Réinventer l'”annuaire téléphonique” de l’Internet? Institutions, Industries, Infrastructures

Image 2Le 19 Avril 2013, Francesca Musiani, en sa qualité de Yahoo! Fellow à l’Institut d’études diplomatiques de la School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (Washington, DC) a organisé une conférence intitulée «Réinventer l'”annuaire téléphonique” de l’Internet? Institutions, Industries, Infrastructures ». Depuis la création de l’Internet, l’utilisation de noms de domaine, adresses, protocoles et autres infrastructures sous-jacentes au “réseau des réseaux” comme instruments de pouvoir et de gouvernance a joué un rôle crucial dans le maintien de sa stabilité, face à toutes ses évolutions. Dans l’Internet d’aujourd’hui, ces outils sont de plus en plus mis à profit par des entités politiques à des fins différents de ceux pour lesquels ils ont été initialement conçus. Cette conférence, dont on présente un compte-rendu détaillé en anglais, a abordé plusieurs thèmes chers à ADAM dans son exploration des implications politiques, sociales et techniques du “turn to infrastructure” dans la gouvernance de l’Internet. Les participants à cette conférence se sont concentrés sur un aspect particulièrement controversé de l’infrastructure Internet: le système de noms de domaine (DNS), ou l'”annuaire téléphonique” de l’Internet. Une version PDF du rapport est disponible sur le site de l’Institut d’études diplomatiques.

Reinventing the Internet’s Phone Book? Institutions, Industry and Infrastructure

A Conference Account

Francesca Musiani (2012-13 Yahoo! Fellow in Residence, ISD, Georgetown University)

With the collaboration of Chris Haley & Allison Maranuk (2012-13 Yahoo! Junior Fellows, MSFS, Georgetown University)

Note to the Reader: This account is intended as a follow-up resource for conference participants, for individuals who expressed interest but were unable to attend the conference, and more broadly for people interested in Internet governance, particularly DNS governance, issues. While we have paid a great deal of attention in being as accurate as possible, in no case portions of this text should be considered as direct quotes from the speakers’ remarks. Thank you to all the speakers and moderators for sharing their insights, and to Chris and Allison for the diligent note-taking. I take full responsibility for whatever inaccuracy is left. FM

On April 19, 2013, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service hosted a conference entitled “Reinventing the Internet’s Phone Book? Institutions, Industry and Infrastructure”. Since the Internet’s foundation, the use of domain names, addresses, protocols, and other underlying infrastructures as instruments of power and governance has been crucial in maintaining stability throughout its evolution. In today’s Internet landscape, these tools are increasingly being leveraged by political entities for purposes other than those for which they were designed. This conference set out to explore the political, social, and technical implications of this tendency, by focusing on a particularly controversial aspect of Internet infrastructure: the Domain Name System (DNS), or the Internet’s “phone book.” Three organizations and institutions co-sponsored the event: the Yahoo! Fund on Communications Technology, International Values, and the Global Internet; American University’s School of International Service; and the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet).


Internet governance by infrastructure: the case of the Domain Name System

Francesca Musiani, Yahoo! Fellow in Residence at the ISD for 2012-13 and the event’s host, first introduced the topic of the day’s discussion. This required, initially, to briefly touch upon the definition of Internet governance, which she described, based on the 2005 definition by the Working Group on Internet Governance, as the development and application, by relevant actors in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. This definition, despite its inclusiveness, has been contested by differing groups across political and ideological lines. One of the main debates concerns the authority and participation of certain actors. In particular, the role of governments is central and ambiguous, and other aspects of internet governance are controlled by transnational organizations. One should be careful about simplifying ideological extremes in discussing IG: the public is sometimes under the impression, fostered by media, that IG is entirely performed by a handful of institutions – which is not the case. All of this often leads to neglect or disregard what is, instead, a crucial aspect of Internet governance: there are a number of components of the Internet’s infrastructure and technical architecture in the design of which are embedded, to some extent, arrangements of governance. These are technologies and processes beneath the layer of content and inherently designed to keep the Internet operational: Internet Protocol addresses are an example, and there are many more, but the one the conference wishes to address is the Domain Name System, or DNS.

The DNS translates between alphanumeric domain names and their associated IP addresses necessary for routing packets of information over the Internet. For this reason, it is oftentimes called the Internet’s “phone book”. It is a wide database management system, arranged hierarchically but distributed globally, across countless servers. The Internet’s root name servers contain a master file known as the root zone file, listing the IP addresses and associated names of the official DNS servers for all top‐level domains (TLDs). The management of the DNS has always been a central task of Internet governance, and ICANN is ultimately responsible for managing the assignment of domain names (delegated through Internet registrars), and for controlling the root server system and the root zone file.

There have been a number of controversies in this area, involving institutional and international power struggles over DNS control, and issues of legitimacy, democracy, and jurisdiction. Notably, debates have addressed the historical ties between ICANN and the United States government in face of increasing internet globalization; this controversy continues to be a heated topic in Internet governance discussions. There are additional policy implications in the DNS: it was originally restricted to ASCII characters, precluding the possibility of domain names in many language scripts such as Arabic, Chinese or Russian. Internationalized domain names (IDNs) have now been introduced. Furthermore, in 2011, ICANN’s board voted to end most restrictions on the generic top-level domain names (gTLD) from the 22 currently available.Companies and organizations will now be able to choose essentially arbitrary top-level Internet domains, with implications for consumers’ relationships to brands and ways to find information on the Internet. Further DNS issues concern the relationship between domain names and freedom of expression, security, and trademark dispute resolution for domain names.

While this covers quite a lot of ground already, this conference aimed at taking one further step. In recent years, we witness a number of (more or less successful) attempts, by political and private entities, to co-opt infrastructures of internet governance for purposes other than the ones they were initially designed for. Not only is there governance of infrastructure, but governance is carried out by infrastructure… using infrastructure in “creative ways”, so to speak. As DeNardis (2011) explains: “Forces of globalization and technological change have diminished the capacity of sovereign nation states and media content producers to directly control information flows. This loss of control over content and the failure of laws and markets to regain this control have redirected political and economic battles into the realm of infrastructure.” Examples of how content mediation controversies have shifted into the realm of Internet governance infrastructure can be found, for example, in the intentional outages of basic telecommunications and Internet infrastructures, enacted by governments via private actors, whether via protocols, application blocking, or termination of access services. The government-initiated Internet outages in Egypt and Libya, in the face of revolution and uprisings, have illustrated this and may have set a dangerous precedent.

However, the domain name system is perhaps, nowadays, the best illustration of this “governance by infrastructure” tendency. Domain name seizures that use the domain name system to redirect queries away from an entire web site, rather than just the infringing content, have been considered as a suitable means of intellectual property rights enforcement. DNS-based enforcement was also at the heart of controversies and Internet boycotts over the legislative efforts to pass the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA). Governance by infrastructure enacted by private actors was also visible during the WikiLeaks saga, when Amazon and EveryDNS blocked Wikileaks’ web hosting and domain name resolution services. The conference addresses these controversies, with the aim of understanding the extent to which matters of Internet governance using infrastructure entail not only issues of economic freedom – but of Internet freedoms.


The DNS today: enforcement, security and mobilizations

The first panel, moderated by Derrick Cogburn, Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University, featured panelists Steve Crocker, CEO, Shinkuro, Inc. & Chair, ICANN Board, Matthew Schruers, CCIA & Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University, Scott McCormick, Consultant, McCormick ICT International, and Luke Pelican, Consultant, Ammori Group.

Dr. Steve Crocker, an internet pioneer and author of the first Request for Comments of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), has been involved in the development of internet since its startup in the late 60s and 70s. His opening remarks, he suggested, would probably be a counterpoint to the introductory talk and most of the day’s discussions.

It is interesting to see how attractive the idea of Internet governance has become to such diverse groups, and the range of issues it covers. It could be useful to ask again the question: what is it that has to be governed? There are three main sets of issues.

First of all, we all have a shared interest in the system. A threat to its security is bad for the public as a whole, and maintaining operation of it is important to everyone: the system has to continue to work. Contrary to popular belief, many threats are in fact not malicious, they are accidents or otherwise caused by the overloading of the system or some of its components, and its disruption via single or multiple points of failure. Secondly, some coordination of scarce resources is needed; however, the extent to which there are scarce resources on the Net is, in fact, debatable. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for maintaining unique identifiers in the domain name space. Originally there were 4 domains, and eventually, it was decided to attach human-friendly names to those numbers. In the beginning, the majority of the connections were in the US, with only a  few international connections; since the beginning, however, there was the idea of a system as distributed as possible and over time, pressures increased to expand it. Originally, there were about 4 billion IP addresses available. In the DNS’s early days, it was thought that this number would last forever – now, the IPv4 system is close to depletion. We will now see a rise of the IPv6 system, which will take some transition, and in this transition period, there may be some issues as IPv4 and IPv6 are not born interoperable. Thirdly, some governance is needed for the suppression of undesired behavior, from impolite speech to identify theft, from espionage to extortion and of course, child pornography. This is a controversial area, of course, because “one man’s freedom is another man’s pain”.

As the Internet began to grow, there was some conversation about who would be in charge of all this. First, Jon Postel single-handedly managed the system, simply updating the hosts.txt directory when needed. Of course, this quickly became too much, so ICANN was created and incorporated as a non-profit in California. It has relations with the US government due to the renewal of its contract with the Commerce Department to perform the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. Today, Internet governance brings in a lot of people who want to use the Internet as a pawn in their own objectives, but are not acting in the internet’s best interest. What has made the Internet blossom is to make it as unrestricted as possible (in stark contrast to the telephone system), leaving innovation at the edges, and the same principle applies to the DNS. As there is no technical reason to either change the structure or to prohibit additional domain name systems from being created, ICANN’s last “big decision” has been to lift most restrictions on gTLDs and opening up an application process.

Law scholar Matthew Schruers centered his remarks on the relationship between copyright and Internet architecture. As the internet expands, the scope of government power is far more limited. Governments found it easier to regulate information intermediaries, rather than the source itself. The scope of the power of the government to regulate the Internet is more about its ability to regulate the intermediaries rather than the specific sources of information. There are four regulation forces, or tools: law, norms, architecture and markets. We are increasingly witnessing attempts to regulate architecture in order to regulate something else. SOPA and PIPA were the extension of Congress strategies to regulate intermediaries, and this included the DNS. Within these debates, and given the very different levels of technical competence on the Hill, the phone book model became really important, because it could clearly convey the idea that these laws were like removing pages from the phone book. As we will see later, SOPA and PIPA did not come into force because of widespread public outcry. These law projects would have allowed law enforcement agencies to seize domain names as if they were physical property; by removing the domain name, users would still be able to get to the website by using the IP address, but wouldn’t be able to get to it by typing in the alphanumeric address – and for most people this is a big enough obstacle.

The way in which architecture regulates is not the same way in which law regulates. Norms for a particular type of conduct are very fluid, in terms of the community and how it applies; laws enforce themselves in a leaky way (especially IP law), and they need to be enforced by a judicial system. Architectural enforcement is, in this sense, “perfect”: with laws, compliance is voluntary, we comply with them by choice; while with architecture-based enforcement, compliance is coerced, there is no choice. Finally, law is inherently nuanced, and there are exceptions to it; architecture is absolute, it allows a possibility or it doesn’t, and there is no capacity for exceptions. The US Government is an example of this: recently, it used an intermediary, Go Daddy, to seize domain names in Spain; in Spain, this was lawful but in the US it was not. Another example is the Dajaz1 website, which sometimes let out pre-releases of songs (often leaked to the website by the music promoters), so the RIAA urged the US government to seize the domain via the Utah-based Fast Domain, Inc. It turned out that the legal basis, in both of these cases, was not sound, and the sites were reinstated, but in the end, free speech was suppressed a priori for two years.

Luke Pelican introduced the SOPA/PIPA controversy and the role of civil society in successfully putting a stop to the legislation. Both bills (the acronyms stand respectively for Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP, itself an acronym of Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) were aimed at combating digital piracy, and presented to the public as legislation that would help protect US jobs and industries. Critics, on the other hand, said these bills undermined Internet freedom and threatened free speech, and could actually harm the US economy, as startup companies dependent on user-created content were more likely to be sued under the legislation.

Further complicating the controversy were challenges in explaining some of the technical problems to the general public. Companies, public interest groups, and technical experts reviewed the technical provisions in the bills and raised their concerns publicly, concerns which other groups turned into meaningful action. Fight for the Future, an activist group, led a campaign against a related copyright bill in October 2011, arguing that if the bill became a law, then people like Justin Bieber could have been sent to jail instead of becoming musical successes. The “Bieber in Jail” campaign received a lot of attention from various media groups and shows like the Colbert Report. During American Censorship Day, a protest of SOPA and PIPA held on November 16, 2011, several advocacy groups framed the issue of these bills as the imposition of an American censorship system rather than about the problem of piracy. The blogging platform Tumblr auto-censored its site as part of this awareness campaign and encouraged their users to contact Congress. Overall, the American Censorship Day protests resulted in 84,000 phone calls and over a million emails to Congress, one of the biggest public outcries over an Internet-related issue. It seemed to be a forgone conclusion that these bills would pass, so, on January 18, 2012, over 115,000 websites joined in a massive web “blackout” as part of a concerted effort to stop the legislation. DNS blocking provisions were included both in SOPA and in PIPA; eventually, the sponsor of the SOPA said he would remove these provisions, after talking with technical experts. The SOPA/PIPA case is likely to have encouraged more people, including lawmakers and regulators, to learn some of the technical aspects of the Internet’s daily workings, and have a better understanding of how this facility we use daily works in practice. And this is a positive outcome that exceeds the stalling of the bill.


