Architectures de réseau et (comme) gouvernance d’Internet

Cet article, en anglais, est paru en octobre 2013 sur l’Internet Policy Review. Merci à Frédéric Dubois, Uta Meier-Hahn, Andrej Savin et Rikke Frank Joergensen pour leur relecture et leurs commentaires.

 

Network architecture as internet governance

The architecture of a networked system is its underlying technical structure, designed according to a “matrix of concepts” (Agre, 2003). It constitutes the logical and structural layout of a system, including transmission equipment, communication protocols, infrastructure, and connectivity between its components or nodes. This article introduces the idea of network architecture as internet governance1, and more specifically, it outlines the dialectic between centralised and distributed architectures, institutions and practices, and how they mutually affect each other.

Technical architectures, as argued by several authors discussed in this article, may be understood as alternative ways of influencing economic systems, sets of rules, communities of practice – indeed, as the very fabric of user behaviour and interaction. The status of every internet user as consumer, sharer, producer and possibly manager of digital content is informed by, and shapes in return, the technical structure and organisation of the services she has access to. It is in this sense that network architecture is internet governance: by changing the design of the networks subtending internet-based services, and the global internet itself, the politics of the network of networks are affected – the balance of rights between users and providers, the capacity of online communities to engage in open and direct interaction, the fair competition between actors of the internet market.

Architecture, “politics by other means”

“Study an information system and neglect its standards, wires, and settings, and you miss equally essential aspects of aesthetics, justice, and change,” once wrote science and technology studies (STS) scholar Susan Leigh Star (Star, 1999, p. 339). Indeed, the history of internet innovation suggests that the shaping of technical architectures populating the network of networks is, in the words of philosopher Bruno Latour, “politics by other means” (Latour, 1988, p. 229). The ways in which architecture is politics, protocols are law, code shapes rights (e.g., Lessig, 1999; DeNardis, 2009), are explored today by a number of different authors in relation to networked and online media; in particular, internet-related research has contributed to foster the debate on the intersection and overlap of governance by architecture with other forms of governance. This section, while not pretending to be exhaustive, discusses some key approaches to the question.

Interested in the relationship between architectures and the organisation of society, Terje Rasmussen (2003) has argued that there is a structural match between the development of the technical model of the internet (such as packet switching and distributed routing) and the transformation of the societies in which it operates. In this account, the technical infrastructure of the Internet suggests that ours is a distributed society, based on the ability to handle risk, rather than on central control. On the other hand, information studies scholar and internet pioneer Philip Agre suggests that “Decentralized institutions do not imply decentralized architectures, or vice versa. […] Architectures and institutions inevitably coevolve, and to the extent they can be designed, they should be designed together” (Agre, 2003, p. 42), but they are not “naturally” related.

IT law scholar Barbara van Schewick seeks to examine how changes, notably design choices, in internet architecture affect the economic environment for innovation, and evaluates the impact of these changes from the perspective of public policy (2010, p. 2). According to her, this is a first step towards filling a gap in how scholarship understands innovators’ decisions and the economic environment for innovation. After many years of research on innovation processes, we understand how these are affected by changes in laws, norms, and prices; yet, we lack a similar understanding of how architecture and innovation impact each other, perhaps for the intrinsic appeal of architectures as purely technical systems (ibid., p. 2-3). Traditionally, she concludes, policy makers have used the law to bring about desired economic effects. Architecture de facto constitutes an alternative way of influencing economic systems, and as such, it is becoming another tool that actors can use to further their interests (ibid., p. 389).

The relationship between architecture and law-making for networked media has been an increasingly central interdisciplinary preoccupation since the late 1990s/early 2000s. Early uses of the metaphor “code is law” can be found in William Mitchell’s City of Bits (1995) and in Joel Reidenberg’s article on lex informatica, the formation of information policy rules through technology (1998). However, legal scholars Yochai Benkler and Lawrence Lessig have arguably been the “scene-setters” in this field, with their work on sharing as a paradigm of economic production in its own right (2004) and technical architecture as politics (1999), respectively. While the former argued for the rise of a “networked information economy” as a system of “production, distribution, and consumption of information goods characterized by decentralized individual action carried out through widely distributed, nonmarket means” (Benkler, 2006), the latter introduced technical architecture as one out of the four main (and interconnected) society regulators, the other three being law, market and norms. The application of this principle to the text of computer programmes led to what remains, perhaps, the most striking incarnation of the famous “code is law” label (Lessig, 1999).

