IGF 2021 – Day 2 – Town Hall #23 Beyond hype: what does digital sovereignty actually mean?

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> JAMAL SHAHIN: We'll just wait for one more minute or so.  I'm trying to find the room, the physical room.  Daniel is there.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Yes, I had some problems entering the room, but okay now.

>> JAMAL SHAHIN: I was just about to take over your position, but I'm very happy you are here.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: No, no.  No.  No need at all.

>> JAMAL SHAHIN: I will mute myself again.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: So yeah, we'll wait for a couple of more minutes to ‑‑ five minutes or so to let people have the chance to join us.  And then we'll start.  So thanks, everyone, joining us today.

So maybe we should be starting to not lose much time right now, I suppose.

So then if we are all set, hello, everyone, and welcome to this town Hall ‑‑

>> MILTON MUELLER: Why don't we go ahead.  Let's start now.  I don't think we want to lose any more time.


I will explain for a bit a few things so I will say thanks a lot for ‑‑ for entering this town hall, the Internet Governance Project has organized with the University of Belgium and the United Nations University.  My name is Daniel and I will be acting as the online moderator for this session with some very much needed help from fellow research colleagues Carlota and Sophie.  Alongside Dr. Mueller sitting at the IGF venue.  We will try to make sure this session runs smooth as possible.

So, this session we are having today, is on a number of themes, Jamal Shahin, present in our online session and he's his teammates it at the United Nations University, they have been holding conversations.  Both Professor Mueller have produced their fair share of timely analysis from, I might say, always controversial topic of digital sovereignty.

So for those of us who coming into this session without prior knowledge of the format we'll be using or that didn't find time to read the description, we have uploaded into the IGF page, but let me tell you about some very simple rules.

So first of all, we are trying to hear as many voices and different perspectives as we can.  So interventions should come as streamlined as possible.  You might have noticed that there's a timer flying around there.  And in one of the windows, it says two minutes.  Well, that's the maximum time we will be allowing speakers to voice ideas, all right?

So if any of you go beyond those two minutes, I will ring a bell, and in my form and make a small sound so you all will know that two minutes have passed.  Let's hope I don't get to do that.


So, Dr. Mueller will kick start the conversation and once he does, you are all encouraged to participate, voicing your ideas on the topics we are covering.  To do so, if you are on the idea venue, make some sort of signal to Dr. Mueller so he knows you want to participate.  Or if you are following this event by Zoom, use the raise hand button that you have available in the app.

So we will keep track of who wants to enter the conversation at all times and hopefully all people or almost all people get to say out loud what they think.  So since we really, really like to hear what you all have to say, we'll give precedence to new speakers.

That means if you just voiced your idea and there are people waiting to voice theirs, you will have to wait.  I don't know for how long, but you will have to wait.  It will all depend on how many new speakers want to enter the conversation, all right?

So lastly, let me tell you that every now and then, we introduce a poll linked to what we think is in special interest and topic.  We encourage you all to answer these polls since we think there will be some very useful insights on the key topics we are using today.

And so Carlota, if you are there, please, could you share your screen with the Mentimeter page.  Is it possible?

Yeah.  Great.  So one, great.  Thanks.  So as I was saying, to answer to them, you must scan the QR code that will show up at some point in my ‑‑ when we introduce the first poll, and/or follow a link to menti.com, the page in which we will be hosting this ‑‑ these polls, and I'm passing the URL, you should follow on the Zoom chat.  And so let me ‑‑ enter to this page right here and wait for a code to show up when we introduce the first poll, I will recall everything that I'm say right now.  So I encourage everybody to enter to the Menti.com, which it's on your computer, or your phones, that way you will be able to answer the polls when they show up.

And so every poll is linked to a code as I was saying and you will obtain the code and the Q R. code that you can scan and then enter to answer each and every poll and we will give you time to answer them and then Carlota will show you the results.

As I was saying, I will remind you when we launch this poll.  So that's all from me.  So I think we are ready to start now if anyone has any questions, please put it in the chat.  And to Milton, I think the floor is yours.