New actors in Internet governance: privatization, infrastructure, alternatives

The afternoon panel, moderated by Nanette Levinson, Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University, broadened the discussion to evolutions in Internet governance and actor participation in it, from the private sector’s increasingly crucial role in content regulation, and in placing restrictions on freedom of expression, to peer production collectives proposing “creative disruption” as a response to infrastructure-based enforcement. The discussion featured panelists Fiona Alexander, Associate Administrator, Office of International Affairs, National Telecommunications and Information Administration; Matthew Hindman, Associate Professor, George Washington University; Francesca Musiani, Yahoo! Fellow, ISD, and Shane Tews, Chief Policy Officer, 463 Communications.

Francesca Musiani, Yahoo! Fellow at the ISD, presented preliminary findings from her current research project. She argued that, in a discussion about new actors and changing balances in IG, it was worth including a discussion about the people who think about “second-degree” governance by infrastructure: people who, instead of addressing the DNS in its current form, look for ways to build an alternative one.

Between 2010 and 2011, the WikiLeaks case prompts a new wave of discussions about a “new competing root-server”, able to rival ICANN. An alternative domain name registry is envisaged, a decentralized, peer-to-peer (P2P) system in which volunteer users would each run a portion of the DNS on their own computer, so that any domain made temporarily inaccessible may still be accessible on the alternative registry. Instead of simply adding a number of DNS options to the ones already accepted and administrated by ICANN and its registrars, this project would try to supersede ICANN in favor of a distributed, user infrastructure-based model. There are a number of issues and open questions with this project. There are two fundamental operations that are served by the DNS: name registration and name resolution, that are usually though of jointly, but one could foresee replacing just one of them. The function that a P2P DNS project would be tackling (alternative root? .p2p top-level domain?) needs to be stabilized. P2P architecture does not allow for simultaneous optimization of all needed features, but calls for compromises. Finally, even if the alternative takes hold, a long co-existence should be expected.

There are social and political conditions of feasibility for radical alternatives such as P2P DNS. In the case that any of the decentralized DNS projects matures to the stage of relevant user appropriation, the crucial issue may become trust of users in other users: users will need to rely on other peers in the network to direct them, and it is one thing to trust OpenDNS, Google etc. but completely another thing to do the same with a random computer. And finally, it is a matter of governance: the original questions that cause P2P DNS proposals to proliferate are deeply political: they are about control, freedom, and censorship. Technical solutions to controversial issues that have a political component to them should, at some point, be accompanied by evolutions of institutions, lest the governance of the Internet be reduced to a war of surveillance and counter-surveillance technologies, of infrastructure cooptation and counter-cooptation.


The “Turn to Infrastructure” and the future of IG

In the conference’s final keynote, Laura DeNardis, Associate Professor in the School of Communication at American University, tied together the themes discussed during the day, placing particular emphasis on recently raised concerns about the future of Internet governance, and on the need to preserve interoperability. Most of these issues are discussed in her book “The Global War for Internet Governance”, forthcoming with Yale University Press. The book describes the different layers of how internet governance works; outlines the current state of global debates, and the balance of global political and economic powers related to Internet governance, civil liberties and national security, innovation policies and the preservation of the decentralized nature of the Internet.

Internet governance functions, even though technologically complex and often outside of public view, are becoming political proxies for global political struggles and conflicting values. In this context, the DNS is one important (and relatively well-working) component of a broader Internet global ecosystem. The very definition of Internet governance is contested but it is generally referred to as the design and administration of the technologies necessary to keep the Internet operational, as well as the debates around those technologies, such as critical Internet resources, standards, and protocols needed to operate the network. There is an intersection between Internet architecture and content mediation; people’s Internet access is cut off (or access restrictions are discussed) to control content sharing and communication. The evolutions in Internet connectivity, a highly private area mostly under the control of Internet companies and their agreements, raise a number of concerns in terms of stability and censorship. The conference has addressed three main themes.

First, “arrangements of technical architecture are arrangements of power” And “Infrastructure is never just infrastructure,” and is also about some understanding of complex technical systems such as the DNS; large-scale debates and mobilization, such as  the SOPA and PIPA debates; the technical complexity is often paralleled by the complexity of institutions; political structures are often embedded technological hybrids. As science and technology studies Susan Leigh Star once said, we need to invert the common sense notion of infrastructure, taking what has often been seen as ‘boring’ and behind the scenes, bringing it to the floor. Internet governance scholars such as the organizers of this conference, all involved in GigaNet, embrace this perspective in relation to Internet governance.

Second, information technology infrastructure is becoming a proxy for power control, a move that is bound to have a number of unintended consequences. Corporate media producers have lost power over the monetization of their content and are looking to infrastructure as a means of reacquiring that power; some global choke points, despite the Internet’s overall decentralization, do exist and the extent to which they are subject to “stress fractures” deserves close consideration. While these control points – some virtual, some material, most often a hybrid of both – do exist, there is often not enough public understanding of how technology works.

Third, the multi-stakeholder discussion often reveals its limits, mostly in contexts of privatization of internet governance. Much Internet governance is being done through new forms, not governments; examples are regional internet registries and private telecom companies managing the Internet’s backbone. Privatized areas are enacting policies and we are often moving from governments to private sector as Internet governance’s crucial actor. From “delegated censorship” to “delegated law enforcement”, the spotlight is on private entities.

These three themes raise the question of what are the challenges to the future of Internet governance, and therefore, to Internet freedom. First, there needs to be a focus on issues of interoperability, which is easy to take for granted.  In many ways, we have more connectivity than ever. But there is not interoperability between social media platforms, Internet voice software, or cloud computing services in the same way there is in email or web services. For example, Skype, while an excellent application, is based in part on proprietary approaches. There is a shift from an open, unified web in which the publication of open standards has helped foster innovation and compatibility among products to an environment that de-prioritizes interoperability and places constraints on interconnection. Constraints on interoperability are constraints on innovation itself.

The DNS is a foundational technical system necessary for the Internet’s operation, handling billions of queries per day, and it is increasingly used for content blocking functions for which it was not designed. If DNS query resolution is not universally consistent, this may have serious implications for the universality and stability of the global Internet.

To conclude, the Internet is governed while being in a state of constant flux, and a very complex system; its governance entails issues of both private control and civil liberties; it requires technical design as well as new institutional reforms; this governance is not fixed, anymore than technical architecture is fixed. The consequences of changes to this system should be carefully examined as we move forward.



Francesca Musiani

Chercheuse postdoctorale, MINES ParisTech Yahoo! Fellow in Residence, Georgetown University

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Les nouveaux gTLDs: le défi de l’Europe

Cet article, en anglais, a également paru sur l’Internet Policy Review le 6 juin 2013. Merci à Frédéric Dubois, Uta Meier-Hahn et deux relecteurs pour leurs commentaires et retours.

New global top-level domain names: Europe, the challenger

06 Jun 2013 by Francesca Musiani

“There are roughly two dozens now, but soon, there could be hundreds[1],” writes the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation responsible for managing and coordinating the system of unique identifiers and names on the internet – on its webpage dedicated to the creation and forthcoming implementation of the new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs).

gTLDs are the highest level of domain names in the domain name system (DNS), including .com, .net and .org; their number has been restricted to twenty-two for several years, and ICANN has implemented several restrictions on the ways in which they are operated. Thanks to the new gTLDs programme, businesses and organisations are now able to apply for their own customised top-level domain names, thereby greatly expanding their current number. ICANN’s move is the most recent controversial one in a subfield of internet governance, the management of the Domain Name System (DNS) of the “network of networks”, which is already rife with political and economic controversies. What are the implications of this “turn” to new gTLDs? This article attempts to outline them, and, it addresses the impact of the new gTLDs programme on Europe’s action-taking in the internet governance realm. The article also considers the likely impact of the new programme on ICANN’s governance and weight vis-à-vis other important internet governance actors.

The Domain Name System and ICANN: an internet governance “hot potato”

The Domain Name System of the internet establishes the domain name space in the same way that the Internet Protocol establishes the Internet address space[2]. The DNS translates between alphanumeric domain names and their associated internet protocol (IP) addresses necessary for routing packets of information over the internet. For this reason, it is oftentimes called the internet’s “phone book”.

The DNS, through this address resolution process, handles billions of queries per day. In a very simplified way, the DNS can be described as a wide database management system, arranged hierarchically but distributed globally, across countless servers. The internet’s root name servers contain a master file, the root zone file, listing the IP addresses and associated names of the official DNS servers for all top‐level domains. The management of the DNS has always been a central task of internet governance, and ICANN is ultimately responsible for managing the assignment of domain names (delegated through internet registrars), and for controlling the root server system and the root zone file.

There have been a number of controversies in this area, that continue to this day, involving institutional and international power struggles over DNS control, and issues of legitimacy, democracy, and jurisdiction. Notably, debates have addressed the extent to which the privileged historical ties between ICANN and the United States government continue to exist, despite the  increasing internationalisation of the internet, which may call for a more prominent role of other countries in ICANN governance; this controversy continues to be a heated topic in internet governance discussions. There are additional policy implications in the DNS: it was originally restricted to ASCII characters, precluding the possibility of domain names in many language scripts such as Arabic, Chinese or Russian. Internationalised domain names (IDNs) have been introduced in May 2010. Further DNS issues concern the relationship between domain names and freedom of expression, security, and trademark dispute resolution for domain names.

The DNS is perhaps, nowadays, the best illustration of governments’ and companies’ tendency to govern or manage the internet by co-opting infrastructures of internet governance for purposes other than the ones they were initially designed for[3]. Domain name seizures that use the DNS to redirect queries away from an entire web site, rather than just the infringing content, have been considered as a suitable means of intellectual property rights enforcement – to be carried out by internet registries, internet registrars, or even DNS operators such as internet service providers. DNS-based enforcement was at the heart of controversies and internet boycotts over the legislative efforts to pass the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) (Ammori, 2011). Governance by infrastructure enacted through the DNS by private actors was also visible during the WikiLeaks saga, when Amazon and EveryDNS blocked Wikileaks’ web hosting and domain name resolution services[4].

Generic top-level domain names

Top-level domains are the highest level of domains in the DNS,  installed in the root zone of the name space; generic TLDs, a category of these highest-level domains[5], are familiar to the public as widely used internet addresses’ suffixes such as .com, .net, and .org. They can be either unsponsored – domains that operate under policies established by ICANN “on behalf” of the global internet community – or sponsored, proposed and funded by private agencies or organisations that establish and enforce the rules restricting the use of the domain. The number of gTLDs has been slightly increasing since ICANN’s inception, but has stabilised at twenty-two for several years.

Over the years, the demand for more gTLDs has been constant, just as has ICANN’s consideration of many proposals, by different actors, for practical ways to go about their implementation. These proposals range from adoption of policies for unrestricted gTLDs to chartered gTLDs for specialised uses by dedicated organisations. ICANN’s new gTLD programme, approved in June 2011 under the banner of “promot[ing] competition in the domain name market while ensuring internet security and stability[6]”, ends most restrictions on gTLDs and allows businesses and other organisations to apply for their own customised top-level domain names. This constitutes the first significant expansion of the system in existence today, and has the potential of carrying important implications for the future of the DNS, if not in the way the internet operates, in terms of potential changes in “the way people find information on the internet or how businesses plan and structure their online presence[7]”.

The unveiling of the new gTLDs programme

Roughly a year after its announcement of the programme, ICANN held a press conference in London to mark the “Reveal Day[8],” during which its Senior Vice President Kurt Pritz noted that over 500 companies and organisations had applied for nearly 2,000 TLDs. The announcement was not exempt from controversy, for a number of reasons. United States-based organisations and companies accounted for more than half of the applications, with the domain name registry Donuts applying for more than three times the number of gTLDs as the next largest applicant[9]. This US focus is possibly attributable to an issue of cost: ICANN set the fee for each TLD application at $185,000, while noting that financial assistance to organisations that wanted to register for TLDs but could not meet the applications fees was provided, and the geographical spread was, in fact, wider than it expected – ICANN’s CEO, Rod Beckstrom, was quoted as saying that “To have 17 applications from Africa is actually encouraging, it’s a significant expansion[10]”.

While emphasising the positive side of the programme’s goals (“enhancing competition and consumer choice, and enabling the benefits of innovation[11]”, in addition to increased control, innovative business models, and even community engagement and geographic celebration[12]), ICANN had been adamant about the responsibilities that applying for a new gTLD would entail. These include the preservation of some financial stability over a minimum of three years, compliance with all the obligations of the registry agreement with ICANN (with enhanced restrictions when running a community-based TLD), and employment of highly skilled technical operators. Thus, ICANN compared these responsibilities to those of Verisign[13], the American company currently operating two of the internet’s thirteen root name servers: “When you apply for a new gTLD you are applying to run a registry business. You will be responsible for a critical and highly visible piece of internet infrastructure. Just as Verisign is responsible for all the domain names registered in the .com top-level domain, so you would be responsible for all the domain names registered in your .something gTLD[14].” Additional risks were identified in unforeseen competition from unexpected sectors, and the “uncharted territory” that the new sector, with its lack of already-tested and proven business models, could entail for its pioneers.[15]

New gTLDs are just around the corner?