Among the scholars that have since been inspired by this line of inquiry, Niva Elkin-Koren is especially relevant. In her work (e.g., 2006, 2012), architecture is understood as a dynamic parameter in the reciprocal influences of law and technology design, in the field of information and communication systems. The interrelationship between law and technology often focuses on one single aspect, the challenges that emerging technologies pose to the existing legal regime, thereby creating a need for further legal reform; however, the author argues, juridical measures involving technology both as a target of regulation and as a means of enforcement should take into account that the law does not merely respond to new technologies, but also shapes them and may affect their design (Elkin-Koren, 2006).

The work of Tim Wu adds layers to the conceptualisation of code’s relationship with law, moving from Lessig’s concept that computer code can substitute for law or other forms of regulation, to code as an anti-regulatory mechanism tool that certain groups will use to their advantage to minimise the costs of law – the possibility of “using code design as an alternative mechanism of interest group behavior” (Wu, 2003).

Architecture and the future(s) of the internet

The current trajectories of innovation for the internet are making it increasingly evident by the day: the evolutions (and in-volutions) of the network of networks are likely to depend in the medium-to-long term on the topology and the organisational/technical model of internet-based applications, as well as on the infrastructure underlying them (Aigrain, 2011).

This is illustrated by what has been this author’s main research focus over the past few years: the development of internet-based services – search engines, storage platforms, video streaming applications – based on decentralised network architectures (Musiani, 2013b).

The concept of decentralisation is somehow shaped and inscribed into the very beginnings of the internet – notably in the organisation and circulation of data packets – but its current topology integrates this structuring principle only in very limited ways (Minar & Hedlund, 2001). The limits of the concentrated and centralised urbanism of the internet, which has been predominant since the beginning of its commercial era and its appropriation by the masses, are sometimes highlighted by the same phenomena that has contributed to its widespread success, as best illustrated by social media (Schafer, Le Crosnier & Musiani, 2011). Examples of incidents caused by “excessive concentration” are, for example, the global consequences of the Pakistani YouTube re-routing in 2008 or the repeated failures of Twitter infrastructure (e.g., in 2012). These incidents have put into the spotlight some of the possible limits of the concentration model: excessive control, technical and/or legal, by a single commercial entity; the opaqueness of the modalities of this control vis-à-vis the users; the vulnerability to single-point failures of centralised architectures.

While internet users have become, at least potentially, not only consumers but also distributors, sharers and producers of digital content, the network of networks is structured in such a way that large quantities of data are centralised and compressed within large data centers and server farms. At the same time, such data is most suited to a rapid re-diffusion and re-sharing in multiple locations of a network that has now reached an unprecedented level of globalisation. The current organisation of internet-based services and the structure of the network that enables their delivery – with its mandatory passage points, places of storage and trade, required intersections – raises many questions, in terms of the optimised utilisation of resources, the fluidity, rapidity and effectiveness of electronic exchanges, the security of exchanges, the stability of the network.

Beyond technology, these questions are deeply social and political, and affect the “ramifications of possibles” (Gai, 2007) the internet is currently facing for its close future. Resorting to decentralised architectures and distributed organisational forms, constitutes a different way to address some issues of management of the network, in a perspective of effectiveness, answer to vulnerabilities, digital “sustainable development” (better resource management), and of maximisation of the Internet’s value for society.

Architectures shaping user rights: decentralisation and privacy by design

Systems based on distributed, decentralised, peer-to-peer (P2P) architectures seek their place today in an IT landscape that is mostly one of concentration and removal from users’ machines. From the viewpoint of informational data, personal data and exchanged content, this implies that sharing, regrouping and stocking those data in the most popular, and widespread internet services of today means promoting a model in which traffic is re-directed towards an ensemble of machines, placed under the exclusive and direct control of the service provider. Thus, exchanges between users are made by “copying” data that one wishes to share on one or more external terminals, or by giving these external machines the permission to index this information. The ways in which data circulates, is stored and written in these machines is often uncertain; moreover, the rights that the service provider acquires on such data are often excessive with respect to those maintained by the end user – in such a way that is often opaque for users themselves2.

