[Governance] 170 orgs send an open letter to UN SG to stop plans for a new High Level Multistakeholder Body

Mueller, Milton L milton at gatech.edu
Sun Mar 21 16:45:53 EDT 2021

I've looked over the letter and am not impressed; not with the argument it presents nor with the astroturfed list of 170 organizations.

We at IGP have largely, and deliberately, ignored the UN's initiatives around so-called High Level
Digital Cooperation. Not because we think it is leading in a bad direction or is part of an evil capitalist plot, nor do we think the people promoting it are badly motivated. We just think it is mostly irrelevant. It is founded on model of governance that is unrealistic and unlikely to have any impact on the internet (or platforms, which is not the same as the internet).

The Internet consists of 70,000 autonomous systems using a common layer 3 and 4 protocol to communicate. Key elements of the internet infrastructure are governed by what we call the Organically Developed Internet institutions, such as IETF (standards), ICANN (domain names) the Regional Internet Registries (IP addressing) and cooperative action among network operators (routing, interconnection).

Because the internet has created a globalized space for communication, many new problems and new forms of governance are evolving at the transnational layer that go well beyond critical internet resources. They affect issues areas such as cybersecurity, content moderation, and privacy. Some of these transnational initiatives are, in our opinion, praiseworthy; others are not. But it is both unlikely and undesirable for them to be consolidated or centralized in the hands of a single global body, whether it is called "multistakeholder" or "intergovernmental." No such body is going to be able to have the power or the expertise or the widespread legitimacy and participation to address all these areas. Only a dialogue forum is possible at the IGF level.

Worse, increasingly, national governments are trying to interfere with or control usage of the internet at the application layer. This is leading to an increasingly fragmented, costly, and repressive environment. One could call this tech nationalism, jurisdictional alignment, fragmentation or a digital neo-mercantilism. IGP has published numerous critiques of these pathologies.

In this context, for JustNet and its partners to portray "regulation of big tech" as the salvation of the internet, and the UN's attempt to create a High Level MS Body as an entity with "overweening power" that "would help Big Tech resist effective regulation" is just laughable. I do not see how anyone with any deep knowledge of IG can take it seriously. It has very little relevance to contemporary problems of IG.

Insofar as it has any substance, it seems to call for more nation-state based regulation of internet operations and content.  But this is something that, from Trump's Great Firewall of America, to Russia's "sovereign" Internet, to Europe's NIS2, to India's app blocking and censorship, to China's insulated internet, we already have plenty of. And we are getting more and it seems to be making things worse.

By the way, has anyone at JustNet noticed that Facebook is joining them in their call for more internet regulation at the national level? Think about the implications of that for a moment: https://about.fb.com/regulations/

If you read the letter, you can see that they obtained the support of all these organization - very few of whom actually focus on Internet or ICT governance - by equating the UN HLDC with the World Economic Forum. This is factually wrong, but it does succeed at throwing red meat in front of the anti-globalization activists from two decades ago.

Internet governance needs to be accomplished from the bottom up, and rely heavily on networked, non-hierarchical forms of governance. We need to protect and strengthen, not destroy or undermine, the organically developed internet institutions. When state-based, hierarchical interventions are necessary, they need to be carefully circumscribed and focused to address real problems that cannot be handled in any other way, such as crime, fraud, and coercion. The UN should stop trying to become a centerpoint of global internet governance and continue to serve as a place for dialogue and network building.

Dr. Milton L Mueller
Georgia Institute of Technology
School of Public Policy
[IGP_logo_gold block]

From: Governance <governance-bounces at lists.igcaucus.org> On Behalf Of parminder via Governance
Sent: Saturday, March 13, 2021 12:30 AM
To: governance at lists.igcaucus.org
Subject: [Governance] 170 orgs send an open letter to UN SG to stop plans for a new High Level Multistakeholder Body

The open letter was sent to the official consultation process, signed by more than 170 organisations.

It was titled ""More than 170 Civil Society Groups Worldwide Oppose Plans for a Big Tech Dominated Body for Global Digital Governance" .

Please see the final statement and endorsements at

https://justnetcoalition.org/big-tech-governing-big-tech.pdf<https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjustnetcoalition.org%2Fbig-tech-governing-big-tech.pdf&data=04%7C01%7Cmilton%40gatech.edu%7Cb4c8944001194bc7858208d8e5e11d64%7C482198bbae7b4b258b7a6d7f32faa083%7C0%7C0%7C637512102923889975%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000&sdata=LINRHD5T4MZBhJN75Fvb%2BJ04O4zUY1ErnSUWmDtofb8%3D&reserved=0>  .