>> MILTON MUELLER: Thank you, Daniel.  And thanks so much for your role in helping us put together this and to gentleman pal and the crew at CRU, UN university also.  So I will start with a very forth right statement about the issue of sovereignty, and, again, this is just to get the dialogue started.  So I'm really staking out a very strong position.  So let me just begin.  So sovereignty is actually a well understood concept in political science and international relations.  The theory underlying it has been developed and discussed since the 16th century.  From a practical standpoint, sovereignty has played a role in international law, and politics and diplomacy for the last two centuries.  So from this elaborate long‑term discourse, a commonly accepted discourse emerges.  Sovereignty means that the state is the premier and exclusive authority in a territory it is somebody to no internal competitors and no unwanted external political influences.

So what does digital sovereignty mean?  Well, I'm going to argue that it means essentially three things for the digital world.  Number one, it means the power to erect borders to protect them.  It means protectionism in digital information and equipment.  And three it, means enhanced state power over user data, that is to say, the online accounts, the actual data records and the PII of its citizens.

So all of these aspects of digital sovereignty take the well‑established concept of sovereignty and apply it to cyberspace for better or worse.  It territorializes information flows, and it borders national ICT markets, whether for services or goods.  One of the big problems with digital sovereignty is it's badly confused by an individual right's self‑determination.  And this confusion is something that we must avoid.  State sovereignty is completely different from and in many ways opposed to an individual right to digital self‑determination.

As a simple example, for example, at the European government decides what cloud provider you must use, in the name of digital sovereignty program, it undermines the individual's ability to choose their cloud provider for themselves.  So my goal here today is to number one, put an end to the confusion around the concept and particularly this confusion of the state‑based concept of sovereignty which is well‑established and grounded in international relations, and this concept of individual self‑determination, which is a completely different thing.

The digital sovereignty means a border digital economy and a fragmented Internet.  If we want a true model of digital sovereignty, we can look to China which is implementing it consistently.  So I will end there and look forward to other people participating in the town hall.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: So, yes, anyone want to follow‑up from where Milton left off?

Anyone want to jump in?

I don't see many hands being raised.  So maybe ‑‑ well, I think that Andrew Campling ‑‑

>> PEIXI XU: Can you hear me.  This is Professor Xu.


>> PEIXI XU: I'm not very familiar with the fishbowl, so you have to interrupt me if there's any misfollowing of the rule.  And so I'm somehow ‑‑ the interpreting kind of Chinese perspective about the digital sovereignty, I think there are three layers in terms of sovereignty in China.  And first layer is that the sovereignty in the digital demand, it was understood from the perspective of content and information and Milton has said, it's about the protection from the incoming information and of course, there was a period of time, for example, that the Chinese and the Chinese media were memorizing September 11th and they were not memorizing September 18th, when the Chinese were attacked.  So that kind of information was understood as a domination somehow.

After that it was understand in terms of the infrastructure security and that was between 2013 ‑‑ that was after 2013, off Snowden leaks.  They start to understand sovereignty from the kind of infrastructure security perspective.

And thirdly from 2019 onwards sovereignty was understood in terms of the digital economy.  And that's a very much European kind of concept.  It happened in 2019, when the 2019 IGF was held in Germany and China has an American body that was marketed but it has a kind of European head or mind that is exercising ‑‑ would is exercising heavy‑handed regulations towards the digital economy.  So that is more or less state kind of intervention.  So now we have a mixture of everything.  Thank you.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thank you.  Your best use of a few seconds after two minutes.  So anything that maybe Andrew wants to jump?

>> PARTICIPANT: Yeah, I had there.  Hopefully you can hear me okay, Daniel.  Really brief, just picking up on the point that Milton made.

In my view, digital sovereignty is absolutely essential.  You must recognize if I look across the different regions, there are completely different priorities and different values and perspectives between states if not all regions.  It may be absolutely essential to protect ‑‑ or to serve prospections from the GDPR from the European perspective and mitigate the harms caused by the broken US regulatory framework, which I think it is really a root cause of many of the problems and harms that we're witnessing currently.

And if that means that some form of so‑called splinter‑net happens, then so be it.  A network of networks operating under different rules and frameworks seems perfectly reasonable to me, in if means that the nations or regions can assert the protections that they deem to be appropriate to their citizens.

