Welcome to the United Nations | Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Contributions Taking Stock of IGF 2015 and Looking Ahead to IGF 2016

Contribution from Bastiaan Goslings

I’d like to use this opportunity to provide feedback on last year’s IGF and, especially, give you some suggestions with regard to the 2016 edition. I will focus here on topics (content) for the IGF program which I think are relevant and important- obviously when it comes to (ideas for) workshops the official procedure for submitting proposals will be applicable. 

1. The Best Practice Forum on ‘Enabling environments to establish successful IXP’s’

First of all I want to state that the Best Practice Forum on ‘Enabling environments to establish successful IXP’s’, part of the 2015 edition of IGF, was a great succes in my opinion. And I want to suggest a follow-up.


Not only did the experience in 2015 bring together different stakeholders to discuss existing challenges in this area, and did it help to educate policy makers: the benefits IXPs as underlying technical internet infrastructure can be significant but are only to be enjoyed if the enabling conditions are kept in mind. The Forum gave the IXP community an opportunity to share experiences and practical lessons learnt, both from a policy- and technical perspective. This was much appreciated by other stakeholders. As groundwork has been done, it is now time to use the momentum and take the next step. I have only received positive response with regard to this Best Bractice Forum, and I do hope you will consider to reserve time, space, and budget for coordination to facilitate a Best Practice Forum follow-up for the 2016 IGF on the topic of IXPs.

2. A new Best Practice Forum on the Internet of Things

I would like to suggest a new Best Practice Forum on the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). The ‘Internet of Everything’ so you will. I believe we have arrived at a crucial point where fundamental decisions need to be made, not only with regard to the necessary connectivity for all the devices that will have to be ‘online’ (IPv6, 5G) but more importantly the associated security and privacy aspects. There is no stopping the coming of an IoT, and the question is whether we want to leave it to commercial vendors and interests to steer its direction, or whether we feel that together we have to incorporate concepts as ’security’ and ‘privacy, both ‘by design’. Obviously I think we need to do the latter.

We have to start thinking more seriously about this IoT, a new world-spanning network of devices: devices that will have sensors and will continuously gather data. Which will be uploaded to and analysed in ’the cloud’ using proprietary algorithms. The results of this will then be used by the devices to independently, without human interference, make decisions, act upon these, and communicate with each other. The market will not sort all the ethical challenges that come along with this by itself, and there is no government either that has the expertise or authority to tackle something this broad and far reaching. The issues require broader thinking, preferably in a multistakeholder context. The IoT is being built as we speak, and it’ll be here before we know it. Whatever changes this brings for society at large, we don’t want to be taken by surprise. I am aware of the existing IGF dynamic coalition of the IoT, as well as pervious IGF-workshops that were organised to discus the topic. However I think a Best Practice Forum, meant to produce concrete outcome and results, would be of serious added value.

3. A generic model for handling abuse, focused at (public-private) cooperation

With the exponential growth and use of the Internet, the variety and volume of online abuse too has increased substantially over the years. Abuse ranges from (ab) using the technical infrastructure of the internet, for instance in the form of DDoS attacks (botnets) and spam; there is also content-related abuse like the distribution of CAM, inflammatory or discriminating content, and Intellectual Property rights violations. The IGF agendas of the previous years reflect the increasing impact and therefore attention for these forms of abuse.

A  wide variety of tools and instruments to counter abuse and mitigate the impact have been developed and implemented over the years. This is an ongoing endeavour as also the ‘bad guys’ continue to find new ways to exploit the internet and its resources for whatever agenda they might have. From a policy angle countermeasures to battle abuse can come via hard legislation. But also voluntary codes of conduct are agreed upon, either between private parties or as public-private partnerships. The choice of a certain policy and/or an instrument is often determined by the national, governmental approach. Which in turn is based on historical and cultural context. What we see is that intermediaries that operate in several jurisdictions increasingly have to deal with differentiating regulation regimes aimed at mitigating the same forms of abuse.

I’d like to suggest to incorporate in the IGF agenda an appeal to the multistakeholder community to create a generic approach and model for handling of abuse: think of developing generic notice and actions schemes, and limiting the liability of intermediaries like ISPs and hosters while defining transparant and proportional procedures for law enforcement to do their legitimate job, Best-practice procedures and technologies can be documented and shared. The IGF is the ideal platform to bring together a number of ongoing related initiatives in different countries such as India, Argentina, Brasil, France and the Netherlands. With a multi-stakeholder approach we can reflect on the different approaches: and then together legal experts, law enforcement, academia, private sector and civil society can create generic schemes and suggest which technologies to use in order to battle abuse.

4. An internet taxonomy initiative with regard to roles

Governments across the world are starting to incorporate internet terminology in their policies and legislation. Some define the internet as Telecommunication, others as ICT, and there are those who do not know where to start as they are struggling to come to grips with all the new digital and technical developments. Within the industry terms are used for players like ISPs’, Content Delivery Networks, carriers, hosters, datacenters, intermediaries, registrars, and many more. And academia and civil society have their own ways of framing subjects, developments and roles. What terms exactly mean in which context and what their scope is, is therefore often unclear. To the point that it might have dangerous side effects: not only can it lead to unnecessary legislation, scope may also substantially differ between countries. And the impact of legal differences and potential conflicts of scope can be severe.
The IGF can take the lead here: consensus needs to be reached on definitions and roles, and this can be achieved by creating an internationally recognised ‘taxonomy’. An initiative for the interaction between public authorities and intermediaries is underway via  the Manilla Principles project, and several countries are already working on a taxonomy of their own. In the Netherlands this discussion is ongoing. I’d like to suggest to connect and bring together all of these initiatives, and involve legislators, politicians, and all other stakeholders involved, to create the outlines and proceed with this taxonomy initiative.

I hope you will take the above into consideration. I want to thank you very much for the opportunity to provide feedback, and of course I am available for any questions you might have.