The first implementation within the new gTLDs programme – i.e., the actual insertion of a new TLD into the internet root to render them operational – may be happening within a few months. July 1st, 2013, has been proposed as the earliest possible date and a pilot program is currently underway. This is earlier than what had previously been anticipated, and for applicants as well as some users, it has been welcomed news; however, all dates remain tentative. In particular, ICANN has underlined – at the very moment in which a March briefing by the organisation was announcing the schedule of the first release – that priority will be given to its core mission of preserving the technical stability of the internet’s naming and addressing system, which seems to imply that the first implementation will be delayed if its broad impact cannot be thoroughly assessed or raises concerns. IT consultant and former ICANN member, Stephane Van Gelder, noted that “Security and Stability Reviews are ongoing as the program ramps up towards launch, with constant monitoring of the potential technical impact of new gTLDs going live. This will only happen once ICANN is satisfied that doing so carries no technical risk to the Internet[16].”

Earlier this year, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee – the body that provides advice and input from governments to ICANN on issues of public policy, especially where there may be an interaction between ICANN’s activities and national laws, or international agreements – gave the ICANN Board its thoughts on the first batch of applications. While two applications received outright objections[17], governmental advice came for the most part in the form of “safeguards”. The Governmental Advisory Committee noted that specific categories of TLDs require additional protections or restrictions to be implemented; for example, it asked for the singular and plural versions of the same basic string not to be considered separately (e.g., .game and .games). It also requested that the signing of any new gTLD contract be dependent upon the completion of the new registrar contract currently being finalised[18].

European perplexities on content and procedures

The European Commission (EC) is not elated by the ways in which the program is being carried out, and has expressed perplexities on both the content of some applications and the procedures with which ICANN has handled government objections to new gTLDs[19]. On November 29, 2012, the EC, in the person of Linda Corugedo Steneberg, Director at the Communications Networks, Content and Technology Directorate, issued a letter to ICANN[20] with a list of 58 applications deemed problematic, including .sex, .sexy, .free, .green, .eco, .health, .doctor, .baby, .sale and .security[21].

However, the letter also pointed out that the EC’s initiative should not be considered as an Early Warning, i.e., a notice from ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee members that an application is seen as potentially sensitive or problematic by one or more governments[22]; instead, the listing of a new gTLD was to be considered as a signal that further discussions between the EC and the relevant applicant were necessary. The letter has also been interpreted as an implicit critique of ICANN’s procedures, pointing out that even if the Governmental Advisory Committee does not officially advise against these applications, the EC may decide to take other action against them: “the fact that the letter […] explicitly states that the warnings are definitely not official Early Warnings […] sends a worrying signal that the EC is not in the mood to play by ICANN’s rules[23].” In addition, the EC expressed its disappointment about the limited number of applications coming from developing countries, making explicit that “this is clearly an area where ICANN needs to re-focus its efforts[24].”

In the larger context of the relationship between sovereign governments and ICANN, the European Commission’s action is considered quite significant, because by explicitly opting out of the Early Warning process and naming its own list of potentially problematic gTLD applications, the EC is bypassing the Governmental Advisory Committee as ICANN’s prescribed process for governments and intergovernmental bodies to provide input on domain name policy matters. FairWinds Partners, a digital strategy consulting firm, interestingly concludes in this regard that “the European Commission brought new gTLD applications into the legal realm of legislation and policy, quietly implying that ICANN has no jurisdiction in such matters. The European Commission has sent the message that it is not within ICANN’s purview to oversee issues that impact a nation’s (or in this case, a union of nations) economy, culture, freedoms of speech and expression, or industry regulations – this power rests with the sovereign governments of those nations[25].” FairWinds further states that, in addition to echoing past criticisms of ICANN processes, the EC’s action “raises issues of adjudication: if other governments follow the European Commission’s lead or even take a step further by deeming whether or not a new gTLD is allowed to exist independently of ICANN’s assessment, who holds the ultimate authority to determine the fate of the gTLD, ICANN or the government?[26]” The letter of the EC could set a critical precedent.

ICANN weighing even more in the internet governance arena?

In a number of ways, the new gTLD programme makes ICANN even more central an actor in internet governance. By framing the programme as a promoter of competition in the domain name market, while at the same time seeking to maintain internet security and stability, ICANN’s activities and policies also have the potential, as the organisation itself underlines, to influence the way internet users find information online, or the ways in which companies arrange and display their online presence.

As a consequence, ICANN is now, more than ever, under scrutiny of international actors, of which the European Commission is a notable example. Despite claims by ICANN that “this is a not-for-profit initiative [and if] the fee collection exceeds ICANN’s expenses, the community will be consulted as to how that excess should be used[27],” there are concerns that “what can’t be overlooked today is the fact that [the new gTLDs’] unveiling will be most beneficial for big business. Companies that don’t find themselves on or anywhere near the Fortune 500 list probably don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars set aside for a rainy day, especially if that day approaches but the forecast is mixed[28]”. The fee set by ICANN may discourage most smaller businesses for applying, while it will not be a major issue for bigger players.

Moreover, the argument is made that the actual implementation of the new gTLDs, that ICANN is pushing for July, may be premature, causing problems for the very internet security and DNS stability that ICANN is claiming to preserve. The concern comes from one of ICANN’s long-time supporters, Verisign. The company notes in a recent report[29] the little consideration ICANN has given to registry operators that will need to prepare for the changes, including dealing with security implications that may affect the working of the whole internet[30]. Verisign appears to be implying that ICANN may be using the (excessively?) speedy implementation of the new gTLDs programme to reinforce its own powerful position in the internet governance landscape – and, to pursue this primarily political objective, may maintain this “neck-breaking” schedule to the detriment of internet stability, if necessary. Will the implementation of the new gTLDs reassure those who, as Verisign, feel that the programme displays an increasingly “ICANN-centric role[31]” in the governance of a critical area of internet infrastructure? Only the close future will tell, but one thing is certain: the new gTLD programme has important implications for both the stability and security of the internet’s infrastructure, and the ways in which users experience the internet daily – from online search habits to e-commerce. As such, it should be implemented gradually and cautiously; ICANN has fifteen years of experience on which it can build to ensure that this is the case.


[1] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program

[2] Laura DeNardis, “The Emerging Field of Internet Governance”, in William Dutton (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 [pre-print version available here http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1678343].

[3] The author has organised a recent conference on the topic at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, http://internetphonebook.eventbrite.com/

[4] Cfr. my recent article on the Internet Policy Review, http://policyreview.info/articles/analysis/dangerous-liaisons-governments-companies-and-internet-governance

[5] Another one, perhaps the most popular among internet users, is ccTLD or “country code top-level domain”, including .us, .de and .fr.

[6] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/customer-service/faqs/faqs-en

[7] Id.

[8] http://www.icann.org/en/news/press/kits/reveal-day-13jun12-en.htm

[9] Natasha Lomas (April 9, 2013). Donuts, A Register for New gTLDs, Raises Tens of Billions in Series B So It can Bid for More .Names. TechCrunch, http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/09/donuts-series-b/

[10] Ingrid Lunden (June 13, 2012). Icann Applicants For New TLDs Revealed As Part Of ‘Reveal Day’: The Full List. TechCrunch, http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/13/icann-applicants-for-new-tlds-revealed-the-full-list/

[11] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program

[12] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/benefits-risks

[13] http://www.verisigninc.com/

[14] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/benefits-risks

[15] Id.

[16] Stéphane Van Gelder (27 March 2013). First new gTLDs could be seen as early as July. NetNames, http://www.netnames.com/blog/2013/03/first-new-gtlds-could-be-seen-as-early-as-july/

[17] The two are .gcc (contested by some of the Gulf countries, claiming similarity between this string and the Gulf Cooperation Council) and .africa, submitted by DotConnectAfrica (for lack of official support by governments from the region, given to another identical application)

[18] ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (11 April 2013). GAC Communique – Beijing, People’s Republic of China. https://gacweb.icann.org/download/attachments/27132037/Beijing%20Communique%20april2013_Final.pdf

[19] Kevin Murphy (November 27, 2012). Europe rejects ICANN’s authority as it warns of problems with 58 new gTLDs. Domain Incite, http://domainincite.com/11130-europe-rejects-icanns-authority-as-it-warns-of-problems-with-58-new-gtlds

[20] European Commission (November 29, 2012). Interim position of the European Commission concerning the applications for New gTLDs. http://www.icann.org/en/news/correspondence/steneberg-to-icann-board-27nov12-en

[21] Murphy, ibid.

[22] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/gac-early-warning

[23] Murphy, ibid.

[24] European Commission, ibid. and David Goldstein (December 4, 2012) Europe Lists gTLD Applications of Concern Plus Disappointment in Developing Countries Applications (http://www.domainpulse.com/2012/12/04/eu-gtld-applications-concern/)

[25] FairWinds Partners (December 3, 2012). As the GAC’s World Turns. gTLD Strategy, http://www.gtldstrategy.com/policy-updates/as-the-gac%E2%80%99s-world-turns

[26] Id.

[27] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/customer-service/faqs/faqs-en

[28] Jonah Berger (29 June 2011). ICANN Approves New gTLDs: SEO Implications. http://blog.performics.com/icann-approves-new-gtlds-seo-implications/

[29] United States Security and Exchange Commission (March 28, 2013). Form 8-K Current Report, Verisign, Inc. https://investor.verisign.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1014473-13-12&CIK=1014473

[30] Id. and Loek Essers & Grant Gross (April 2, 2013). Groups say ICANN unprepared for gTLD launch. InfoWorld, http://www.infoworld.com/t/internet/groups-say-icann-unprepared-gtld-launch-215675

[31] Id.

Francesca Musiani

Chercheuse postdoctorale, MINES ParisTech Yahoo! Fellow in Residence, Georgetown University

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Freifunk [vidéo] – créateur de réseaux MESH

Freifunk, le software-communauté créateur (allemand) de réseaux décentralisés MESH revient sur son fonctionnement et son “projet” dans une vidéo très intéressante à visionner:

Voir aussi: http://wiki.freifunk.net/Kategorie:Fran%C3%A7ais

François Huguet

PhD student in Communication Studies at the Codesign Lab & Media Studies at Telecom ParisTech. Supervisor: Annie Gentès / Co-supervisor: Jérôme Denis

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La richesse des communs

wealth_of_the_commons_book_cover_260Est-il temps de penser à la “richesse des communs” plutot qu’à leur tragédie? C’est l’argument des soixante-treize auteurs d’un volume ainsi intitulé, librement disponible en ligne. De l’adoption des communs en tant que nouveau paradigme, jusqu’aux politiques nécessaires à son explicitation dans la pratique, ce livre se propose comme un guide à une autre “manière d’organiser le monde”, capable de reconfigurer à la fois le marché et les institutions.

Francesca Musiani

Chercheuse postdoctorale, MINES ParisTech Yahoo! Fellow in Residence, Georgetown University

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Terranet “Be the network” (vidéo)

Nous avions évoqué le projet Terranet il y a quelques temps. Nous venons de découvrir leur nouveau clip de présentation qui explique la démarche et le fonctionnement de cette technologie. La vidéo est très intéressante et ses protagonistes prononcent des mots qui nous intéressent particulièrement (“local network”, “Be the network”, “existing infrastructures”, “less infrastructure”, “access”, “environnement”, “mesh gate”, “digital divide” etc.)…

Découvrez la vidéo:



François Huguet

PhD student in Communication Studies at the Codesign Lab & Media Studies at Telecom ParisTech. Supervisor: Annie Gentès / Co-supervisor: Jérôme Denis

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SMSI+10: l’auto-éloge du “multi-parties prenantes” dans la gouvernance de l’Internet

Cet article, en anglais, est également paru sur l’Internet Policy Review le 12 avril 2013. Merci à Frédéric Dubois, Uta Meier-Hahn et deux relecteurs pour leurs commentaires et leurs retours.


WSIS+10: the self-praising feast of multi-stakeholderism in internet governance

12 Apr 2013 by Francesca Musiani

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), two United Nations-sponsored conferences about information, communication and the establishment of a 21st century “information society”, took place in 2003 in Geneva and in 2005 in Tunis. “We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva […] declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society [1],” began the Geneva Declaration of Principles, one of WSIS’ founding documents, setting the foundations for a “multi-stakeholder” approach to global governance of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Ten years after the Geneva meeting, the first review meeting of the Summit, nicknamed WSIS +10, was held in February 2013 at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris, France. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova inaugurated the meeting with the following words: “New technologies are opening tremendous possibilities for mutual understanding, for creating and sharing knowledge – everyone, everywhere, should have the skills and opportunities to participate in building this inclusive, knowledge society[2].” With the exception of the shift from “information society” to “knowledge society”, a change we will come back to later in the article, not a lot appears to have changed content-wise in the ten years of existence of the WSIS process. Nonetheless, the WSIS+10 review meeting has provided an interesting occasion for scholars of internet governance arrangements like this author, who has started her career as a researcher investigating the WSIS process and its offspring, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). It has been an occasion to assess, with more knowledge and experience at our disposal, the present state of what was ten years ago – and still is – a set of experimental formats, procedures and processes for the governance of ICTs, seeking to reunite the private sector, governments and inter-governmental institutions, and civil society, under the auspices of “multi-stakeholderism”.