And just really to finish off as an example, if I think about GDPR, I lose GDPR effectively if I store any of my data with a US corporation, because of the US cloud apps and FISA 702.  There's access to any personal data if I'm not a US citizen, and not thought to reside in the US.  I think that's unacceptable so bring on digital sovereignty would be my call to action.  Thank you.  So thanks a lot.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: You took exactly the time.  It's a bold statement that I think it's going to get some responses from all kinds of participants in the audience.  So yeah, Chris.

>> PARTICIPANT: Sure.  Hi.  Thank you.  I just wanted to comment ‑‑ well, first of all, I want to agree with Milton.  I think it's really useful to have this much more formal and precise definition of what sovereignty is.

We had a session that was organized by the Dutch IGF talking about digital autonomy.  Part of what was discussed there was that the idea of autonomy as something larger than sovereignty, that includes more than just sort of recall of law and state control.  And so I guess what I wanted to put for the was this idea of perhaps autonomy being something to mitigated need for sovereignty.  So if there's a sort of multi‑stakeholder effort to create or give autonomy to states without the need for legal frameworks that's something that can be useful and helpful to the goal of sort of global network of networks.

But I'm not sure if ‑‑ I would be curious to know if that's a perspective that makes sense in your understanding of the issue, Milton.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: So thanks a lot.  Maybe we can go back to Milton for a minute now and then we'll let Alexander say what he's thinking.  So maybe Milton, you want to jump in again.

>> MILTON MUELLER: Yeah, why don't we go ahead with Alexander and then I will come in after him.


>> PARTICIPANT: Thank you very much.  I would like to add something to the definition of sovereignty, which was given by Milton.  Because more than countries are not democratic, thinks that sovereignty is possible to control what their citizens could consume in the information space and what they can produce in the information space.  And digital sovereignty of countries like Russia, it's not about specific services or hosting providers.  It's about information flow.

And actually, the more country speaks about digital sovereignty, the less it's a democratic country.  You have seen yesterday, like Chris mentioned, Netherlands people discussed autonomy, not sovereignty.  And I would like just to mention this.  This country understand sovereignty understand control of information to their citizens.  Thanks.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks, Alexander.  Milton, do you have an answer to some of the statements made?

>> MILTON MUELLER: Sure, I will go ahead.

So I think the point that Alexander made was very important.  The concept of sovereignty refers to the authority of the state.  And it doesn't matter whether the state is a democratic one or a liberal democracy, the sovereign right, the right of supreme authority and exclusivity is essential to the concept.  So an authoritarian state can use the power of sovereignty to exclude and oppress as much as it can and it's Andrew sort of the fantasizes, that they can use it to uphold rights.

I think that's the important point, that insofar as Andrew makes a point about the individual rights to privacy this is something that can happen without a notion of sovereignty being in the way.

For example, GDPR is extremely unsovereign in the sense that it is extra territorial in its application, and the EU used the leverage of the globalized market to essentially extend some of that data protection out of its own jurisdiction and into many places around the world.  And also acted as a model for global protection of privacy that other jurisdictions began to imitate.  So there's no valid connection between the idea of protecting individual rights and sovereignty per se.  In fact, as Alexander makes clear, you can undermine individual rights by means of assertions of sovereignty and that is, in fact, one the main reasons why some of these states assert sovereignty so that they can have more control over the individuals' information.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks a lot, Milton.  Maybe we have some sort of answer from Andrew.  I'm seeing that no one else wants to speak right now.  Maybe Andrew wants to a something now?

>> PARTICIPANT: Well, I am chime in that in the interest of keeping the discussion flowing.  I disagree with Milton about the GDPR in the sense that it's about protecting the personal data of citizens from either the EU or the UK which has its own version of GDPR.  The fact that it then applies to ‑‑ potentially to organizations not located within the boundaries of those countries is simply to make sure that they respect the rule of law of the countries if they are effectively mining the data of those countries.  Probably a better example to do it, if you are looking at extra jurisdictional reach would be as I mentioned in my earlier comments instruments like the US cloud act which very overtly asserts the cloud services.  I think digital sovereignty can help to protect people from potentially.  So anyway, and the other brief point would be to pick up on digital sovereignty.  I think they are two entirely separate.  An undemocratic state is likely to be troubled by digital sovereignty in asserting the will of the state over its citizens and there are other mechanisms that need to address that.

