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the digest  September 2019

The OEWG’s first substantive meeting: what happened?

GPD was in New York last month for the first substantive meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace (OEWG), which saw wide-ranging discussion on the Group’s mandate and areas of focus.


Overall, things seem to have gotten off to a good start, with broad agreement on many issues—“80%” by the estimation of one state. The remaining 20% may prove more difficult to resolve. And, despite some promising words on stakeholder engagement going forward, many questions still remain. See our report back from the meeting for more detailed takeaways and analysis. 

Notes

  • A cross-section of 27 states delivered a joint statement ahead of the September UN General Assembly session. In the statement, they highlight an “evolving framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace”'—referring to the last consensus report of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE)—and confirm their commitment to working together on a voluntary basis to implement the framework. Notably, the statement also includes a reference to human rights, reiterating “that human rights apply and must be respected and protected by states online as well as offline, including when addressing cybersecurity”. 
  • The deadline for attending the December OEWG intersessional—which is dedicated to non-government stakeholders—has now passed, and we’re hoping more information on how the December session will be run is shared soon so that participants have time to prepare. We’ll update the UNGA First Committee hub as soon as we know more.
  • The NGO accreditation process for the upcoming OEWG substantive sessions in February and July is apparently being reviewed. Hopefully this will give non-ECOSOC accredited groups a better chance at attending...
  • Turning to the parallel GGE process, we’re hoping to have some information to share on its final two regional consultations—the ASEAN Regional Forum (1-3 October) and the African Union consultation (11 October)—in the next Digest. 

Online content regulation

After much fanfare, Facebook launched the final version of its Charter on content moderation and governance—including details on how its independent Oversight Board will operate.

 
We’ve set out our (broadly positive) thoughts on the Charter here. But perhaps the most notable thing about the Charter is its explicit commitment to freedom of expression, which brings Facebook’s approach to content moderation much more closely into line with the approach taken by international human rights law.

It’s important to note that the Charter doesn’t tell us everything. Many crucial questions remain about how the Board will operate on a day-to-day basis—from how its members will be selected to review cases, to the timeframes for making decisions about content. These questions should be answered in the Board’s initial set of bylaws, which will hopefully be released by the end of the year, along with the first slate of members.

The Board’s first decisions are expected to be made in early 2020. We’ll be following developments closely on the Digest.

Notes

The ITU

You may remember that, earlier this year, the ITU Council failed to reach agreement over the issues to be consulted on by its Council Working Group on International Internet-Related Policy Issues (CWG-Internet). 


As a result, the ITU decided to pass the buck and ask the CWG-Internet itself to make the decision. The CWG-Internet duly met on 19-20 September, and, after some debate, has now decided the topics of the next two consultations:
  • October 2019—January 2020 consultation: “international internet-related public policy issues on harnessing new and emerging telecommunications/ICT for sustainable development”;
  • February 2020—August 2020 consultation: “expanding internet connectivity”.
Each consultation will have both an online and in-person component (see the CWG-Internet website for details). This is an all-too-rare opportunity for civil society to input into the ITU, so any groups or actors engaged on these issues should consider getting involved. 
 
Notes
  • The ITU has long been known for a lack of openness to engagement from non-member stakeholders. In response, the UK government has just published a new report, authored with the support of GPD, which makes the case for greater stakeholder inclusion in national delegations to the ITU. Details here
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