost like as human beings we have to work more like the network, you know. I know that’s difficult, because we’re complicated and have a long history, and awful the institutions and dynamics and power things to think about.
I think that that’s where we want to get to.
We have some tools at our disposal and we should be using them.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you. Any questions in the room? I see none.
Okay. I have a question to you all: Hearing all of these discussion, the first two keynotes, and what Sheetal Kumar had just said, made me think, aren’t we preaching to the converted all the time? We are talking to each other all the time. Because we have no questions here, maybe this is the result of the fact that we are preaching to the converted. I wanted to ask you a question, all of you, you have enough time to answer because we still have time left, you were amazing with following the restrictions.
Imagine that you go out of this virtual room, you go out of this EuroDIG room, what’s your call for action? Talking to those who actually in your opinion are fragmented in the Internet, or to those who can stop this fragmentation, stop what you call fragmentation, what is your call for action? What would you tell to them? What’s your message? If I may. I know I didn’t prepare you for this question, here we go! Do you want to go first.
>> JULF HELSINGIUS: I will be very quick. My answer is education.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: You had 5 minutes and you didn’t waste any!
>> ZOE HAWKINS: More than one word, a similar theme actually.
I think – focusing on the government angle to this problem, I think that making sure that cross government people are speaking to each other. Decide think some of these issues actually come from different portfolios in government has different priorities and it is often the people in communications department or in the Foreign Affairs department that have a good grasp of these international Internet Governance debates and issues. I think that cross government education by those teams of the departments and parts of the government that are responsible for kind of the defense, affairs, national cybersecurity, some of these places that these kind of – protect the domestic population sentiment comes from, I think that might help avoid some of that unintentional harm that comes from some of this regulation.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you, Zoe. Over to you. What is your call for action? What’s the message to those who make this policy?
>> ELENA PLEXIDA: Yes. First of all, I would say I think it was said before, at least implied that it is not only those that are intentionally doing it, there are those that champion the open Internet, champion the global Internet, not intentionally, but they’re in the same boat unfortunately. And that’s something that we should not be shy to say to people, hey, that’s what’s happening. Maybe you want to reconsider. I’m sure they will.
I just want to say it is not necessarily in some other space, some other world.
Something like that.
What I would say, I would say that fragmentation, at least at the technical level, although it is a technical issue, it is more likely that if it happens, and I hope it doesn’t happen L come from the political world. I would say to people, don’t take the global Internet for granted, I feel we take it for granted, it is will, it will work, it will keep working. We take it a little bit like peace, we don’t – we have forgotten what it is not like to have peace, we take it for granted, to work for it.
I would say protect it, don’t take it for granted. We have to all work together and protect it he and if we have to understand that if we see that happening, fragmented, broken Internet at technical level is not something that happens like that.
It is not a switch.
It will be death by thousands and we have to be careful of all of these different cuts.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you very much. Basically, by the way, all of you who participated here, I hope that you can take some of these messages and go to the world and project them if you believe in unfragmented Internet.
Over to you.
>> SHEETAL KUMAR: Just going to respond to a question in chat there, trying to do too many things at once.
I think I would ask, you know, what’s your role in maintaining an open Internet and do you understand the impact of what you are doing and how it might, you know, effect, like I think a lot of us have said this, it may effect that.
That I think is most relevant for those that there is an unintended effect, where it is intended, more of a nuance, perhaps, that could relate perhaps more to the corporate players, not saying that it does, where it could, the gray area, I think Bev to understand where it is perhaps more – I think we have to understand where it is perhaps more intentional, what we can collectively do, those of us that do agree that’s not what we want, I understand that there are still some questions around that, but where we know we want to preserve an open network of networks, what can we do together to preserve that.
What’s your role in maintaining it, do you understand the impact of your actions, what can we do together to address the impact of the actions of those that are entering or intentionally trying to create a defragmented Internet.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: Thank you very much. Before I close this discussion, I want you all, all of you, to answer one question for me, speaker pace, you too, led had an interesting question, a vital question, an essential question at the beginning, will the global Internet survive the fragmented world? If you believe it, put the thumb up, if you believe it will not, put the thumb down.
I see for many of us, glass is half full. Hope is here.
Thank you very, very much, everybody.
Give our speakers a huge applause. Thank you.
>> NADIA TJAHJA: Thank you to the speakers and the wonderful moderator, Tatiana Tropina.
Thank you so much.