Yes, the Internet will set you free is an interesting but perhaps somewhat superficial concept in that regard, but I will stop there as my time is up.  Thank you.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: So thanks a lot, Andrew.  Thanks for your statement.  I will stop the debate for a minute now, because I think it's time to introduce the first poll.  I'm seeing more hands raised.

Then we'll pick up with you after we launch this first poll.

So, yeah.  As I told you before, you will have to type the numbers you will be seeing on your screen on the menti.com page.  Okay?  So Carlota will introduce this first poll.  She's sharing with us.

So ‑‑ yeah.

I'm seeing it on the screen.  So as you see, you have a code right there showing on your screens.  You have to enter it.  Carlota is sharing it right now, the link to the page, all right?

And you will have around 10 minutes to answer this question that says is digital sovereignty a threat to the Internet Governance multi‑stakeholder model.  So you have a yes or no option there so please be sure to answer and we'll see the results.

I'm seeing that the QR code is not showing.  We had some problems there.  So, yeah.  Here it is.  Maybe you can scan it with your phone, those of you who want to use this option.  And you can follow the link on the chat right now and we'll use the code that was shown and maybe Carlota can show us again.  I'm seeing that the code is 18549498.  You can enter that on menti.com and we will see the results in a bit.

I saw that a couple of people were raising their hand.

>> MILIJA LAKSO: Daniel.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: The first one was Jamal, right?

>> MILTON MUELLER: Daniel, we have two people here on the floor who would like to speak.


>> JAMAL SHAHIN: I cede my place to willing speakers first.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Perfect.  So maybe we can go on with one of the speakers that's there with Milton in Poland.  Yeah?  Of course.

>> MILTON MUELLER: Okay, first the gentleman, Jose and then Anna.



So go on, whenever you want, please.

>> PARTICIPANT: Hi, everybody.  Back to Mr. Milton as bright point to distinguish between sovereignty and individual rights.  I think one of the roots we see, the emphasis on digital sovereignty is the state, they are representative, or they are considered to be rep of their individual dens, right?  French citizen has a different ‑‑ a completely different understanding of his or her rights than a Chinese citizen.  Maybe that's one of the roots of different points of view on sovereignty.

I think it's very good to distinguish these two concepts but we cannot separate them completely.  One the other aspects we should consider.  I'm here in this nice panel to hear about it, what is the relationship between the platform sovereignty and the state sovereignty?  Why am I using the board of sovereignty for platforms?  I see that some reactions across the world, like Chinese reaction, European reaction to sovereignty comes from reaction to American platforms, big platforms.

Let me just ‑‑ I have limits time.  Quite briefly, I think the understanding of the data ownership is total different in east of the Atlanta Ocean.

Under American culture, any big platform which develops the service, it is considered to be the owner of data.  In European citizen, they give the right to be forgotten.

In China's culture, it's considered for the state and the government.  Without talking of the data ownership, we cannot talk about the sovereignty, and we are talking about different concepts with the same word.  Thank you.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks a lot.  I think we will go to Jamal and then we will go with the second person that's there in the IGF venue.  And I think that then we had another person raising their hand.  And we will go then to ‑‑

>> JAMAL SHAHIN: Maybe it's best to go to Mado first and then the other person in the room.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: As you wish if you prefer to wait.

>> JAMAL SHAHIN: Yes, please.  I want to area what he had to say, and Professor Xu had his hand up.

>> MAURO SANTANIELLO: Thank you.  So I will say a couple of things shortly.  We do not have just the idea of sovereignty, the content of modern sovereignty as described by Professor Mueller.  We also had some forms of sovereignty which are more fragmented and more shares and overlapping each other and always ever bargaining their own space to be.  This is the type of sovereignty that characterized the feudal systems, for example which is similar to the transnational Internet Governance.

