From Paris to Ottawa: Progress in the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network

Published on
August 25, 2017

The second Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network will take place in Ottawa in only six months. Stakeholders are at a crossroads: the Internet increasingly underpins every aspect of political, economic and social life, but the necessary frameworks to deal with its transnational nature and address abuses while guaranteeing due process across borders remain to be created. Time has come to accelerate the collective effort to fill this gap and address growing jurisdictional tensions on the internet.

Senior-level representatives will discuss concrete policy options and modalities for joint action on February 26-28, 2018 in Canada. This second Conference of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network has received broad institutional support by the Government of Canada and five important organisations in the field of Internet Governance: the OECD, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Commission and ICANN.

When more than 200 senior-level participants from over 40 countries gathered over three days for the inaugural Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference in November 2016 in Paris, it was the first time that the various stakeholders met at the international level to specifically address the issue of jurisdiction on the internet, a policy need identified by the 2014 NetMundial Roadmap. Representatives of governments, the world’s largest Internet companies, technical operators, civil society groups, top universities and international organisations stressed the urgent need to develop common frameworks and policy standards for how national laws apply on the cross-border Internet and what role each actor should play.

They jointly identified in this innovative multistakeholder format a number of concrete areas of cooperation in each of the three Programs of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network:

  • Data & Jurisdiction: How can transnational data flows and the protection of privacy be reconciled with lawful access requirements to address crime?

  • Content & Jurisdiction: How can we manage globally-available content in light of the diversity of local laws and norms applicable on the internet?

  • Domains & Jurisdiction: How can the neutrality of the internet’s technical layer be preserved when national laws are applied to the Domain Name System?

The key challenges discussed in Paris have been summarized by the Secretariat in Framing Papers for each of the three Programs, which were released after the conference.

The first Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference triggered international attention and raised awareness about the urgency of addressing these issues. “If nothing is done, many who met in Paris worried, the open internet could be a thing of the past within a decade or two. What is needed, they said, is more international cooperation - but not of the old kind”, summarised The Economist.

The Conference was recognized by the 2017 United Nations Secretary-General's Report on progress since the World Summit on the Information Society and the Secretariat of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network was, among others, invited to present the ongoing work to both the G7 Cyber Group in Italy in March 2017, and during the G20 Multistakeholder Conference around the G20 Digital Ministers meeting in Dusseldorf in April 2017.

To implement the roadmap that came out of the Paris conference, the Secretariat has formed three multistakeholder Contact Groups comprised of key entities that actively seek solutions for Data, Content and Domains issues. They have been tasked to map and identify concrete policy options based on the Areas of Cooperation jointly identified by the stakeholders in Paris. Over the course of six months, about 60 representatives from around the world worked through regular virtual meetings with full Secretariat support on avenues for operational solutions. The results of this effort will be released at the end of 2017 ahead of the second Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference to serve there as a discussion basis for stakeholders.

As tensions rise around the world regarding the application and reach of national laws online and the roles and responsibilities of private actors, momentum towards concrete solutions has to be achieved in Ottawa. As the Deputy Secretary General of the OECD Douglas Frantz said at the first Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference: “The internet is borderless, but laws are not- that creates a need for more transnational cooperation. Bottom line, the stakes are high. The question is not should we do something about procedural interoperability, but can we afford not to”. Both business and civil society representatives likewise stressed the need to work on operational solutions.

To achieve these ambitious goals, the Secretariat of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network is supported by a high-level Advisory Group in the preparation the conference to help make it a success. The second Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference in Ottawa will be an opportunity for them to define a roadmap with clear targets and a working methodology to jointly develop policy standards and operational solutions that can be presented by participants at the third Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference in 2019. Stakeholders in the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network together represent a critical mass of actors, uniquely able to provide the necessary impetus. Microsoft’s Senior Director Paul Mitchell called upon participants in Paris that “now is the time to move from discussions and cataloging to implementation and action by leveraging the multistakeholder model”.

Remarkable progress has been achieved already since 2012 in the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network: from highlighting the jurisdiction issue as a common challenge for all stakeholders and achieving a joint framing of the concrete issues at stake that need solutions, to identifying together tangible areas of cooperation and operational policy options. By facilitating through a neutral Secretariat an ongoing and solutions-oriented policy process among stakeholders across the areas of digital economy, human rights and security, as well as by providing a rare opportunity for major processes to present achievements and synchronise, this process not only enhanced policy coherence, but prepared a tangible path towards joint action.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt reminded stakeholders in Paris in November 2016 that how these difficult issues are addressed will shape our digital future. Only through more cooperation between states, companies and civil society will it be possible to develop the necessary frameworks and policy standards that will allow us to maintain the cross-border nature of the Internet for the next generations of Internet users.

The costs of inaction would be dire.