It was also translated into Spanish, French, German and Dutch. All versions are linked from the enclosed document

We had just 3 days to get sign ons, out of which 2 were weekend days. In the circumstances, the number is quite good. It shows the groundswell to opposition to this move. Thanks to everyone who supported this.

We will now get this letter also sent directly to the UN SG and his new Tech Envoy.

We will like to keep this campaign open for some time to get additional support and build awareness ...

This ongoing campaign is just a start, much more needs to be done and will be done to stop this assault on democracy and on possibilities of effective regulation of Big Tech. We will be doing all it takes, including engaging with governments.

We will follow a twin track: develop a powerful movement within civil society groups, and engage with governments and the UN.

Will keep you posted.

Best regards

On 05/03/21 2:15 pm, parminder via Governance wrote:

Dear All

This is an open letter to the UN Secretary General<https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjustnetcoalition.org%2Fbig-tech-governing-big-tech.pdf&data=04%7C01%7Cmilton%40gatech.edu%7Cb4c8944001194bc7858208d8e5e11d64%7C482198bbae7b4b258b7a6d7f32faa083%7C0%7C0%7C637512102923899975%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000&sdata=8fVH%2BEPgBnX09zXtQUFKFKI3BwIWjbxbqDqb3cSbIzI%3D&reserved=0> initiated by 16 global and national level civil society networks and organisations urging him to shelve plans for a High Level Multistakeholder Body which, if set up, can be expected to become the default apex global digital governance and policy body. This body is proposed to have a private funding model, with strong hints also at a 'pay to play' model. It is but obvious that Big Tech will come to dominate any such body.

Quoting from the letter:

Not only in developing countries but also in the US and EU, calls for stronger regulation of Big Tech are rising. At the precise point when we should be shaping global norms to regulate Big Tech, plans have emerged for an 'empowered' global digital governance body that will evidently be dominated by Big Tech. Adding vastly to its already overweening power, this new Body would help Big Tech resist effective regulation, globally and at national levels. Indeed, we face the unbelievable prospect of 'a Big Tech led body for Global Governance of Big Tech'.
 Two technical annexes to the open letter explain the background of the matter in considerable detail.

This letter is open for endorsements, which can be done by writing an email to secretariat at justnetcoalition.org<mailto:secretariat at justnetcoalition.org> or filling this form<https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjustnetcoalition.org%2Fbig-tech-governing-big-tech-form&data=04%7C01%7Cmilton%40gatech.edu%7Cb4c8944001194bc7858208d8e5e11d64%7C482198bbae7b4b258b7a6d7f32faa083%7C0%7C0%7C637512102923899975%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000&sdata=NcSzxaUwS1s%2BHKfhkXlpStaqFwNiOKO283dmauSu7eA%3D&reserved=0> before midnight PST (GMT-8) of the 7th of March.

Please also do circulate to other groups and networks where it may attract interest.

The open letter may also be accessed at https://justnetcoalition.org/big-tech-governing-big-tech.pdf<https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjustnetcoalition.org%2Fbig-tech-governing-big-tech.pdf&data=04%7C01%7Cmilton%40gatech.edu%7Cb4c8944001194bc7858208d8e5e11d64%7C482198bbae7b4b258b7a6d7f32faa083%7C0%7C0%7C637512102923909974%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000&sdata=sSgqsid1nkclqh%2Bg4AgHrX0Mx1%2BdqWbsa%2FKWavGwp50%3D&reserved=0>

French text is at : https://justnetcoalition.org/big-tech-governing-big-tech-french.pdf<https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjustnetcoalition.org%2Fbig-tech-governing-big-tech-french.pdf&data=04%7C01%7Cmilton%40gatech.edu%7Cb4c8944001194bc7858208d8e5e11d64%7C482198bbae7b4b258b7a6d7f32faa083%7C0%7C0%7C637512102923909974%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000&sdata=JOSC%2FHFG4omaj9tdxgm5%2FJ%2FF7Ft5jg0gNv%2FCL%2BiG970%3D&reserved=0> and Spanish version at - https://justnetcoalition.org/big-tech-governing-big-tech-spanish.pdf<https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjustnetcoalition.org%2Fbig-tech-governing-big-tech-spanish.pdf&data=04%7C01%7Cmilton%40gatech.edu%7Cb4c8944001194bc7858208d8e5e11d64%7C482198bbae7b4b258b7a6d7f32faa083%7C0%7C0%7C637512102923919962%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000&sdata=fADhoRYAeqkzZwCekvnWnl7hdc06MwbqMDnIaik%2BxWM%3D&reserved=0>

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments regarding the above.

Best, parminder

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