WSIS, the landmark for multi-stakeholderism in internet governance

Arguably, the WSIS can be considered the first large-scale instance of the multi-stakeholder doctrine’s application to the governance of ICTs. As defined by the Earth Summit Forum in 2002, multi-stakeholder processes “aim to bring together all major stakeholders [in a complex issue] in a new form of communication, decision-finding (and possibly decision-making) on a particular issue. They are also based on recognition of the importance of achieving equity and accountability [and] on democratic principles of transparency and participation, and aim to develop partnerships and strengthened networks between stakeholders [3].” The requirement that internet governance should be conducted according to multi-stakeholder principles was first stated at the WSIS summit, “arguably setting a new norm of customary international law [and marking] a departure from the earlier prevailing norm—expressed even by some governments (most notably the United States) — that internet governance was predominantly a private sector responsibility[4].”

WSIS’s “summit” status (thus, not that of a permanent intergovernmental organisation), only enabled it to make recommendations crafted by consensus. However, because of the novelty of its approach and the vocabulary used to convey the urgency of addressing ICT issues in the global political arena, WSIS is widely regarded as having introduced, in the first half of the 2000s, a shift in the understanding and the appropriations of ICT-related changes and the development of the internet. In terms of procedures, the entry into the discussions of organised civil society was noteworthy, and was considered by many as the first instance in which this relevant stakeholder for the future of ICTs had reclaimed its right to be heard (and even listened to!), alongside governments and private companies. In regard to internet governance, the most notable outcome of the WSIS process was the creation of the WGIG, the Working group on internet governance, and eventually, the Internet Governance Forum – both entities embodying the principle of multi-stakeholderism, albeit in different ways.

WGIG and the Internet Governance Forum

The WGIG, a multi-stakeholder group itself, which had among its mandates the development of a “working definition of Internet governance[5]”, further detailed the definition of multi-stakeholderism during its proceedings, identifying three main groups of actors and actions that they found to be particularly suited for policy development. Governments fit the “coordination and implementation” of public policy; the private sector’s role expands beyond the “technical and economic fields” that the Geneva Declaration of Principles had talked about, to participate in the development of policy proposals. Finally, civil society’s role is to engage in, and contribute to, “policy processes and policies that are more bottom-up, people-centred and inclusive[6]”. In addition to producing the above-mentioned working definition of internet governance, which is still one of the most widely agreed upon and, which sets that “Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision making procedures and programmes, that shape the evolution and utilization of the Internet[7]”, the WGIG further detailed that internet governance included, as well, important issues related to global politics, such as critical internet resources, security and safety of the global network, and issues related to its development and use. The implication that these critical issues, primarily technical but with important political implications, should fall under the multi-stakeholder approach, was not exempt from controversy – especially when, noting that “no global multi-stakeholder forum [existed] to address Internet-related public policy issues[8],” the WGIG report proposed the creation of a multi-stakeholder IGF linked to the United Nations. The establishment of the IGF, whose first meeting was held in Athens, Greece in 2006[9], can still be considered as one of the most prominent outcomes of the early WSIS processes. The Forum has since then met six other times, the last being Baku, Azerbaijan in 2012[10], and has seen its mandate renewed after the fifth meeting. The renewal of the mandate has been approved despite very tepid assessments by some governments, China first and foremost, of what the multi-stakeholder approach has been capable to achieve beyond its alluring label [11]. A detailed discussion of the controversial appraisals of the IGF would go beyond the scope of this article, but will be the subject of a future one.

WSIS+10: the multi-stakeholder feast of non-binding recommendations

Several UN instances left their stamp on the WSIS process – but coming from different standpoints and promoting different ideas. The organisation of the WSIS was assigned in 2003 and 2005 to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency of technical standardisation for the telecommunications sector, gathering states and private entities. In this context, the UNESCO – at the time a competing UN agency, more open to civil society participation and focused on “soft” themes of education, empowerment and communication rights – had maintained a low-profile, highlighting the limitations of the concept of “information society”, widespread at the time, preferring to speak of “knowledge society”.

Ten years later, for the recent WSIS+10 meeting in Paris, UNESCO’s wish has been granted as, taking the lead in the organisation of WSIS’s ten-year review meeting, the Organisation set the official theme of the gathering as “Towards Knowledge Societies for Peace and Sustainable Development”, aimed at surpassing the emphasis placed on information itself, and going on to address aspects related to its structure, organisation and circulation. The final intended outcome of the meeting? A UNESCO statement, “Information and Knowledge for All an Expanded Vision and a Renewed Commitment”, that would incorporate inputs from all parallel sessions, with the idea to inform and contribute to the WSIS review process. The major events in this process will be an evaluation in 2014, coordinated by the ITU, and the final review by the UN General Assembly, in 2015. The WSIS+10 participants’ input to this process would take the form of “a non-binding recommendation grounded on a broad multistakeholder support[12]”.

Highs and lows of the WSIS +10

Proceedings opened on February 25, 2013, and in the UNESCO headquarters’ hallways, conversations between a few academics that had witnessed with interest the beginnings of the WSIS/IGF process (and a few that, like this author, were born as researchers by witnessing them) revealed curiosity and expectation vis-à-vis both the content and the format of the meeting.

In particular at the end of the first, very formal day, the sensation of living a solemn moment could not prevent this author and her colleague[13] from feeling that they were simply been brought ten years back, when WSIS discourses were unveiling a somewhat naïve penchant for the digital as the vector of all utopias and hopes. The plenary sessions contributed to this impression, as well as the so-called “high-level debates”, a misleading label actually indicating declarations by government officials, representatives of the private sector and organised civil society following one another’s steps on the stage, with no time for questions and answers among them, or by the audience.

Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs’ keynote introductory speech, about the necessity to bridge the inequalities of current ICT development, did little to mitigate this impression of déjà-vu, by repeatedly hammering the “digital revolution” label on the UNESCO Auditorium attendees. Even commentators more optimist about the overall relevance and usefulness of this gathering, like Humanity in Action Fellow Amy Hong – whose assessment is that WSIS+10 “drove home several central messages about the impact of information and communication technologies on our everyday lives and on our future prospects as a global society of interconnected citizens, […and] helped explore is the progress the world has made in the last decade” – note that the meeting was “heavy on buzzwords such as ‘the mobile revolution’ and ‘digital native’”[14].

Those delegates hoping for a more determined entrance into a renewed debate, where the diversity of the multi-stakeholder gathering could be fully leveraged, had some partial satisfaction during the next two days of the meeting, 26 and 27 February 2013, when dozens of parallel sessions took place to illustrate the hopes contained in ICTs, but also the challenges they bring about. Multilingualism, cultural and linguistic diversity, the promotion of freedom of expression, development of cyberscience, online privacy, digital security, ethical and societal current and emerging challenges of the information society: the parallel sessions explored in a more detailed and at times original way the issues and challenges, as well as the promises, of ICTs. Some of them, including one on “Contested Governance” organised by internet governance scholar Divina Frau-Meigs[15], and for which this author was a speaker, occasionally delved into a much-needed meta-reflection about the role of different stakeholders in global governance, and emphasised that one of the main goals for internet governance scholars and academics today should be to increase the awareness, by other stakeholders, that the definition of internet governance needs to be broadened beyond a handful of very codified and somewhat repetitious international gatherings, to take into account current core issues (transparency, openness, diversity, interoperability) and incorporate new central ones (infrastructure-based copyright enforcement, ownership, labour, content regulation, accountability)[16].

Multi-stakeholderism or “HappyTown”?

“I did at least expect that there would be some attempt at a ‘stocktaking’ […] What we are having instead is three days of ‘happytalk’ folks talking ‘happy’ about this that and the other[17],” community informatics scholar Michael Gurstein commented with sour irony at the end of the meeting. Even without going so far as defining WSIS+10 a Disneyland revival, or a HappyTown artificially preserved for the good of the “usual suspects”[18] who are materially able to visit Paris “on expense accounts”[19] – something that is, however, a serious barrier to in-person attendance to international gatherings for several stakeholders, one that should not be dismissed – the UNESCO-led meeting does not paint a very bright future for the multi-stakeholder format of engagement in global governance of the internet.

Opening up the dialogue to several, if not all[20], internet governance stakeholders, and codifying formats and procedures to do so, was in itself an important achievement of the WSIS/IGF process, and the answer to its shortcomings is certainly not to dispose of it entirely. Yet, the most important lesson we should take home from the Paris WSIS+10 meeting is that, ten years later, reaffirming the worthy existence of the arrangement is not enough.

As internet governance scholar Bill Drake has recently pointed out, “a substantial chunk of the actual decision-making that shapes the Internet and its use at both the national and global levels remains outside the ambit of the model of multistakeholderism […] as such, that model is best conceived of as a critically important component of the distributed institutional architecture of Internet governance, rather than the embodiment of a ‘paradigm shift’[21]”. Hailed as such in the early days of the WSIS/IGF process, multi-stakeholderism in ICT governance is now in sore need of a realistic and thorough assessment, one that gets down to the “nitty gritty” details, day-to-day struggles, and material constraints of who participates, when, for what reasons, and how the practical results of this participation can be measured and leveraged for concrete next steps. This may entail, among other things, revisiting the “categories” of stakeholders outlined by WSIS, in favour of a more nuanced approach (what actors are regrouped under the label of civil society particularly comes to mind) that would acknowledge, in turn, the gap between “nominal and effective participation”[22] and devise creative tools to address it. Otherwise, as internet governance researcher Françoise Massit-Folléa and this author wrote a few years ago after having attended the fourth IGF in the fashionable Sharm-el-Sheikh, “the considerable weight of decisions taken elsewhere [is likely to] soon reduce this international forum” – as well as the broader processes shaping tomorrow’s information society – “ to a friendly conversation between true and false naives, under the disguise of enlightened debates[23]”.

[1] http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/dop.html

[2] http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002197/219754M.pdf

[3] http://www.earthsummit2002.org/msp/index.html

[4] Malcolm, Jeremy (2008). Multi-Stakeholder Governance and the Internet Governance Forum. Wembley, WA: Terminus Press. (p. 322).

[5] Geneva Plan of Action.http://www.itu.int/wsis/documents/doc_multi.asp?lang=en&id=1160|0

[6] WGIG (2005). Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance, p. 18.

[7] WGIG, ibid.

[8] WGIG, ibid.

[9] http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/athensmeeting

[10] http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/2012-igfbaku

[11] http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/2009/11/china-isnt-happy-with-the-igf.html

[12] http://www.ifla.org/news/closing-of-the-wsis10-review-meeting

[13] Schafer, Valérie (2013). Première réunion d’examen du SMSI+10. Institut des Sciences de la Communication du CNRS. http://www.iscc.cnrs.fr/spip.php?article1751

[14] Hong, Amy (2013). WSIS+10: The Global Information Boom Leaves Billions Behind. MediaShift, http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/03/wsis10-the-global-information-boom-leaves-billions-behind066.html

[15] “Contested Governance: Exploring the Evolving Policy‐making Environment and Considering Collaborative Solutions from the Netroots”, WSIS+10 session organised by Divina Frau-Meigs, February 27th, 2013.

[16] Author’s notes from the session, February 27th, 2013.

[17] Gurstein, Michael (2013). Making HappyTalk in Paris; Disneyland and the WSIS+10 Review.  http://gurstein.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/making-happytalk-in-paris-disneyland-and-the-wsis-10-review/

[18] Drake, William (2011). Multistakeholderism: External Limitations and Internal Limits. MIND: Multistakeholder Internet Dialog, Co:llaboratory Discussion Paper Series No. 2, Internet Policymaking, 68-72, Berlin: Co:llaboratory.

[19] Gurstein, ibid.

[20] Hintz, Arne and Stefania Milan (2009). “At the Margins of Internet Governance: Grassroots Tech Groups and Communication Policy”, International Journal of Media and Culture Policy, 5 (1-2): 23-38.

[21] Drake, ibid.

[22] Drake, ibid.

[23] Massit-Folléa, Françoise and Francesca Musiani (2009). Recollections of Egypt. Comments on the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, Vox Internet, http://www.csi.ensmp.fr/voxinternet/www.voxinternet.org/spipc8dd.html?article340

Francesca Musiani

Chercheuse postdoctorale, MINES ParisTech Yahoo! Fellow in Residence, Georgetown University

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Lutter contre l’exclusion : les oeuvres-réseaux de Wachter & Jud (Gaité Live)

Article paru sur le site Gaité Live le Jeudi 11 avril 2013. Gaitelive est le média en ligne de la Gaité Lyrique qui explore en long, en large et en travers les Cultures Numériques. gaite-live.net
Crédit image : Qaul.net
À l’occasion de leur exposition à la Gaîté Lyrique, François Huguet décrypte le travail des artistes Christoph Wachter et Mathias Jud qui critiquent les systèmes informatiques centralisés générant l’exclusion et la division des individus.

Dissocier les objets techniques que l’Homme produit pour transformer son rapport au monde de l’imaginaire qu’il associe à ces objets et à leurs usages semble chose impossible ; on pourrait même affirmer que les fonctionnalités de ces objets sont « indissolublement liée à une (ou plusieurs) fictionnalité(s) »1. Inspiré par les fictions que déploie Internet depuis sa création, Christoph Wachter et Mathias Jud – duo de net-artistes suisses basés à Berlin – observent les diverses matérialités du réseau des réseaux ; ils interrogent les imaginaires que la toile crée, qu’elle entretient ou qu’elle cherche à cacher. Avec le projet #GLM, sorte d’écho au projet HÔTEL GELEM installé à Montreuil depuis peu, ils continuent un travail initié il y a plusieurs années et qui a pour but d’observer les angles morts de l’urbanisme du web mais également de l’urbanisme au sens propre. Au delà de la simple observation-performance, la démarche de Wachter & Jud vient interroger et « tester » ces fictions dont il sera ici question. Et ils le font au sens propre comme au sens figuré : avec des humains et des machines ; toujours les mains dans le cambouis, dans les tuyaux des infrastructures ou des 0 et 1 de l’informatique… De quoi réjouir les chercheurs en Sciences & Technologies Studies mais de quoi interroger également un public beaucoup plus large sur les relations que l’on tisse avec ces fameuses Nouvelles Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication, leur(s) matérialité(s) et leur(s) « politique(s) ».