And the second thing is that I think we should also distinguish between digital sovereignty and digital sovereigntism.  I think the European case, we can have a digital sovereignty which is not sovereigntism, and I think the main point from the European perspective, digital sovereignty is not just an end, but it is a means to achieve a sort of protection of the fundamental rights for its own citizens and while in the case of Russia government and the Chinese government, as they have been talking about sovereignty for at least two decades in the Internet Governance field, it is more like an end, a legitimation of their own power and authority over the internet.

And about this, I would like to say that I'm a bit disappointed by the European institutions for picking up this term digital sovereignty for their own ends.  I would have preferred to use the determine digital constitutionalism, for example, which this really means that it is going through a process of constitutionalization of the Internet, which sadly, the multi‑stakeholder governance model, which was not able to achieve.  We have still after so many years many problems about the protection of users' rights not, say, citizen rights.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks a lot Mauro.  And I think we go now to the other person that wanted to speak at the IGF venue.  Please.

>> PARTICIPANT: Hello.  Thank you very much for the possibility to ask a question.  As far as you know, any company, including Big Tech companies are under the rules of those countries where they incorporated.  So first of all, they should obey rules of those countries where they are incorporated, but nowadays, we see a lot of examples of laws or bills, for example, on bills another United Kingdom and in Australia, digital service acts which state rules for all companies.  And it doesn't depend where they are incorporated.  And how these processes correspond to the idea of sovereignty.  For example, if we open their digital services, we found a lot of demands to any company who provides online services.

And it doesn't matter where they are incorporated.  Thank you.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: So thanks a lot.  I think that maybe Professor Xu wants to answer now because he had his hand raised and then maybe Alexander.  If there's no one else in the IGF venue that wants to say something.  So please.

>> MILTON MUELLER: There's one more here on the floor, who can get in after Alexander.

>> PEIXI XU: Thank you, Daniel.  Our first audience member asked ‑‑ proposed something like a practical sovereignty.  I think that belongs to another thread of discussion between the market and the state.  I think Milton mentioned about the state authority.  That indicates that we have to treat all the governments equally, and they are the threats to the multi stakeholder.  Because China has this data security law and regulations which somehow are copied of the EU kind of digitalization.  And the US has a very heavy military industry which is basically based on producing hostility and discovering and setting up enemies.  So that's a very military say:  And, of course, Russia has sovereign.

And so we have to trade the actions of the governments.  And also by the way, it aligns on the future of the Internet Governance, again, that is kind of action taken by the state.  From the United States to the EU which is a thread to the multi‑stakeholder represented by IETF, and ISOC and ICANN.  So I agree with Milton in his saying that we treat the governments as kind of threats of the cyber or digital domain.  Thank you.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks a lot, Professor Xu and I think it will be the right time to show the results of the first poll maybe.  And then time to answer the second, obviously.  Then we will go on as I was saying before.  We'll see the results of these polls.

Oh, yeah.  Yes.  24 people that have answered this poll think that in fact, digital sovereignty is a threat to the interest net governance multi‑stakeholder model.  And 15 people think it's not.

Yeah, it's not much ‑‑ a large difference between these two options.  So, yeah, thanks a lot, Carlota.

And if you could show us the lank for the second poll maybe.  I don't know if it's the same or if it is a different one.  But, please if you can show us the link for the second.

Let's see.  There it is.  The second question we're having is:  Are the EU recent actions in pursuit of digital sovereignty giving carte blanche to other state actors to pursue their own conceptions of digital sovereignty and maybe one of the audience members can pick up on that, but ‑‑ oh, we can continue the conversation where we left it.  So, yeah.

I think that maybe Alexander was next in line.  You can see the links right now in the chat.

>> PARTICIPANT: Thank you very much.  I would like to reply to colleague from France about corporations and about cultures.  First of all, I think it's talking about sovereignty, the governments and states could try to interpret corporation as another state.  I think European countries by economy are even smaller than Google or Facebook.

So if we start discussion about corporations, like about countries, it would be easier for us maybe.  Also, I would like to mention that human rights are not dependent on culture.  I would like to reply to Anna saying that any legislator has right to propose any form of legislation.  In Russia, we have a fairy tale when a Princess who wanted flowers to spring in January in the snow, just at 30 degrees, that flowers should spring on the snow?  December.  I think the Russian parliamentarian are feeling like this, they are such Princess.

