I&J contributed

Published on
April 24, 2014

Internet & Jurisdiction's Contribution to NETmundial

The need to address jurisdiction issues and how they relate to Internet Governance was discussed at NETmundial, a global multistakeholder meeting on the future of Internet Governance that took place on April 23-24, 2014 in Sao Paulo. Internet & Jurisdiction contributed an input document calling for transnational dialogue spaces and collaboration among stakeholders— the PDF is available here: Jurisdiction and Internet Governance: Elements for a Roadmap.

Almost 1,500 participants from 97 countries contributed to the NETmundial conference, which produced as its outcome a non-binding Multistakeholder Statement containing a shared set of principles and a roadmap to guide the evolution of Internet governance.

Jurisdiction and Internet Governance: Elements for a Roadmap

A free, open and inclusive digital society can only emerge and be organized through a convergent effort of all stakeholders – public, private and civil society actors alike – just as the Internet itself evolved.

An institutional ecosystem progressively emerged in the last decades to enable and maintain the technical interoperability of the Internet infrastructure. However, preserving the global cross-border nature of cyberspace is more than a technical issue. To handle the growing tensions between jurisdictions online, governance mechanisms as innovative as the network itself have to be developed.

Failure to do so would lead to the proliferation of uncoordinated national decisions, with unintended and detrimental consequences for all, jeopardizing the global exercise of human rights and innovation, with high social and economic costs.

Transborder Spaces

Today, more than 3 billion people exercise their universal human rights as they communicate and interact in cyberspace, irrespective of their location around the globe. Likewise, the Internet’s openness enables innovative new services to be immediately accessible worldwide, regardless of where they are incorporated.

This very success has a consequence: as interactions and services become more transnational, so do the legal challenges related to the use of the network. Online content or activities legal in one country can be illegal in another. Decisions in one territory impact actors elsewhere.

Fragmented International Legal System

The international legal system has not evolved in parallel to cope with the rapid emergence of digital spaces. It remains a fragmented patchwork of diverse and sometimes incompatible national legislations based on geographically determined jurisdictions. Interstate cooperation mechanisms, when they exist, are limited in scope and handle Internet-related matters with difficulty.

Tensions are growing as a result of the status quo. This pits national sovereignties against one another and places the responsibility on Internet operators and platforms to decide upon requests from multiple countries. Users fear that their rights will be overlooked in this context.

Collaboration Needed

To handle the jurisdiction issue, a choice has to be made: either we progressively re-align cyberspace along the territorial boundaries of national jurisdictions, or we collectively develop an interoperability framework that allows the coexistence of diverse national laws and norms in these shared cross-border online spaces.

To preserve the transnational nature of cyberspace, we need to collaborate. Only a transparent and accountable governance framework can preserve for the future generations of digital natives the characteristics that have made the global Internet so successful.

Moving Forward

On the basis of this existing groundwork, time has come to strengthen efforts and resources towards the development and application of an operational framework.

Therefore, Internet & Jurisdiction will implement the following roadmap for its activities to contribute to the operationalization of NetMundial’s outcomes:

  • Formation of a balanced multi-stakeholder facilitation group to help the Internet & Jurisdiction process produce a draft framework by the end of 2014
  • Conduct iterative online consultations
  • Use of existing events, including in particular the 2014 Internet Governance Forum, to conduct open consultations allowing all stakeholders to provide ongoing input and feedback into this process
  • Organization of a dedicated conference in early 2015 to present and discuss the draft framework.