Depuis 2006, ils ont créé différentes œuvres interactives qui interrogent la question des frontières générées par le web.

Mathias Jud et Christoph Wachter n’en sont pas à leur coup d’essai dans la critique des systèmes informatiques centralisés qui génèrent exclusion et division des individus. Depuis 2006, ils ont créé différentes œuvres interactives qui interrogent la question des frontières générées par le web. Leur projet Zone*Interdite vise par exemple à pointer le paradoxe entre les lieux clairement interdits au public (notamment les camps de prisonniers de Guantanamo à Cuba, celui de Bucca en Irak ou bien la base militaire aérienne de Bagram en Afghanistan) et les images que les Mass Médias diffusent de ces derniers. À partir d’images issues du web, ils ont cartographié et construit l’espace de ces lieux de façon numérique. Ils ont recomposé en trois dimensions ces endroits censés être interdits aux regards et « hautement sensibles » pour les exposer à n’importe quel internaute. Il en va de même pour leur projet Picidae qui cherche de son coté à créer une forme de communauté capable d’échapper à la censure qu’exercent des pays plus ou moins autoritaires sur l’Internet. Picidae est en effet un projet d’infrastructures (des petits serveurs disséminés partout dans le monde) où des utilisateurs « photographient » des sites web interdits par des régimes politiques pour les mettre à disposition de tout le monde sur le serveur pici. Les mécanismes de blocage étant généralement textuels, les impressions-écran des sites répertoriés sur les « listes noires » permettent d’échapper à cette censure et d’avoir accès à leur contenu.

Zone*Interdite, impression-écran d’une marche en 3D dans Guantanamo Bay.

Avec ces deux artistes militants d’un Internet plus libre, il est, au final, bien souvent question de « solutions ».

Avec ces deux artistes militants d’un Internet plus libre, il est, au final, bien souvent question de « solutions ». Solutions face à aux paradoxes de nos rapports aux images, solutions face à des tentatives d’atteintes à la liberté des internautes, solutions face à la question de la « fracture numérique »… Le projet #GLM pour Grassroot Local Meshnet, relève d’ailleurs de cet esprit là. Avec cette œuvre qu’ils présenteront à la Gaité Lyrique tout au long des mois d’avril-mai, ils continuent de creuser la porosité de l’ingénierie de réseaux de communication, d’interroger ses frontières mais aussi de questionner les mécanismes d’exclusion actuels en cherchant à les combattre. #GLM, c’est appliquer le principe communautaire de réseau MESH jusqu’à l’HÔTEL GELEM de Montreuil pour y amener une connexion Internet. L’HÔTEL GELEM est l’un des autres projets de Mathias Jud et Christoph Wachter, il s’agit d’une forme de « tourisme embarqué » où le « touriste » participe aux conditions de vie précaires d’un camp Rom :

« Alors que la majorité d’entre nous recherchent l’exotisme et l’aventure pendant les vacances, pour les gens confrontés à des conditions de vie précaires, la dure réalité est qu’ils doivent faire face aux contraintes liées à la mobilité et à l’improvisation en permanence. HÔTEL GELEM invite à participer à des situations de vie grossières et à former de nouveaux types d’échanges, ainsi qu’à présenter et à prendre en considération des phénomènes qui n’auraient « plus jamais » dû se reproduire depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. HÔTEL GELEM propose des endroits où se rencontrent transfiguration romantique et persécutions racistes, et franchit chaque nouveau mur à travers l’Europe, qui dramatiquement, a été divisée par notre société. » [source]

L’hôtel GELEM à Paris.

Qaul est singulier en cela qu’il est projet artistique et possède donc cette posture particulière qui fait de lui un objet capable d’interroger nos pratiques plus qu’un service web ou qu’une application quelconque. 

#GLM vise donc à rattacher ce symbole d’exclusion contemporaine qu’est le camp Rom au réseau Internet via une technologie particulière de réseau maillé ou réseaux MESH (MEtro Scale ad-Hoc network2​). Cette technologie est d’ailleurs à la base d’un autre projet de ces deux artistes militants : Qaul.net. Qaul correspond assez bien à l’une des trajectoires récentes des mondes de l’Internet, à savoir une entreprise de socialisation d’une technique particulière : celle d’établir des réseaux locaux autonomes et des communautés d’utilisateurs avec un objet technique spécifique en l’occurrence l’informatique décentralisée (et mobile). On peut observer de telle initiatives un peu partout sur la planète, les réseaux MESH étant utilisés en Afrique du Sud, en Europe (avec par exemple Freifunk, Funkfeuer, Guifi, etc.)3, aux Etats Unis4, surtout pour partager des connexions à Internet.

Mais Qaul est plus que cela : en tant que logiciel de création de réseaux MESH sans fil et autonomes où le parc d’appareils de communication des utilisateurs devient l’infrastructure (la communication entre les terminaux communicants se fait uniquement via leurs capacités d’émission, de réception et de transmission d’un message entre appareils via WiFi), ce projet artistique se distingue d’un projet politique tel que Commotion qui peut sembler au premier abord être une forme d’application « cyber-diplomatique » américaine issue de la 21st Century Statecraft (1er mandat présidence Obama)5 édictée par la secrétaire d’État Hilary Clinton. Qaul est singulier en cela qu’il est projet artistique et possède donc cette posture particulière qui fait de lui un objet capable d’interroger nos pratiques plus qu’un service web ou qu’une application quelconque.

Qaul (tout comme #GLM dans une autre mesure) est un software « boîte à outils » qui permet à ses utilisateurs de penser leurs propres rapports aux infrastructures de communication qu’ils utilisent et donc de ce fait, aux objets techniques qu’ils manipulent. Mais c’est aussi une réflexion post-printemps arabe qui a trouvé une réponse aux problèmes que la censure et le blocage d’Internet posaient aux militants connectés du Maroc jusqu’à l’Iran. Qaul, logiciel téléchargeable sur n’importe quel type de machines (Mac, Windows, Android, Linux, etc.), peut « devenir » infrastructure de communication.
Interview de Christoph Wachter et Mathias Jud

Réfléchir au fait que la technologie et la question de la « fracture numérique » peuvent s’envisager autrement, qu’une forme nouvelle d’être ensemble est possible.

En effet, les chutes successives de certains régimes autoritaires en 2011 et le supposé rôle des TIC dans ces effondrements6 ont permis de mettre en lumière l’importance des appareils communicants dans les écosystèmes technologiques des pays du Maghreb et du Proche-Orient. Avec les déboulonnements de Ben Ali, de Moubarak et de Kadhafi en 2011, un public extrêmement large comprenait de quoi Internet et les appareils communiquant mobiles étaient « capables » politiquement parlant… Des géants tels que Google ne s’y sont d’ailleurs pas trompés et ils ont rapidement prêté main forte à certains militants – notamment en Egypte – pour leur permettre de continuer d’utiliser des services comme Twitter7 (ils pouvaient d’autre part bénéficier en investissant, au final, peu d’argent, d’une augmentation du capital sympathie-démocratie de leurs différents services et de leur entreprise en général).

De ce fait, la « fiction » techno-politique qui se construisait à ce moment là – et qui allait continuer à se construire chez les indignés espagnols8 et lors des mouvements Occupy à travers le monde – a permis aux différents projets d’infrastructure MESH de consolider leur projet : une sorte de prise de conscience sur les infrastructures de communication existantes et sur le fait que ce rapport aux infrastructures évolue. Les œuvres de Cristoph Wachter et Mathias Jud relèvent de cette prise de conscience. Dans Qaul et #GLM, l’infrastructure c’est aussi les ondes radios (fréquences WiFi) sur lesquelles transitent les messages, les utilisateurs, leurs appareils et leurs volontés de participer à un réseau local : « l’infrastructure, ça peut être nous les users et nos devices, sans les équipements des opérateurs de téléphonie, c’est à dire les relais GSM, serveurs centraux, câbles téléphoniques, etc. »9.

#GLM et Qaul.net sont des œuvres artistiques visant à montrer qu’une alternative à l’architecture actuelle des principaux services centralisés de communication et d’information est possible. Cette alternative passe par une technologie décentralisée nouvelle, disruptive, gratuite, « open source », virale, c’est-à-dire se répliquant d’appareils à appareils (la technologie possède cette capacité de se transmettre d’un appareil à un autre, sans devoir se connecter à une quelconque entité centrale d’où on téléchargerait un logiciel). L’alternative, c’est en quelque sorte revenir à une infrastructure locale qui permet de partager des choses, de les comprendre, d’assurer la permanence d’un système de communication en local tout en accédant, grâce à ce dernier, à de l’information plus globale. C’est aussi réfléchir au fait que la technologie et la question de la « fracture numérique » peuvent s’envisager autrement, qu’une forme nouvelle d’être ensemble est possible. Et c’est ce qui rend les projets #GLM et Qaul intéressants de notre point de vue : ils ne sont pas véritablement envisagés comme des services, mais comme des « boites à outils », comme des projets politiques de réflexions sur les standards de radiocommunications sans fils actuels, sur la propriété de l’espace public et les capacités civico-pédagogiques des technologies de réseaux sans fils.

Crédit image : Qaul.net

Reste à savoir si ce type de communautés socio-politiques et d’infrastructures réseaux sauront s’étendre et faire en sorte que les technologies de l’information et de la communication deviennent plus « démocratiques ». Qaul et #GLM, en tant qu’œuvres artistiques, interrogent de façon très intelligente tous ces enjeux à la fois culturels, civiques et politiques. Mais reste également à savoir si une forme de citoyenneté insurrectionnelle10 « équipée » de technologies décentralisées, autonomes et mobiles saura faire face aux défis futurs d’Internet, qui tend aujourd’hui à limiter nos libertés et nos interactions sociales en dehors de son méta réseau (qui lui n’est pas du tout une fiction)…


[1] Musso, P. (2009), Usages et imaginaires des TIC : la friction de fictions​, in Licoppe, C. (2009), L’évolution des cultures numériques, de la mutation du lien social à l’organisation du travail, {FYP} éditions, Paris, p. 201-210.

[2] Sur ce point, voir ici. Notons également que la technologie MESH ou MANET (Mobile Adhoc NETwork) était très utilisée au départ pour des réseaux de capteurs ou pour le déploiement de systèmes de communications en contextes de crises – catastrophes naturelles (notamment quand les infrastructures existantes se sont « cassées la figure » et qu’il faut déployer un système de communication from scratch).

[3] Voir cet article d’Ophelia Noor à propos des communautés WiFi autonomes (OWNI.fr, 12 Septembre 2011, « Le wifi libre entre en résistance ».)

[4] Voir cet article de Stéphanie Vidal à propos des réseaux WiFi de Détroit (Slate.fr, 3 Septembre 2011, « Du sans fil pour recoudre Detroit ».)

[5] Voir notamment les articles d’Yves Eudes (Le Monde, 30 août 2011, « Commotion, le projet d’un Internet hors de tout contrôle »), de James Glanz et John Markoff (The New York Times, 12 Juin 2011, « U.S Underwrites Internet Detour around Censors ») et le reportage TV d’Al Jazeera (US Government funding shadow networks, 2012).

[6] Gerbaudo, P. (2012), Tweets and the streets. Social Media and Contemporary Activism, Pluto Press. Londres.

[7] Le speak-to-tweet. Il faut néanmoins se méfier de cette politisation à outrance de l’activisme en ligne, et rappeler les doutes de Sami Ben Gharbia (fondateur de Nawaat, premier portail d’information d’opposition en Tunisie créé en 2004) à propos de « [la] perte de crédibilité des réseaux contestataires constitués à l’origine de manière indépendante et enfin [le] développement d’une sorte d’activisme en ligne parallèle, financé par l’extérieur donc moins “authentique” » ; cités dans : Gonzalez-Quijano, Y. (2012), Arabités numériques. Le printemps du Web arabe, Sindbad – Actes Sud, Arles.

[8] Gentès, A. & Huguet, F. (2012), « Les alternatives aux réseaux sociaux : l’architecture distribuée et le design de média », in Stiegler, B. (2012), Réseaux sociaux. Culture politique et ingénierie des réseaux sociaux, IRI – {FYP} éditions, Paris. Notons que cette « fiction » fait fi des écueils de la révolution de 2009 en Iran, des luttes syndicales menées depuis des décennies dans les pays où se déroulaient les soulèvements et des cas de censure notamment chinois ou russes.

[9] Voir cet article de Pishevar Sunday (TechCrunch.com, 27 Février 2011 « Humans Are The Routers Shervin ».)

[10] Sur ce point, voir les travaux de Félix Tréguer (doctorant en Sciences Politiques à l’EHESS Paris) sur http://www.wethenet.eu.