And replying to results the previous poll, I would like to invite everyone who said that digital sovereignty is not a threat to the multi‑stakeholder model to join multi stakeholder discussions in Russia.  That is definitely not possible.  Thanks.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks.  Thanks a lot.  And thanks for continuing to link your thoughts to the results we had on the first poll.  Thanks a lot.

So maybe I think that Alexander could go next, or maybe Jamal, I don't know.  Whoever wants to.

>> JAMAL SHAHIN: We had a question from the floor and a comment from the floor.

>> MILTON MUELLER: Yes, I would like to intrude.

>> PARTICIPANT: Hi, everyone.  So I have comments/question, maybe and give me if I will simplify, but the way it seems to me, the discussion is basically about who controls the direction of digital development within a country and who controls the infrastructure and what is happening with the infrastructure.

And this the simplest linkage that we can see is between the state and the private sector.  For the last 20 years we could hear a lot of optimism about the growth and the expansion of global Internet that would eventually lead to democratization and to the empowerment of the citizens and the civil society versus state, and we can see that this is not really happening in many parts of the world, and the result is quite the opposite, right?  So it's the empowerment, the reestablishment of the state.

So there is a sort of scramble between the public and the private organizations, concerning whom will control what is happening in cyberspace, within a given territorial boundaries and who controls what are the limits for instance, the deployment of technologies, for instance, AI, do we use AI to distinguish a certain group of people with certain, let's say ethnic characteristic or features, right?  So it's basically at the end of the day, a question about control, who controls who has the right to control?  And even I think one of you mentioned autonomy and the discussion on digital autonomy.

Autonomy, if you look at the roots of the word, it means so live by own's rule.  So it is basically the same thing.  And so my question would be concerning what Milton said at the beginning.  You know, what is the alternative that we might have.  I would fully agree with the notion that there is a very tangible danger if everyone, every state starts to pursue the digital sovereignty, basically, what they are after is the control of how the digital revolution is going within their boundaries.

And also what Professor Peixi Xu had said, we can have a lot of nice words about empowering citizens within the European Union and protecting privacy that's all very fair but the discussion on digital sovereignty is not about whether we have this set of regulation or another.

We saw a regulation hurricane in China, recently.  It's who decides on what is happening and what can happen within the digital boundary.  So what would be the alternative if we do not put the authority into the hands of the state and we don't want it to reside in the hands of the companies?  Thank you.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thank you.  Thank you.

So maybe Jamal will say something now?

>> JAMAL SHAHIN: I will try and say something that hasn't been said, but really interesting discussion.  Thank you, everybody, for being there and for contributing.  To the debate.  I'm sorry, the last speaker, I don't know your name.  With the mask on, I don't recognize your face either.

Certainly, that question in the end, I think, raised some really important points, and I think Milton also alluded to this in his discussion at the beginning where he said sovereignty ‑‑ okay, Milton knows I like to put words in his mouth.  But sovereignty for whom, about states is there a better time for us to use the term sovereignty?  One the things I have been reflecting on.  Sovereignty is the one term that we all agree on across the world.  It's ones those concepts that everybody can say, okay, we understand what ‑‑ what we mean in terms of sovereignty.  The UN is the basis for this and so on and so forth.

And it basically means leave us alone, don't interfere in what we are doing.  We are developing different conceptualizations of the term and I think that leads to a couple of issues.  We are using the term in different ways.  And you see private sector actors and you see individuals starting to use this term of sovereignty to describe what their role is.  Another issue that I think has come up in some of the discussion points is not only the conceptualization of the term, but the coherence of the term.  Even within states, I think sometimes we use the discussions in different ways.  We use this concept to sovereignty in different ways.  Sometimes we are talking about one aspect and sometimes we are talking about another.  And because my time has run out, just one more point that I wanted to raise was this idea of the sensitivity of the different people that talk about sovereignty to each other's point of view.

I think sometimes you have private sector, sometimes you have technical experts, sometimes you have state actors tar using the sovereignty, and not taking the other positions into consideration, and not understanding what it means for NTC to talk about sovereignty in that context ‑‑ in a mill context.  There we go.  That was my two minutes.  I hope it leads to more discussion.  More hands are raised at least.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Yeah.  Yeah.  We'll go to Milton now.