When the operations of data treatment and handling are conducted, partially or totally, on users’ terminals directly linked together, this choice of network architecture contributes to building specific definitions of privacy protection. It modifies the ways in which the control on informational data, and the responsibility of their protection, are spread out to the users, the service providers and the developers who have created the service.

Three cases of internet services based on a decentralised network architecture – a search engine, a storage platform and a video streaming software, studied between 2009 and 2011 – have shown how a definition of privacy “by design,” more specifically by architectural design, takes shape in internet services (Musiani, 2013b). With this alternative, “techno-legal” way of defining privacy, a central role is attributed to the constraints and the opportunities of privacy protection that are inscribed into the technical model chosen by developers (Schaar, 2010).

Faroo, a P2P search engine developed first in Germany, then in the United Kingdom, displays a “six-levels” distribution model that must prevent the traceability of queries by a central entity; this model is supposed to preserve personal data within the user’s own terminal and the P2P client installed on it – unless they are encrypted on that very terminal before leaving it. This feature also allows the developers to work towards reducing the tension – which is a priori very difficult to eliminate – between the confidentiality of personal information and the personalisation of search queries, the latter being the “added value” that social dynamics add to the search engine and, which is based on the very collection of this personal information.

The case of Tribler, a P2P video streaming tool first developed at the Technical University of Delft (The Netherlands), is another occasion to follow this tension, as the logic underlying the system is that the history of downloads made by a user are shared by default with other users so as to nourish the software’s “recommendation” algorithm. The solution envisaged by the developers has, once again, to do with an idea of “privacy by architectural design”, as it builds on the decentralised and distributed model to mitigate, in the eyes of users, the impression of exposure and revelation of themselves that the system’s social features may provoke: not only can the feature be disabled, but it only sends the download history to other users – it doesn’t keep the information on any server controlled by the service.

Finally, Wuala 3, a (formerly) distributed storage platform developed in Switzerland, displayed similar attempts to protect user privacy via architecture. The heart of this service was the user’s terminal, where, thanks to a dedicated P2P client, the operations of encryption and fragmentation of stored data could take place. These two operations, conducted before any other (e.g., sharing, downloading or circulating data in the network), were meant, in the vision of Wuala’s developers, as evidence given to the users that the service provider, regardless of its intentions, did not even possess the technical means to break user trust in the system.

While developers, across all three case studies, consider that a more articulate protection of privacy is one of the core comparative advantages of their systems (and they “sell” it as such), users wonder, in turn, about the implications of a decentralised architecture for the protection of their data. What does the fact of making available to the whole P2P network a part of one’s own computing resources imply, for the “invisible” data collected there? In the cases of Faroo and Wuala – where the P2P model merges, in a peculiar way, with a proprietary software logic, this question is the occasion to make explicit the difficult articulation between the decentralising philosophy subtending the systems, and a closed source code. Pioneer users – for the most part, users-innovators or users-developers themselves – see the closed code as a lack of transparency, even a lack of respect, that prevents them from delving into this aspect with the tools they have available. It is good to have privacy by architecture, these users point out, but we need to have a direct knowledge of this technique on a case-by-case basis, to, eventually, allow for direct modifications of the architecture.

Decentralised models challenge “by architecture” the extent, the balance and the very definition of the rights obtained by service providers on users’ personal data, vis-à-vis the rights that users maintain on such data. With a trade-off: on the one hand, the user sees her privacy reinforced by the possibility of an augmented control on her data, and its handling by the P2P client. However, simultaneously and for the same reasons, her responsibility for the actions she undertakes within and by means of the application is increased proportionately, as the provider surrenders voluntarily some of his control over the data and content present on the service. The collective dimension of this responsibility is also emphasised, inasmuch as the infraction to the collective behaviour has not only individual but collective consequences- be it the storage of inappropriate content, the introduction of unreliable information or spam in a distributed search index, or a “selfish” management of the bandwidth shared by a P2P streaming system.