Article paru sur le site Gaité Live (la Magazine de la Gaité Lyrique) le Jeudi 11 avril 2013


François Huguet

PhD student in Communication Studies at the Codesign Lab & Media Studies at Telecom ParisTech. Supervisor: Annie Gentès / Co-supervisor: Jérôme Denis

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Compte-rendu de la journée d’étude sur les architectures distribuées

Journée d’étude du 11 mars 2013 au CERSA

Le droit et les architectures distribuées:

Concilier libertés et contrôle dans un espace ouvert et décentralisé



François Huguet (doctorant à Telecom ParisTech), Pauline Le More (Avocate au Barreau de Paris), Melanie Dulong De Rosnay (chargée de recherche à l’ISCC, CNRS), Hervé Le Crosnier (professeur à l’Université de Caen), Felix Tréguer (doctorant à l’EHESS), Primavera De Filippi (chercheuse au CERSA, CNRS), Danièle Bourcier (directrice de recherche au CERSA, CNRS),




La journée d’étude a commencé par une présentation et une discussion autour de trois cas d’études:



Faroo (dont le nom est dérivé du phare d’Alexandrie) est un moteur de recherche entièrement fondé sur des technologies pair-à-pair totalement décentralisées. Bien que le nombre de pages indexées soit encore relativement faible (environ 2 milliards de pages), le moteur de recherche s’avère cependant prometteur. Né en 2007, Faroo est alimenté par plus de 2 millions et demi d’utilisateurs, qui font tourner le logiciel sur leurs dispositifs. Cela permet la création d’une infrastructure plus flexible et dynamique – avec un impact négligeable sur les ressources informatiques: la connexion n’est utilisée que lorsqu’il n’y a pas de transfert de paquets et la charge CPU est pratiquement inexistante.  De plus, Faroo fonctionne avec une table d’indexation distribuée (Distributed Hash Table), ce qui élimine toute possibilité de contrôle centralisé.

Nous nous sommes tout d’abord interrogés sur la question du “free-riding”: est-ce que le fait d’avoir une infrastructure distribuée peut porter au free-riding de l’infrastructure en réseau ? Dès lors que les utilisateurs agrègent leurs ressources afin de créer une infrastructure communautaire qui ensuite va exploiter la bande passante fournie par les FAIs, ces derniers risquent en effet de devoir engager des coûts supplémentaires en raison du trafic généré.

Nous avons ensuite réfléchi à la question de la qualité et la neutralité des résultats fournis. Les résultats des recherches sont en effet déterminés par un algorithme de recherche dont le fonctionnement est accessible à tous (Open Source). Cela a des répercussions importantes sur les résultats des recherches: d’une part, la transparence du fonctionnement permet d’assurer une neutralité algorithmique dans la classification des résultats de recherche, d’autre part, il devient plus difficile de se protéger contre les pratiques de “search engine optimization”. De plus, étant donné qu’il est encore en version beta et avec un nombre d’utilisateurs limité, Faroo a actuellement tendance à ne renvoyer qu’un nombre limité de réponses aux requêtes de recherche puisqu’il n’indexe que les sites que les utilisateurs de Faroo visitent. À cet égard, le fonctionnement de Faroo a été confronté avec le modèle de Seeks (un méta-moteur de recherche qui recueille et réordonne les résultats fournis par d’autres moteurs de recherche – tels que Bing ou Google – pour les re-proposer dans un nouvel ordre, issue d’un compromis entre tous les résultats proposés, l’expérience de l’utilisateur et les recommandations faites par ses pairs).

D’un point de vue juridique, de nombreuses questions ont aussi été soulevées, notamment en ce qui concerne la protection des données personnelles. A priori, Faroo semblerait être un service qui permet aux utilisateurs de préserver leur vie privée, puisque les requêtes sont stockées sur l’ordinateur des utilisateurs, et non pas sur un index centralisé contrôlé par une entreprise qui pourrait les exploiter pour des finalités commerciales ou les communiquer aux autorités de justice.

En ce qui concerne les responsabilités des internautes, Hervé Le Crosnier a questionné la possibilité de considérer Faroo comme un “service d’infrastructure” – et ce qui impliquerait que tout utilisateur contribuant à l’infrastructure serait en quelque sorte “responsable” du fonctionnement de ce service distribué. Pour ce qui en est du droit à la concurrence, nous avons analysé l’effet que Faroo pourrait avoir sur les oligopoles établis (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc), et sur la possibilité pour une architecture décentralisée telle que Faroo de pénétrer dans le marché des moteurs de recherche, en dépit des effets de réseau existants. La notion de “facilité essentielle” (définie par la CJCE comme toute infrastructure indispensable pour assurer la liaison avec des clients et/ou permettre à des concurrents d’exercer leurs activités, mais dont la duplication est impossible ou déraisonnable, pour des raisons financières ou techniques) a aussi été abordée en ce qui concerne la relation entre concurrence industrielle et concurrence déloyale.

D’un point de vue plus strictement économique, nous nous sommes interrogés sur la soutenabilité de ce système à long terme. Puisque Faroo ne prévoit aucun mécanisme visant à encourager la contribution des utilisateurs au sein de l’architecture en réseau (tel que le système de “tit-for-tat” utilisé par le réseau BitTorent), comment s’assurer que tous ceux qui utilisent le service vont également y contribuer ? Il s’agit essentiellement de considérer le système non seulement comme une architecture répartie, mais aussi comme une plateforme collaborative et participative. En termes financiers, est-ce que Faroo prévoit d’obtenir des profits en échange de ce service ? Et comment les revenus pourraient être redistribués à la communauté de pairs qui contribuent au service – étant donné que la plupart des utilisateurs demeurent anonymes ?

Enfin, dans une perspective politique, nous avons réfléchi sur les discours politiques qui tournent autour de cette plateforme. Faroo a été conçu non seulement afin de proposer une alternative aux autres moteurs de recherche centralisés, mais aussi et surtout afin de préserver la vie privée et l’anonymat des utilisateurs. Faroo peut-il donc être considéré comme une architecture technique d’émancipation citoyenne, conçue pour protéger les internautes contre les abus de pouvoir de la part des entreprises prédatrices et des États qui censurent ou qui surveillent les citoyens sur le Net ?



Tor (The Onion Router) est un réseau distribué conçu pour faciliter la communication anonyme. Basé sur le mécanisme de routage en oignon (onion routing), Tor introduit une nouvelle couche de communication cryptographiée sur le réseau de façon à camoufler non seulement les contenus, mais aussi l’origine et la destination des communications. Le principe du routage en oignon est un mécanisme par lequel les données sont encryptées à plusieurs reprises avec des clés de cryptages différentes, pour être ensuite envoyées à plusieurs nœuds dans le réseau. Les données sont donc protégées par plusieurs couches de cryptographie, qui seront progressivement retirées par chaque nœud, jusqu’à ce qu’elles arrivent à leur destination finale où elles seront à nouveau lisibles. Afin d’assurer une communication anonyme, les données transférées sur le réseau Tor doivent passer au minimum par trois routeurs différents. L’origine des communications n’est connue que des routeurs d’entrée, et la destination des communications n’est connue que des routeurs de sortie. Les autres nœuds du réseau sont des routeurs intermédiaires qui ne connaissent ni la provenance ni la destination des paquets qu’ils transfèrent.

Nous avons commencé par analyser plus en détail le fonctionnement technique du réseau TOR. La communication au sein du réseau est fondée sur 3 couches de routage: avant de rejoindre le site de destination, chaque paquet passe par un premier nœud (qui connait l’adresse IP d’origine), un deuxième nœud (qui ne connait ni la provenance, ni la destination des paquets), et un troisième nœud (qui connait uniquement la destination des paquets). Chaque paquet est crypté avec une clef correspondant à chacun des 3 nœuds intermédiaires, afin que aucun de ces nœuds ne puisse connaître à la fois l’origine et la destination des paquets.

Nous nous sommes ensuite concentrés sur les applications de cette technologie, qui – malgré sa neutralité – est souvent utilisée pour des finalités illégales. Nous avons analysé notamment le cas de Silkroad: une place de marché sur Internet qui a pour particularité d’utiliser le réseau Tor pour assurer l’anonymat à la fois des acheteurs et des vendeurs. Un autre élément permettant l’anonymat se situe dans l’utilisation quasi-exclusive sur le site de Bitcoin, une monnaie électronique dont la possession n’est pas nominative et qui est complètement séparée du système bancaire international. Bien qu’en théorie on puisse acheter et vendre n’importe quelle marchandise sur le site, l’anonymat même relatif du service fait qu’il est utilisé essentiellement pour vendre ou acheter ce qui ne peut que difficilement être acheté ou vendu légalement, notamment desstupéfiants et des armes (voir cet article: Online drug dealers back on Silk Road after mysterious two-week outage).

Cela nous a mené à réfléchir sur les enjeux juridiques soulevés par TOR, qui présente de nombreux avantages et fonctionnalités qui ne sont pas illégales en tant que telles, mais qui entraînent cependant un besoin pour l’État de surveiller les communications qui passent sur le réseau afin de pouvoir assurer l’ordre public. En cas d’utilisation illégale, tel que par exemple le téléchargement d’images pédophiles, la police va récupérer l’adresse IP qui s’est connectée au serveur et va assumer qu’il s’agit de l’adresse du visiteur en question – bien qu’il s’agisse en fait de l’adresse du nœud de sortie. C’est pour cette raison que TOR maintient une liste de tous les nœuds de sorties disponibles à chaque instant.

Le dilemme est donc le suivant : si les nœuds de sortie ne sont pas considérés responsables pour le trafic qu’ils transfèrent, tous les criminels vont être amenés à se présenter comme nœud de sortie afin de pouvoir effectuer des activités illégales sans devoir se cacher. Inversement, si les nœuds de sorties sont considérés responsables du trafic qui leur passe à travers, plus personne ne se proposera en tant que nœud de sortie, et le réseau TOR sera donc amené à mourir.

Pour répondre à ce dilemme, il est tout d’abord nécessaire de distinguer entre le rôle actif ou passif des intermédiaires. Un intermédiaire passif (tel qu’un simple canal qui transfère tout simplement des paquets) est soumis à un régime de responsabilité limitée. Un intermédiaire engagé qui a un rôle plus actif sera par contre soumis à un régime de responsabilité plus stricte. Les architectures décentralisées telles que le réseau TOR utilisent les utilisateurs du réseau comme des simple tuyaux. Le problème c’est que en ne regardant que les logs, il est impossible de déterminer si le nœud de sortie avait un rôle actif ou passif dans la communication.

Nous nous sommes donc interrogés tout d’abord sur la question de la responsabilité juridique des FAI et des hébergeurs – pour étendre ensuite la question à l’usage des VPN et des proxys, pour savoir s’ils sont tenus responsable des activités illicites de leur utilisateurs. Tout d’abord, nous avons remarqué que, alors que – d’après la Directive Européenne sur la conservation des données – les FAIs sont soumis à l’obligation de conserver les données de leurs utilisateurs pendant plusieurs années, afin de les dévoiler aux autorités judiciaires en cas de besoin, cette obligation ne s’étend pas aux VPN qui ne sont pas soumis à la directive et qui ne sont donc a priori pas obligés de logger les communications qu’ils transfèrent. De plus, il n’y a pas actuellement d’obligation particulière de surveiller les communications pour les intermédiaires qui se comportent en tant que “mère conduits” (tel que définis par la directive eCommerce et article. L32-3-3 du Code des postes et télécoms français) – et que l’application d’une couche de chiffrement (ou déchiffrement) ne remet pas en cause ce statut qui est purement technique. Dans le cas d’un VPN, il est possible que l’opérateur du VPN soit contraint à collaborer pour faire identifier l’auteur de communications litigieuses (e.g. en demandant les logs) même si ce cas de figure n’est pas explicitement reconnu dans la Directive eCommerce. De même, un proxy d’anonymisation pourrait être visé par une action en cessation – afin de #bloquer, par exemple, certaines informations en provenance ou à destination d’une adresse IP spécifique. Le manque de jurisprudence rend la spéculation difficile, mais cela pourrait conduire à contraindre un nœud Tor de cesser complètement son activité. Enfin, en ce qui concerne le régime de responsabilité des individus qui agissent en tant qu’intermédiaires sur Internet, la situation change à selon des pays. En France, par exemple, la loi HADOPI considère que toute personne qui ne sécurise pas sa connexion commet un délit de négligence, alors qu’aux États-Unis et en Allemagne, les titulaires de connexion Internet sont exemptés de responsabilité s’ils arrivent à prouver que les activités illégales ont été commises par une autre personne.

La difficulté principale est due au fait qu’il est très difficile d’établir un compromis entre anonymat et sécurité. Il s’agit d’une dichotomie qui ne peut être résolue que par une réponse binaire: veut-on contrôler toutes les communications sur le réseau ou bien accepter la liberté de communications anonymes? Si on veut préserver l’anonymat, il faut renoncer à réguler les communications (en éliminant des lois telles que le droit d’auteur ou le loi contre la diffamation) et sauvegarder le rôle des intermédiaire passifs, au risque de faciliter l’activité de certain criminels. Si on ne veut pas autoriser l’anonymat, il faut dans ce cas responsabiliser tous les intermédiaires, détruire la structure décentralisée du réseau et établir des points de contrôle fiables et centralisés (tels que les FAIs, les hébergeurs).

Enfin, nous avons analysé la possibilité de détourner le réseau Tor, afin d’espionner les communications des utilisateurs du réseau. Il est en effet possible pour le nœud de sortie de savoir exactement à quoi les gens se connectent et quel est le contenu de leurs communications (dans la mesure où elles n’ont pas été cryptées préalablement).