>> MILTON MUELLER: Okay.  So I did want to respond to the question about ‑‑ it seems like a lot of the digital sovereignty rationalizations are coming from a reaction to the size and importance of the generally US‑based platforms although Chinese platforms are equal sized.  We can't speak about platforms having sovereignty.  They don't have coercive power.  They don't come and arrest you or put new jail.  Generally, if you are using Google, yes, there may be issues related to data protection, but you are pretty much doing it because you want to do it.

And there are issues related, again to how you protect your data, how you release your data, but they don't have anything approaching sovereign authority and we should not confuse the dialogue by talking that way.

The very interesting dialogue, that my Polish colleague raised, if you don't want the states to have power over it or the corporations to have power over it, who makes the decision?  And the simple and somewhat utopian answer to that is we do have transnational, multi‑stakeholder Internet Governance institutions, such as the data registries and ICANN and potentially certain other forms of arrangements, institutionalized arrangements which are multi‑stakeholder that do exert ‑‑ do engage in real governance of Internet‑related resources.

And so obviously, we don't want all local and territorial authority of states to be replaced by these global institutions, but when it comes to the Internet, we do want the basic global connectivity and access to be globalized.  We do want that to be opened up and not territorialized.  At least I want that.  I think some people don't agree with me, but I think that's a much better model than state sovereignty.

And, again, I was glad to see that he recognized that if every state decides to do its own thing, then you are going to get a fragmented Internet.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: So thanks a lot, Milton.  I'm seeing that Andrew is there, but I'm also seeing that Wolfgang Kleinwacter is waiting.  Maybe because he hasn't voiced his ideas yet, maybe he can jump in.

>> PARTICIPANT: It's me?


>> PARTICIPANT: I had technical problems to access meeting.  So I was late.  What I see part of the confusion is we mix two different layers.  I think the net we have, let's say, the borderless space, which is the technical infrastructure and then the border space or places, which is the governance on the Internet.  So we had over the years always this differentiation on the development of the Internet and the use of the Internet, the governance of and on the Internet and while we have to accept that these are two interlinked but different processes.

So sovereignty comes with the use of Internet and not with the development of the Internet.  And so far, I think it's, for me, a very constructive step forward.  Germany uses the technical Internet.  We use the borderless space and the border places, the sovereignty equality of state as enshrined by the United Nations to continue to be a guidance, that means we have unsegmented Internet, and we have a fragmented Internet on the bigger layers.  So these are two concepts which exist in parallel, and in a certain interlinkage and this creates partly the tension and also the confusion because we have mixed these two layers, and they have to be separated in a theoretical discussion.

Particularly, I understand this is where we live.  Now back to you.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks a lot.  So that's interesting.  So maybe I don't know, Milton if we have someone there in the IGF venue that wants to speak.?  Is that the space?  If not, we are going to Andrew for a minute now and we will ‑‑ but if Andrew, if you wait for a minute.  I think it's the right time to show the results from the second poll and the third, because we are, like really running out of time here.

So yes, let's see what says.  Well, 10 people, I think that the EU recent actions in pursuit of digital sovereignty is giving carte blanche to other state actors to pursue their own conceptions of DS.  And, yes, some people, six have said that they think that no.

So if we can see the third poll maybe.  I don't know if we have time for that.  We have four minutes and a lot of hands are raised.  So, yep.

>> PARTICIPANT: I will be really brief and just say that in my view, that the status quo is deeply problematic.  It's dominated by the tech sector and cyber libertarians and frankly, they have resisted any meaningful governance by the other stakeholders.  So I don't think that the status quo is defensible.

And, yes, great respect for human rights in all nations is important, but undemocratic states have and will continue to make decisions without consideration for the views of others.  So I think that's entirely separate, the discussion that won't be affected by digital sovereignty.  So my view, this shouldn't be a reason for preventing democracy from asserting their rights and protecting their citizens.  The alternative is to allow the continuing harms and erosions of the rights ‑‑ of those rights by the tech sector, which in my view is totally unacceptable and I will stop there.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: So thank you, we will jump no Tim Stevens and maybe Ian Brown and Milton will make his closing remarks.  We don't have time for me.  So please, Tim.