Conclusions: how architecture matters

“Arrangements of technical architecture have always inherently been arrangements of power,” writes STS scholar Laura DeNardis (2012): the technical architecture of networked systems does not only affect internet governance, but is internet governance. This governance by architecture, or “governance by design” (De Filippi, Dulong de Rosnay & Musiani, 2013), has important implications at a number of levels, of which the previous section has given but one example.

Changes in architectural design affect the repartition of competences and responsibilities between service providers, content producers, users and network operators. They affect forms of engagement and intéressement (Callon, 2006) in networked systems, of users first and foremost, but also of other actors concerned by the implementation and the operation of internet services. They shape the sustainability of the underlying economic models and the technical and legal approaches to digital content and personal data. They make visible, in various configurations, the forms of interaction between the local and the global, the patterns of articulation between the individual and the collective.

Changes in network architectures contribute to the shaping of user rights, of the ways to produce and enforce law, and are reconfigured in return. A number of legal issues, that go way beyond copyright (despite having often been reduced to this aspect, notably in the case of peer-to-peer systems), are raised by architectural configurations of internet services. To preserve the internet’s “social value,” it is important to achieve reliable forms of regulation – technical, political, or both – without impeding present and future innovation.

Changes in architecture do, finally, contribute to shift the boundary between public and private uses of the internet as a global facility: they are a crucial factor in defining intellectual property rights, the right to privacy of users/clients, or their rights of access to content. They contribute to define what is a contributor in internet-based services, in terms of computing resources required for operating the system, and of content.

In the end, technical architecture appears as one of the strongest, if not the strongest structuring element of internet governance: what is shaped into architecture and infrastructure can seldom be undone by institutional negotiation and dialogue alone, and institutions find it increasingly complicated to keep up with “creative” governance by architecture and by infrastructure4. In this sense, future evolutions of internet governance as a field would do well to take into account Michel van Eeten and Milton Mueller’s suggestion to expand and include innovative areas such as the economics of cybercrime and cyber security, network neutrality, content filtering and regulation, copyright enforcement, and interconnection arrangements among ISPs (van Eeten & Mueller, 2013).

In the digital world, it is possible to design in detail the architecture of the world users interact with – and as a consequence, it is possible to design the architecture of our global communication infrastructure in order to promote specific types of interactions over others (De Filippi et al., 2013). With important consequences for the ways in which the future internet will be governed, and for the extent to which its users will be not only customers, but citizens.

Footnotes

1. Internet governance (IG) today is a lively, emerging field, and its definition relentlessly contested by different groups across political and ideological lines. A “working definition” of IG has been provided in the past, after the United Nations-initiated World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), by the Working Group on Internet Governance – a definition that has reached wide consensus because of its inclusiveness, but is perhaps too broad to be useful for drawing more precisely the boundaries of the field (Malcolm, 2008): “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 use of the Internet” (WGIG, 2005). This broad definition implies the involvement of a plurality of actors, and the possibility for them to deploy a plurality of governance mechanisms. IG has been described as a mix of technical coordination, standards, and policies (e.g., Malcolm, 2008 and Mueller, 2010). See also (DeNardis, 2013) and (Musiani, 2013a).

2. See this discussion of the terms of use of several social sites, among which Facebook and Instagram: http://www.nyccounsel.com/business-blogs-websites/who-owns-photos-and-videos-posted-on-facebook-or-twitter/

3. The decentralised mechanism subtending the Wuala system, a trade between local storage space and space in a “P2P storage cloud” spread out to the users, was discontinued in September 2011.

4. An example is the Domain Name System and its co-optations. See (DeNardis, 2012) and (Musiani, 2013).

References

Agre, P. (2003). “Peer-to-Peer and the Promise of Internet Equality.” Communications of the ACM, 46 (2): 39-42.

Aigrain, P. (2010). “Declouding Freedom: Reclaiming Servers, Services and Data.” In 2020 FLOSS Roadmap (2010 Version/3rd Edition), https://flossroadmap.co-ment.com/text/NUFVxf6wwK2/view/

Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Benkler, Y. (2004). “Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as a Modality of Economic Production.” The Yale Law Journal, 114 (2), 273-358.

Callon, M. (2006). “Sociologie de l’acteur-réseau.” In Akrich, M., Callon, M. & Latour, B. Sociologie de la traduction. Textes fondateurs. Paris : Presses des Mines, 267-276.