Pour terminer, Hervé Le Crosnier nous a expliqué le mythe de l’utopie numérique, l’idée de pouvoir échapper à toute forme de contrôle grâce aux technologies. En combinant les technologies de cryptage, Tor, Bitcoin, etc, il est possible d’assurer un niveau très élevé d’anonymat, mais ces technologies ne vont protéger que l’émetteur, et non pas les correspondants ou les récepteurs. De plus, faut-il toujours faire confiance aux nœuds d’entrée sur le réseau Tor ? Comment éviter l’infiltration du réseau par des services secrets ou des cyberflics? S’il est vrai qu’il est souvent difficile d’appliquer les règles de droit sur un réseau de nature transnationale tel qu’Internet, la technologie à elle seule ne peut pas non plus réguler le réseau. Il faut se munir de plusieurs outils de protection, mais la sécurité ne peut être assurée que par l’utilisation pratique de ces outils dans un contexte social.

En conclusion, nous avons rappelé que la régulation du réseau ne se fait pas uniquement par des normes juridiques ou techniques, mais aussi par l’intermédiaire de normes sociales. Ces différents systèmes de normes interagissent les uns avec les autres. L’avancée des technologies numériques demande une modification des lois, mais les réformes du droit poussent aussi au développement de nouveaux outils technologiques. En effet, la production de nouvelles règles de  droit peut avoir des effets inattendus: plus elles essaient de contrôler le réseau, plus sera encouragé le développement de réseaux décentralisés visant justement à échapper à ce contrôle. En France, par exemple, la loi HADOPI a poussé de nombreux internautes à utiliser des réseaux pair à pair pour le partage des fichiers en passant par des VPN ou par le réseau TOR. Ces technologies rendent le travail de la police et des services secrets encore plus difficile, notamment lorsqu’il s’agit d’arrêter de vrais criminels ou des terroristes. Il est donc important d’introduire plus de souplesse pour les infractions les moins graves afin de ne pas encourager les infrastructures décentralisées à se développer de manière encore plus sophistiquées pour la réalisation d’infractions encore plus graves.



Commotion Wireless est un projet open source basé sur la construction d’un réseau maillé non hierarchisé (topologie mesh-network), Dans ce type de réseau (filaire ou non) tous les hôtes forment ainsi une structure en forme de filet. Chaque nœud doit recevoir, envoyer et relayer les données.  Si un hôte est hors service, ses voisins passeront par une autre route. Un réseau maillé peut relayer les données à l’instar d’un déluge ou un itinéraire, mais dans le second cas le réseau doit prévoir des connexions sans interruption ou calculer une déviation dont les communications sont cryptées, et dont l’aspect décentralisé est censé compliquer toute surveillance (y compris politique).

Contrairement aux connexions fixes, les utilisateurs n’ont pas besoin de s’engager auprès d’un FAI pour participer au réseau, et ils sont seulement identifiables par le matériel utilisé. Chaque appareil connecté au réseau est un nœud du réseau. Il émet et reçoit des informations via ondes wi-fi, et propage ainsi l’étendue du réseau. Le but de ce réseau mesh est de fournir un moyen de communication anonyme, décentralisé, sécurisé, et incontrôlable. Commotion permet de constituer des réseaux mesh autonomes à partir de terminaux fonctionnant sur les fréquences Wi-fi. Bien qu’aucune connexion à un autre réseau (internet par exemple) ne soit nécessaire, tout ordinateurs, téléphones mobiles et smartphones ou autre dispositifs connectés à Internet peuvent en faire profiter l’ensemble du réseau.  Semblable à d’autres réseaux mesh, tels que openmeshproject , Commotion se distingue par le fait qu’il a obtenu 2,3 M$ de Google et 2 M$ de l’état américain.

Ainsi, à différence des deux dispositifs présentés auparavant – qui nécessitent un point de connexion centralisé à un FAI – il s’agit ici d’une forme de décentralisation totale: non seulement au niveau logiciel ou numérique, mais aussi au niveau de l’infrastructure du réseau. Les utilisateurs du réseau mesh n’ont pas besoin de se connecter à un FAI, ils peuvent se connecter directement à leurs pairs. De plus, pour des raisons de sécurité, il est prévu qu’un système de chiffrement soit également mis en place afin d’assurer la protection et l’anonymat des données.

Ainsi, Commotion serait révélateur de cette fuite en avant pour échapper à la surveillance croissante des États. Alors qu’avec TOR, il y a toujours le risque qu’un FAI gère les communications en sortie de réseau, dans le cas du réseau mesh, les utilisateurs peuvent échapper à toute surveillance en évitant directement les FAIs. En effet, bien qu’un gateway soit nécessaire pour se connecter à Internet, il est possible de créer des sous-réseaux communautaires qui seront invisible aux internautes.

Or, en ce qui concerne les applications de Commotion, il a été jusqu’à présent utilisé essentiellement pour fournir des connections Internet dans des pays ou des quartiers pauvres, ou là où des catastrophes naturelles ont détruit les infrastructures du réseau (e.g. Fukushima, Haiti, ouragan Sandy). Commotion est utilisé aussi comme un projet communautaire avec un objectif pédagogique.

D’un point de vue technique, l’architecture mesh du réseau est en quelque sorte une reconstitution du réseau Internet tel qu’il avait été originellement conçu, comme un outil militaire qui peut se ré-organiser de manière dynamique selon des disponibilités d’infrastructures. L’avantage du réseau mesh par rapport au réseau Internet est qu’il est indépendant, plus robuste et résilient.

Nous nous sommes ensuite intéressés à l’applicabilité du droit sur ce type de réseaux. S’il n’y a plus d’entité centralisé (tel que les FAIs) qui peuvent gérer les communications, la surveillance doit se faire au niveau du dispositif. Il s’agit des technologies de trusted computing qui permettent de tracer et de déterminer la légitimité de chaque action des utilisateurs. Cela se retrouve dans la manière dont l’architecture d’Internet est en train d’évoluer, se transformant progressivement en un réseau de plus en plus intégré verticalement – avec un contrôle qui va du cloud computing au dispositif des internautes.

Pour conclure, nous prévoyons un développement rapide des réseaux mesh dans les années à venir, avec la multiplication des capteurs et des émetteurs qui peuvent être stratégiquement positionnés dans la ville, et le déploiement de dispositifs mobiles de plus en plus petits qui peuvent se transporter facilement (par ex.. wearable computing).

Le problème est que le déploiment d’un réseau mesh de grande dimension ne pourra se faire que si l’État décide de libérer les fréquences blanches (fréquences actuellement non utilisées) car les fréquences Wifi seront rapidement saturées. En parallèle avec les radios libres, la libéralisation du spectre a permis des évolutions politiques importantes, bien que aujourd’hui – 20 ans plus tard – il y a eu de nombreuses déceptions par rapport aux attentes initiales.

Felix Tréguer nous informe que, au niveau européen, il n’y a qu’une très faible prise de conscience des enjeux économiques et politiques liés à la libéralisation des fréquences radios. Alors que le Parlement est relativement sensible à l’utilisation des fréquences blanches pour réduire la fracture numérique, la Commission se place plutôt dans une logique d’ouverture orientées vers le partage des fréquences entre les grands opérateurs. Bien que la Commission soit sensible aux arguments sur la nécessité d’accroître l’accès à Internet, elle s’oriente uniquement d’un point de vue économique, dans le but de créer un grand marché numérique pour relier les internautes aux grandes plateformes commerciales. D’après lui,  le problème est lié au fait que les personnes qui s’occupent de ces questions sont des ingénieurs qui ne comprennent pas toujours suffisamment l’importance de se mobiliser au plan politique. Inversement, il est parfois difficile pour les membres de la société civile mieux insérés dans les milieux institutionnels de maîtriser l’ensemble des enjeux techniques.


Interview vidéo de Mathias Jud & Christoph Wachter – Qaul.net













Nous vous parlions de Qaul.net récemment, ce projet développé par deux net-artistes suisses et qui utilise la technologie de réseaux maillés MESH. Au détour d’une recherche sur Internet, nous avons découvert cette vidéo où ils expliquent leur démarche.

  • http://qaul.net
  • http://www.wachter-jud.net
  • http://www.hotel-gelem.net

A noter: Christoph Wachter et Mathias Jud sont actuellement en résidence à Paris  dans le cadre du cycle “technologies au quotidien” de la Gaité Lyrique. Ils présenteront leur projet du 12 avril au 12 mai 2013 à la Gaité Lyrique, plus d’informations ici.

François Huguet

PhD student in Communication Studies at the Codesign Lab & Media Studies at Telecom ParisTech. Supervisor: Annie Gentès / Co-supervisor: Jérôme Denis

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Liaisons dangereuses? Gouvernements, entreprises et gouvernance d’Internet

Cet article, en anglais, est également paru sur la nouvelle-née Internet Policy Review. Merci a Frédéric Dubois, Uta Meier-Hahn, Primavera de Filippi et Joris van Hoboken pour leurs relectures.

Dangerous Liaisons? Governments, companies and Internet governance

18 Feb 2013 by Francesca Musiani

Private actors in the information technology sector are currently playing an increasingly important role in content mediation, as well as in regulation of online forms of expression, with implications for both internet rights and economic freedom.

The latest Google Transparency Report (Google, 2013) released on January 24, 2013, sends a clear and somewhat disquieting message to the advocates of a more transparent internet governance worldwide. Several governments in the European Union are submitting a steadily increasing number of requests to the giant of online information search, with two purposes: the acquisition of several types of sensitive information about internet users – including their IP addresses, browsing and navigation history, and email communications – and removal of specific content. This “dramatic” (EDRi-gram, 2013) increase raises questions about the very nature of the relationship, or partnership, between political institutions and the ‘majors’ of the IT sector. This is true for online privacy, but also for the legitimacy and transparency of the net’s gatekeepers and overall, for internet governance – an ongoing multi-stakeholder development of shared principles, norms, rules, decision making procedures and programmes, that shape the evolution and utilisation of the internet.

Privatisation of internet governance

Quoted by the BBC, Privacy International’s head of international advocacy, Carly Nyst, says: “The information we hand over to companies like Google paints a detailed picture of who we are – from our political and religious views to our friendships, associations and locations. Governments must stop treating the user data held by corporations as a treasure trove of information they can mine whenever they please, with little or no judicial authorisation.” (BBC, 2013) While privacy concerns that may derive from third party access of such information are perhaps the first that come to mind, this article focusses mainly on the second most relevant result from the report: the fact that private companies such as Google are increasingly mobilised or solicited by governments to act as content mediators and de facto core actors in internet governance. The Report’s statistics are the latest – but not the last – illustration of how internet governance is increasingly being handled by private companies, and of industry’s “heightened role in regulating content and governing expression as well as responding to restrictions on expression” (DeNardis, 2012), most often under mandate or instructions of governments.

This phenomenon, which internet governance scholar Laura DeNardis has recently and concisely described as the “privatisation of internet governance” (DeNardis, 2010), is not a new dynamic, inasmuch as industry and the technical community have always played a fundamental role in how the internet is designed and managed, be it by contributing to standard-setting or infrastructure management. However, in a scenario in which users are taking advantage of increasingly sophisticated technology, the centralisation and concentration characterising today’s most widespread internet services are contributing to the accentuation of this tendency: “a small number of internet service providers concentrate a large part of the people’s online activities and time, their personal data and social networks, they exercise a considerable power on their users through the mere application of their terms of uses. […] Some services even play roles that used to be the monopoly of states, such as guaranteeing their users’ identity or maintaining social order online” (Arsène, 2012).

Indeed, as the journalist and co-founder of Global Voices Online, Rebecca MacKinnon, has pointed out, the millions of users – and the pervasiveness in their lives – of the Googles and Facebooks of today make these companies comparable to virtual “countries”, traditionally coinciding with the scope and jurisdiction of nation states (MacKinnon, 2012). There are indications that “various types of private ordering increasingly perform internet governance functions […] Private industry internet governance often takes place at the level of infrastructure management, an area fairly invisible to the public. In other areas, the role of private industry in ordering the flow of information over the internet is much more visible and well understood” (DeNardis, 2010). This is certainly the case for content removal actions, requested by governments or intergovernmental organisations and enacted by private companies, which constitute most of Google’s Transparency Report – and prominently feature EU states.

Internet intermediaries as information gatekeepers

The extent of the control (and as a consequence, the responsibility vis-à-vis the users) of the great information services, intermediaries and gatekeepers of today’s internet on user-generated, online-published content has been particularly evident in September 2012, when Google, owner of the very popular video streaming service YouTube, decided to block access to the infamous video Innocence of Muslims, ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, in two of the countries that have experienced severe upheavals, Egypt and Libya – while at the same time choosing not to remove it completely from its website. In that occasion, Peter Spiro, a professor of law at Temple University, in the United States, had declared to the New York Times: “Google is the world’s gatekeeper for information, so if Google wants to define the First Amendment to exclude this sort of material then there’s not a lot the rest of the world can do about it [and] it makes this episode an even more significant one if Google broadens the block” (Cain Miller, 2012). Indeed, in this prominent case and in all of those mentioned in the recent transparency report, Google’s actions as a content mediator demonstrate the “court-of-law-like powers of internet information intermediaries, de facto able to decide what content remains public, and what is taken out” (Musiani, 2012).

The crucial role of the private sector in internet governance has also come to the attention of the media on the occasion of the 2010 WikiLeaks U.S. diplomatic cables controversy. EveryDNS suspended its domain name resolution service, impeding the correct functioning of one of the internet’s “phone books” for the WikiLeaks website and thus effectively preventing the non-technically savvy public around the world from accessing it, eliciting reactions such as “This has come about through the actions of the U.S. Government. The government’s statements about Wikileaks have forced companies to analyze their Terms of Service […] In the name of security, our government has decided to force others to block information that they fear would have terrible, terrible impacts” (Williams, 2010).