>> PARTICIPANT: Thank you.  Just very, very briefly and I know this is picking up on a point that Milton has made repeatedly, which is about even though ‑‑ again, I don't want to put words in your mouth, Milton, the idea that going through this conversation that sovereignty, the meaning of sovereignty is somehow state, but it is not.  It's said many, many times over a long period of time.  And it changes ‑‑ and somebody mentioned earlier, how the meaning of sovereignty are different across ‑‑ with ‑‑ across communities and that's absolutely correct, between states, between various stakeholder groups and so on.

But it's also unstable and unresolved within those communities.  So when China talks about Internet/service/digital sovereignty those things are put forward as policy statements that are backfilled through policy processes later, and we can see that in the E U. at the moment where you have ideas about technological sovereignty that are simply not resolved.

So when you look at a country like Germany where you may have six or seven or eight meanings.  And it tells you what the concept of sovereignty is doing in political terms.  It's shifting.  It's unstable.  And this conversation has tended to proceed as if it is somehow fixed and it is not.  The other conversation around digital sovereignty is trying to work out precisely what might mean and it's very practical and normative view obstacles.

I just wanted to say that that is one of the things you need to consider when we have further conversations about sovereignty in general.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thank you.  Maybe Ian can like insert what he wants to say and then we will jump to Milton and we have to close this session, because time has run out.

>> Yes.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Like really, really brief.

>> Sure.  Can you hear me okay, Daniel?

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

>> PARTICIPANT: Thanks for organizing this.  The two very brief points I wanted to add, one would be Milton, I like this sort of, you know, the very clean narrow definition that you started with and I think it's helpful in lots of contexts but I think as Tim was just saying, there are many other important notions around sovereignty, one I would add from a European perspective, that it's the positive obligations of states to protect the human rights of their citizens is very important in Europe, much more in US conceptions of human rights and I think that's something we condition ignore in this context.

The more specific security point we wanted to make, we have seen from Snowden leaks and other revelations how difficult it is for states outside of effectively the US and China to really have any guarantees about the security of the computing equipment within their borders and I think that's something else, probably that people will have to act collectively through their own states to deal with.


>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks a lot.  So Milton, time for you to wrap up and close this debate.

>> MILTON MUELLER: Yes, we do really need to wrap up here.  There's another session, I think that comes in and I'm supposed to run off to a main session.  But honestly in response to Tim, I don't think it's helpful to say, oh, the word "sovereignty" can have a bunch of different meaning and the meaning is not stable and blah, blah, blah.  I think that that actually is precisely what we were trying to do the opposite of in this session, which is let's talk about different approaches to policy regarding Internet Governance, but let's not confuse sovereignty and have it, you know, six different meanings on the table at the same time and in the meantime, authoritarian states are exploiting that concept to get what they want out of bordering the Internet and fragmenting the Internet.  Let's not play into that.  Let's have a very clear conception of if you are talking about digital sovereignty, this is what you are talking about.  You are talking about bordering and restricting and territorializing information flows under the control of the state.  That's really ‑‑ there's no way around that.  Even the Europeans, you know, their digital sovereignty initiatives are all about things like a European cloud, about subsidies to chip manufacturing.  So it will be within their territory.

The Europeans are not talking about censoring incoming information but when they talk about how much they hate American platforms they start edging pretty close to that sometimes.  So let's try to clarify the discussion rather than clouding it and mucking it up with, you know, 16 different definitions of sovereignty and at least understand if you don't want to adopt my particular definition of sovereignty, which is very historically grounded, at least distinguish the words you are using when you talk about different kinds of sovereignty.

Thanks very much, everybody for participating.  It was a great discussion.

>> DANIEL PEREZ FERNANDEZ: Thanks a lot, Milton.  And we have consumed all the time we had.  It would be great if we had unlimited time to keep discussing, but that's not the case.  So anyway, I wanted to thank you all for this, I think really engaging town hall we had, and I also wanted to tell you that Jamal and his team will be releasing a report on the discussion we just had.

I don't know when that report will be ready, but expect it sometime soon.

So thanks, everybody.  See you around in.