De Filippi, P., M. Dulong de Rosnay & F. Musiani (2013). “Peer production online communities, distributed architectures and governance by design.” Communication presented at the Fourth Transforming Audiences Conference, September 3, 2013, University of Westminster, London.

DeNardis, L. (2013). “The Emerging Field of Internet Governance”, in W. Dutton (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

DeNardis, L. (2012). “The Turn to Infrastructure for Internet Governance”, Concurring Opinions, 2012, http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2012/04/the-turn-to-infrastructure-for-internet-governance.html

DeNardis, L. (2009). Protocol Politics. The Globalization of Internet Governance. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Elkin-Koren, N. (2006). “Making Technology Visible: Liability of Internet Service Providers for Peer-to-Peer Traffic.” New York University Journal of Legislation & Public Policy, 9 (15), 15-76.

Elkin-Koren, N. (2012). “Governing Access to User-Generated Content: The Changing Nature of Private Ordering in Digital Networks.” In Brousseau, E., Marzouki, M., Méadel, C. (eds.), Governance, Regulations and Powers on the Internet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gai, A.-T. (2007). “Web 3.0: une autre branche pour l’arbre des possibles.” Transnets, http://pisani.blog.lemonde.fr/2007/02/17/web-30-une-autre-branche-pour-larbre-des-possibles/

Latour, B. (1988). The Pasteurization of France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lessig, L. (1999). Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York: Basic Books.

Malcolm, J. (2008). Multi-Stakeholder Governance and the Internet Governance Forum. Wembley, WA : Terminus Press.

Minar, N. & Hedlund, M. (2001). “A network of peers – Peer-to-peer models through the history of the Internet.” In A. Oram (Ed.), Peer-to-peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies, 9-20. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

Mitchell, W. J. (1996). City of Bits. Space, Place and the Infobahn. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Mueller, M. (2010). Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Musiani, F. (2013a). “A Decentralized Domain Name System? User-Controlled Infrastructure as Alternative Internet Governance”. Presented at the 8th Media In Transition (MiT8) conference, May 3-5, 2013, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. Available as draft at http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/mit8/papers/Musiani_DecentralizedDNS_MiT8Paper.pdf

Musiani, F. (2013b). Nains sans géants. Architecture décentralisée et services Internet. Paris, Presses des Mines.

Rasmussen, T. (2003). “On distributed society: The history of the Internet as a guide to a sociological understanding of communication and society,” In G. Liestøl, A. Morrison & T. Rasmussen (ed.),  Digital Media revisited : theoretical and conceptual innovation in digital domains, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Reidenberg, J. R. (1998). “Lex Informatica: The Formulation of Internet Policy Rules Through Technology.” Texas Law Review, 76 (3).

Schafer, V., H. Le Crosnier & F. Musiani (2011). La neutralité de l’Internet, un enjeu de communication. Paris: CNRS Editions/Les Essentiels d’Hermès.

Star, S. L. (1999). “The Ethnography of Infrastructure.” American Behavioral Scientist, 43 (3): 377-391.

van Eeten, M. & M. Mueller (2009). “Where Is the Governance in Internet Governance?” New Media & Society, 15 (5): 720-736.

van Schewick, B. (2010). Internet Architecture and Innovation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Working Group on Internet Governance (2005). Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance, Château de Bossey, June 2005, http://www.wgig.org/docs/WGIGREPORT.pdf

Wu, T. (2003). “When Code Isn’t Law.” Virginia Law Review, 89.

Francesca Musiani

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

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IXmaps: voir les routes, comprendre l’architecture

logo du projet IXmaps – www.ixmaps.ca

Savez vous par où, par quels « lieux » transitent vos données?

Quelles « routes » elles empruntent?

Qui contrôle ce réseau, cette architecture complexe qu’est Internet?

Cette vidéo de présentation du projet IXmaps tâche de répondre à ces quelques questions. Développé autour de la faculté d’information de L’Université de Toronto, le projet universitaire IXmaps (Université de Toronto, Ontario College of Art and Design, Information Policy Research Program – Canada) est un outil de cartographie et de suivi de paquets qui transitent sur Internet. Il permet de reconstituer le chemin que ces derniers empruntent d’un nœud du réseau vers un autre nœud. On peut ainsi reconstituer l’itinéraire des paquets que l’on envoie à un destinataire lorsqu’on lui transmet un email par exemple. L’outil permet en d’autres termes de voir par quelles « routes » et par quels endroits passent nos informations et de nous en donner un aperçu sur une carte (USA et Canada uniquement).