Amazon blocked its hosting of the wikileaks.org website after an inquiry by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, prompting Ryan Calo, a lecturer at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, to declare to Reuters that under U.S. law, Amazon would likely have been shielded from any possible prosecution by the government: “It would set a dangerous precedent were companies like Amazon to take down things merely because the senator or another government entity started to ask questions about them” (Pelofsky, 2010).

Online financial services firms PayPal, Visa and MasterCard blocked the financial flow of money to WikiLeaks.

Taken together, these measures de facto cancelled WikiLeaks’ visibility on the internet and prevented public access to ‘leaked’ content. Regardless of the delicate or classified status of that particular content, the WikiLeaks case raises broader questions about the amount of control that internet companies can exert alongside governments on what should, and should not, be publicly and freely expressed online, and highlights the difficult positions that content platforms are sometimes put in – because of the responsibility that their “privileged gatekeeper status” entails.

Informal dimensions of internet governance

The increasing importance of the private sector in internet governance should not be exclusively read in terms of its potential restrictions to freedom of expression, threats to internet users’ privacy, and accountability to the public. The role of private industry is also, and historically, a positive one of market-spurred innovation and technical effectiveness in networked distribution, communication and interaction (DeNardis, 2010).

At the same time, “network providers deploy network-address translators that let several devices share the same address. To protect their networks against attacks, organizations put firewalls that block potentially harmful applications at the borders of their private networks. To increase their profits, network providers use technologies that enable them to identify and control the applications and the content passing through their networks” (Van Schewick, 2011).

All of these actions, in addition to the uses of internet infrastructure for content mediation, as discussed above, are an integral part of internet governance, albeit a more informal one. These private actions are often de-prioritised in internet governance discourse to make way for more institutionalised or forms of governance that are politically more traditional: governments, international and supranational organisations, multi-stakeholder fora, and organised civil society.

As information studies scholar Michel van Eeten interestingly pointed out, “A very large part of the internet governance field’s scholarly literature tends to focus almost exclusively on these formal international institutions involved in explicit discussions of the global governance of the internet. On the other hand, the term ‘internet governance’ is not normally applied to studies of many real-world activities and problems that play a crucial role in shaping and regulating the way the internet really works” (Van Eeten, 2009).

Internet governance discourse in Europe

A quick ‘mapping’ glance at internet governance at the European regional level seems to confirm the institutional orientation in the political and scholarly treatment of the internet governance field.

An online search on “Europe” and “internet governance” on Google and Yahoo!, for example, returns query results that are heavily centred on the activities of the Council of Europe (CoE) in this field; activities that are framed in the broader macro-area of ‘Human Rights and the Rule of Law’, implicitly according priority to the ways in which the existing and established international law and human rights system is addressing these emerging topics (CoE, 2013a). Zooming in some more, the most recent news on display concerns the CoE’s collaborations with other international or supranational organisations, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), from the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) (CoEa, 2013).

One needs to go back to April 2012 to find a notice that implicitly addresses private governance: the CoE’s adoption of recommendations for search engines to “increase transparency in the way access to information is provided, in particular the criteria used to select, rank or remove search results” (CoE, 2013b). The European Dialogue on Internet Governance, an annual convening of an “informal and inclusive discussion and exchange on public policy issues related to Internet Governance (IG) between stakeholders from all over Europe” (IFLA, 2013), whose next meeting will be held in Lisbon, Portugal on June 20 and 21 (EuroDIG, 2013), is also prominently featured in search results on European internet governance, as well as the core European Union governing instances, the Parliament and the Commission.

Internet governance to make dangerous liaisons explicit

The traditional instruments of the international political and legal system, such as conventions, treaties, charts and intergovernmental agreements, certainly hold a crucial role in internet governance, both as an arena of political experimentation and a field of study. Still, the “inherently political” qualities of search engine algorithm development, video content removals, blocking of domain names – actions that originate and rest with the private sector’s handling of the internet’s infrastructure – should not be neglected in our assessment of the field of internet governance today.

This is of particular importance, as these actions are often enacted in collaboration or under the mandate of governmental and supranational institutions, in dangerous liaisons whose details, conventions and compromises often escape the public radar. As legal scholar Kevin Werbach reminds us, quite originally within his field, “Two forces are in tension as the internet evolves. One pushes toward interconnected common platforms; the other pulls toward fragmentation and proprietary alternatives. Their interplay drives many of the contentious issues in cyberlaw, intellectual property, and telecommunications policy, including the fight over ‘network neutrality’ for broadband providers, debates over global internet governance, and battles over copyright online” (Werbach, 2009).

With possible implications for the resurgence of proprietary values, the diminishment of internet governance transparency, and the use of internet governance techniques for a competitive advantage on the market (DeNardis, 2012), the private sector is today at the crossroads of this tension, and plays a crucial role in how it will unfold in the close-future internet governance at the local, regional and global levels.


Francesca Musiani

Chercheuse postdoctorale, MINES ParisTech Yahoo! Fellow in Residence, Georgetown University

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Unlike Us #3 – Social Media: Design or Decline

unlikeus3Les vendredi 22 et samedi 23 mars 2013 se déroulait à Amsterdam l’Unlike Us #3 organisé par l’Institute of Network Cultures (“INC” – fondé en 2004 par Geert Lovink, professeur l’école polytechnique d’Amsterdam, School of Interactive Media at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (Amsterdam Polytechnic). Cette année, le thème de ce rendez vous annuel qui rassemble au sein d’un même évènement conférences, ateliers, discussion et hackathon était:

“Social Media: Design or Decline”

Unlike Us correspond à un réseau international d’artistes, de chercheurs, de designers, d’activistes et de programmeurs qui s’intéressent aux alternatives au réseaux sociaux et aux “contenus plus qu’aux interfaces”. Pour naviguer au sein de ce réseau et tacher de saisir les thèmes qui intéressent ces personnes plutôt “critiques” des médias, un des meilleurs outils est de regarder ce qui se discute au sein de leur liste de discussion. Le troisième rendez vous de ce réseau multidisciplinaire a tenu ses promesses en termes de discussion interdisciplinaire. La conférence a été ouverte par Bernard Stiegler, Petra Löffler et Tristan Thielmann sur une critique théorique du “social” (philosophe, archéologue, anthropologue). La suite de la conférence a vu se succéder beaucoup de personnes présentant tout autant leur technologie telle que Lorea (réseau social décentralisé utilisé par les indignés espagnol), le Facebook demetricator (par Ben Grosser) ou bien encore des réflexions très intéressantes sur la non utilisation des technologies mobiles dans certaines parties du monde (intervention de Marion Walton à propos de l’utilisation des messageries instantanées en Afrique du Sud. Nous retiendrons aussi la très bonne intervention de Miriyam Aouragh à propos de l’utilisation des réseaux sociaux par les “activistes digitaux” du Proche et du Moyen Orient.

La plupart des communications seront prochainement en ligne (sur http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/unlikeus/) mais vous pouvez dès à présent retrouver la plupart des panels et des technologies qui ont été présentées ici (spotted par Marion Walton):

Peter Olsthoorn showed us how to work out and claim our value to Facebook: What is your Facebook value? Work it out here

Benjamin Grosser introduced everyone to his Facebook Demetricator Facebook Demetricator and the Easing of Prescribed Sociality

Karlessi from Ippolita unpacked Religions 2.0 or the rituals of the participation society and how they feed the friendship algorithm Ippolita

There was a Skype video of Richard Metzger challenging Facebook’s strategy to get publishers to pay for ‘sponsored stories’  Facebook I want my friends back

Hester Scheurwater shot back after her fantasy self-portraits fell foul of Facebook’s censorious gaze Shooting back

For a world where Facebook is our passport, Tobias Leingruber offered us a Facebook ID FB Identity

There were also some great links shared in Simona Lodi’s presentation: Art as Networked Machinery: When Art Becomes Anti-Social for Being More Social

Anti-social blocks social sites IOCOSE

A crowded apocolypse  draws on crowdsourcing to generate a multitude of conspiracy theories

Rui Guerra and David Jonas Uncloud: Control your own cloud

Les Liens Invisibles 15 MINUTES, ANONYMOUS

Vous pouvez aussi télécharger le livre “Social Media Monopolies and their alternatives” tiré des réflexions de ce réseau de chercheurs designers, artistes ici : http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/portal/publication/unlike-us-reader-social-media-monopolies-and-their-alternatives/

Trailer – Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives from network cultures on Vimeo.

François Huguet

PhD student in Communication Studies at the Codesign Lab & Media Studies at Telecom ParisTech. Supervisor: Annie Gentès / Co-supervisor: Jérôme Denis

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BitTorrent Live, le streaming version distribuée…

La fameuse évolution du tout aussi fameux logiciel de partage de fichiers en pair-à-pair BitTorrent vient d’être officiellement “lancée” lors du SXSW d’Austin – Texas (8-17 mars 2013; notons que le projet avait été annoncé par Bram Cohen, créateur de Bittorrent l’année dernière au MusicTech Summit de San Francisco avec le projet de “tuer la télévision”…).

Il s’agit en fait d’une version béta de ce logiciel de Streaming en pair à pair où, comme l’explique le blog officiel de Bittorrent:

For anyone with mobile video or webcams, for anyone in the moment, on the ground, or on the front lines; for everyone with the need to break news or break it down in real time: BitTorrent Live is now open. Get involved.

BitTorrent Live is a peer-to-peer live streaming protocol. It’s based on the principles of the BitTorrent protocol. And it’s designed to make real-time reporting, and open expression accessible to all. BitTorrent Live eliminates bandwidth, cost, and infrastructure as broadcast barriers. The more people that tune in, the more resilient your stream.

Since November, we’ve been working with a number of digital creators and broadcasters in a closed Beta program. As Bram notes, “We’ve demonstrated scaling and improved stability during our invite-only period, and are excited to open our service up to anyone who wants it. Thanks to all our early users for their support.”

Thanks to you, it’s open to all. Live streaming by the people, for the people.

BitTorrent Live is still in Beta. But it’s one of the ways we’re working on solving for free expression and creative sustainability on behalf of artists, publishers, and broadcasters. Check out Live, and other BitTorrent artist tools, over at Labs.

BitTorrent Live correspondrait donc à un service de streaming vidéo basé sur le principe du protocole peer to peer Bittorrent à savoir un partage en temps réel de données entre utilisateurs de ce logiciel. L’enjeu semble de taille: tuer la télé donc mais aussi tacher de détronner Youtube et Ustream… Pour l’instant on parle de version béta et apparemment les test semblent plus concluants que ceux effectués l’année dernière… L’idée semblerait donc aussi de permettre la diffusion de vidéo en live en:

“s’affranchissant d’infrastructure, de bande passante, et de tout ce que cela englobe, notamment en matière d’investissement financier. En clair, « plus les gens regardent votre émission, plus le flux est résistant » explique la plateforme. La base est donc la même que celle qui garantit un téléchargement rapide et fluide d’un fichier qui transite par BitTorrent, à condition que les seeders soient au rendez-vous.

BitTorrent Live est donc présenté comme un service de « retransmission directe par les gens, pour les gens ». Déjà testé en bêta fermée, il peut désormais être utilisé par le biais d’une plateforme Web complétée par un guide en ligne. Reste désormais à voir comment les plateformes de vidéo et autres adeptes du podcast vont potentiellement exploiter ce nouvel outil, dont seule une popularité conséquente pourra garantir son bon fonctionnement, protocole BitTorrent oblige.

Audrey Oeillet, sur Clubic.com, 12 mars 2013

Reste à voir donc… Mais nous gardons les yeux et les oreilles grand ouverts!



François Huguet

PhD student in Communication Studies at the Codesign Lab & Media Studies at Telecom ParisTech. Supervisor: Annie Gentès / Co-supervisor: Jérôme Denis

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Découvert hier grâce à la veille de Primavera de Filippi, Qaul.net semble être une application capable de créer des réseaux “from scratch”; du moins lorsque l’on les infrastructures existantes sont ou ont été coupées par une action de censure ou des catastrophes naturelles…

qaul.net implements a redundant, open communication principle, in which wireless-enabled computers and mobile devices can directly form a spontaneous network. Text messaging, file sharing and voice calls are possible independent of internet and cellular networks. Qaul.net can spread like a virus, and an Open Source Community can modify it freely.

In a time of communication blackouts in places like Egypt, Burma, and Tibet, and given the large power outages often caused by natural disasters, qaul.net has taken on the challenge of critically examining existing communication pathways while simultaneously exploring new horizons.

Les créateurs de ce projet Christop Wachter & Mathias Jud seront le jeudi 14 Mars à Paris (CNAM – Musée des Arts et métiers, 18h30, gratuit sur réservation) pour une conférence sur “L’e-inclusion ou comment lutter contre la fracture numérique ?” Nous ne manquerons pas de les rencontrer à ce moment là pour comprendre en quoi leur projet se rapproche de projets tels que Commotion, Terranet ou Serval; et ce en quoi il se différencie.

D’ici là, leur vidéo de présentation nous semble intéressante. Elle se rapproche de l’analyse que nous effectuons sur les réseaux MESH (voir ici, ici et ici). Nous enquêtons donc!…

Plus de détails à retrouver bientôt ici!


Christoph Wachter & Mathias Jud



François Huguet

PhD student in Communication Studies at the Codesign Lab & Media Studies at Telecom ParisTech. Supervisor: Annie Gentès / Co-supervisor: Jérôme Denis

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