Après la très médiatique affaire Snowden qui dévoilait les centres de surveillance de la NSA du trafic web américain la vidéo met en image l’organisation de ce trafic et nous rappelle à quel point l’Internet est matériel et éloigné de cette idée de « nuage », de « cloud ». La vidéo présente également certaines caractéristiques du routage des paquets entre États (notamment le « boomerang routing »), de la surveillance du trafic outre atlantique depuis le 11 septembre 2001 et l’établissement du « Patriot Act » (accords entre opérateurs de télécommunications et gouvernement américain) et de l’aspect centralisé et centralisateur de l’architecture globale de l’Internet (l’essentiel du trafic américain transitant par au moins l’un des 18 nœuds centraux du territoire américain).

À regarder:

 

What Is IXmaps? from The New Transparency 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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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.

References

[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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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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Qaul.net

687474703a2f2f7777772e7161756c2e6e65742f696d672f7161756c2d6e65742e706e67

 

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!

 

qaul.net
Christoph Wachter & Mathias Jud
www.wachter-jud.net

 

 

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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À propos de la mort d’Aaron Swartz

Boston Wiki Meetup – CC BY-SA 2.0 Sage Ross (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ragesoss/)

Vendredi dernier, à l’age de 26 ans, Aaron Swartz se donnait la mort à New York. Celui qui passe aujourd’hui pour un prodige de l’informatique et de l’internet (fondateur de Reddit, ami de Lawrence Lessig et membre de l’équipe d’invention des flux RSS et des Creative Commons) avait piraté le site de Jstor. Il était inculpé pour cela. Lister l’ensemble des articles qui discutent du suicide de celui qui est en passe de devenir le « Martyr » du web serait difficile; néanmoins, voici une liste d’articles qui ont retenu notre attention:

Anglais:

Sa vision de l’internet comme un système-réseau complètement distribué était particulièrement intéressante, Cf. cette 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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La Syrie a disparu… de l’Internet mondial

À suivre sur Twitter via le hashtag #SyriaBlackout

La nouvelle est arrivée hier à 10:26 UTC via une brève d’une entreprise qui surveille le statut de l’Internet mondial (Remesys). En effet, sur la table globale de routage du web, les 84 portes d’entrées sur la Syrie (les 84 blocs d’adressage IP assignés à ce pays en proie à une guerre depuis 2011) étaient devenues inaccessibles. L’infrastructure mondiale de l’Internet a donc été amputé en quelque part, le réseau à perdu les branches syriennes de ses rhizomes…

Qu’est ce que cette coupure signifie dans un pays à feu et à sang et où un régime de terreur cherche à contrôler l’information? Les militants syriens trouveront-ils des solutions décentralisées pour contourner ce blocage de l’Internet comme souhaiter le faire la technologie Commotion, Internet in a suitcase dans cet article du New York Times du 12 juin 2011?

Les prochains jours nous le diront, mais gageons dès à présent que c’est mauvais signe. Très mauvais signe… Ce type de coupure a souvent lieu lorsque les régimes politiques autoritaires deviennent nerveux à propos de la façon dont ils sont perçus de par le Monde (Mubarak, raïs déchu égyptien se permettait bien souvent d’agir de la sorte mais la dernière coupure en janvier 2011 avait cristallisé les revendications démocratiques de la place Tahrir et de ses militants connectés).

Plus d’informations ici (allthingsd.com article de Arik Hesseldahl)

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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Images et animations pour communiquer la gouvernance de l’Internet

Nos lecteurs qui s’intéressent a la médiation scientifique et/ou qui ont suivi la très bonne serie d’articles publiée sur ce site par Camille Jutant, portant sur les images des architectures distribuées, ne manqueront pas d’apprécier cette initiative de la Diplo Foundation, centrée sur l’usage d’images et d’animations pour communiquer les enjeux complexes de la gouvernance d’Internet d’aujourd’hui.

Images et IG – video de la Diplo Foundation

Francesca Musiani

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

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