Gergana Petrova

EuroDIG 2023 Live Blog

Gergana Petrova
Contributors: Suzanne Taylor, Alena Muravska, Bastiaan Goslings, Claudia Leopardi

EuroDIG 2023, the European Dialogue on Internet Governance, is taking place this week. A rich agenda will cover Internet fragmentation, the impact of the war in Ukraine, regulation of digital platforms, youth engagement and digital inclusion and much more. RIPE NCC staff will be live-blogging the event!

Day 2 - Finalising the Key Messages

During the closing plenary the audience discussed the draft key messages. Interestingly, they were created with the help of Diplo's AI platform specialised in diplomatic and policy reporting. Here are some highlights:

Impact of war

  • Technology has brought a new aspect of warfare. However, political interference in the technical layer (revoking ccTLDs, address space etc.) has the potential to destroy the global Internet
  • More needs to be done about constraining propaganda
  • The community should help document the experiences of Ukrainian operators and turn them into practical guidelines around rebuilding networks, increasing resilience, creating a future-proof infrastructure
  • More focus should be put on implementing best operational practices and standards to protect users
  • State institutions should be better prepared to combat undesirable behaviour online such as hate speech and disinformation and should provide a clear legal framework
  • A multistakeholder coalition is needed, with an increased role for civil society

Internet Fragmentation

  • Different actors have different definitions of what Internet fragmentation is
  • Government regulation, whether intentionally or not, may fragment the the global and open Internet
  • Content regulation has an unintentional impact on the technical layer
  • Communication between governments and the technical community should be enhanced to dive deeper into the implications and impact analysis of some of the policies being discussed
  • There is a need for harmonisation and cooperation among stakeholders
  • The Internet fragmentation discussion should not be conflated with business interests
  • Rather than duplicating efforts, the Global Digital Compact should build on the work of existing institutions such as the IGF

Digital Platforms

  • There is a need to establish robust governance of virtual worlds, enabling them to become open, interconnected spaces. Neglecting this could lead to exclusive communities controlled by few.
  • We must proactively contemplate governance framework in advance of widespread metaverse utilisation
  • We should prioritise reaching a collective agreement as state-centric and corporate led governance is inadequate.
  • The virtual world should remain in service to the analog world, harmonising both to the benefit of humanity
  • Security is not absolute - it is always about risk management and reducing vulnerabilities
  • Life-long education should be provided on the fundamentals of technology
  • Current social platforms have too much dominance and should be decentralised. To achieve this we need to address financing and the lack of scalable business models.
  • More attention needs to be paid to synthetically created content. Content moderation policies should be very clear and should prioritise accuracy and accountability

As this key messages are still in a draft form, feel free to go to the commenting platform and have your say. You can do so until first week of July, when the final messages will be published.

- Gergana (21 June 2023, 18:45 UTC)

Day 1 - Navigating Challenges and Strengthening Ukraine's and European Internet Infrastructure

The second session of Main Topic 1, “Impact of the War”, discussed how the ongoing war in Ukraine has had a profound effect on the country's infrastructure and its resilience. As introduced by the moderator, André Melancia, the primary goal of this session was to explore effective practices and approaches that support the operability and resilience of Internet infrastructure affected by war, so that the lessons learned from Ukraine can be applied in other regions experiencing similar crises.

The session commenced with a brief statement made by our RIPE NCC colleague Alena Muravska, who spoke about the work that the organisation has brought forward to help Ukraine stay connected. This has highlighted two factors that are contributing to the resiliency of the Internet. First, there is very low market concentration at the end user market, which means that there are no dominant players and no individual networks on which the sector is dependent. The second factor is interconnectivity and how the Ukrainian Internet has a lot of options to exchange information among different networks, allowing it to be very resilient to attacks.

The second speaker, Oksana Prykhodko, Executive Director at European Media Platform, presented the results of her project about Internet identifiers in times of war, which was financially supported by the RIPE NCC. The moderator subsequently allowed questions from the audience, which were mainly directed towards the responses presented by the previous speaker.

Following some specifications made by Oksana, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs intervened asking about satellite connectivity and Starlink. When looked from abroad, it seems that there is a lot of attention focused on providing Starlink connectivity to Ukraine and his main question was: how is it being regulated in the country? Andrii Nabok, Head of Fixed Broadband Department of the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, answered that Starlink is very important to allow Ukrainians to maintain the connection and their access to information.

After this comment, the speaker Olena Kushnir, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the WebPro.UA LLC, talked about everyday challenges faced by Ukrainians during the war, such as blackouts, missile attacks, destroyed infrastructure, constant cyberattacks, dangerous working conditions, mobilisation and lack of Ukrainian resources and their effects. Alena Muravska completed the picture by talking about community efforts and staying in place to address these issues. Alena used as an example the formation of a group of volunteers from the community who will conduct a series of interviews as Ukrainian operators to record this experience.

Subsequently, Kaj Backman, Programme Director of YLE, Finnish Broadcasting Company, briefly presented how in times of crisis, the public need for news journalism ceases and this is why news organisations, especially public service ones, have to be resilient and prepared with a good contingency planning.

The final panellist for the session was Sander Steffann, Founding Board Member and Secretary of the Global NOG Alliance, who is responsible for a project that aims to keep Ukraine connected by mitigating a lot of the issues presented by the previous speakers.

- Claudia (20 June 2023, 16:45 UTC)

Day 1 - Telcos and Content Providers

Moderator Antonio Manganelli from the University of Rome introduced the challenges for European telcos in investing in next generation networks to keep up with the ‘gigabit in 2030' ambitions of the EU. Online participants indicated that references to sources were missing, related to Manganelli's use of diagrams, and as such it seemed he was on the telco's side of the argument that content providers should financially contribute to investments made by telco's.

Verena Weber from the OECD mentioned that without connectivity there is no digital transformation. So how do we ensure continued investment in connectivity? A holistic view should be taken. From the OECD’s 2019 figures the financial figures of operators looked healthy and there seemed to be no concern. Content providers have been investing huge amounts in infrastructure like sea cables, datacenters and CDNs. And public sector money has been made available to connect remote areas in the US and Europe. There is no one size fits all solution, so we should take a holistic approach and work together to achieve the connectivity goals set for Europe.

Maart Palovirta from ETNO, the association for Europe’s telecommunication network operators, stated that 70% of investments in European fixed and mobile networks are made bye ETNO’s members. And these networks are the foundation of the digital economy. She agreed with the OECD that there is a need to look at the entire ecosystem. There currently are three gaps, according to ETNO: a coverage gap (now 55% of Europe's households is covered by fibre, 73% by 5G but that is often first generation so still built on legacy 4G networks). In parallel there is an exponential growth in traffic driven by the big platforms, and then there is an innovation gap: everything is being virtualised, networks become software defined and cloud based, new players join and competition increases. Taken together this leads to serious investment challenges for telco’s, as they are constrained by EU competition policies, ex ante regulation on pricing (e.g. when it comes to wholesale and roaming). She argued other sectors are not regulated in a similar fashion. This asymmetry has to be dealt with, according to ETNO.

Peter Koch from ccTLD registry Denic, but speaking as a member of the technical community, argued that it is a mistake to frame the debate as an issue between large telco’s and big content providers. Individual end-customers cannot setup interconnection agreements themselves with content providers so they pay their ISPs a subscription fee to do this for them. Permissionless innovation is key, everyone can come up with an idea for an application, connect to the internet and hopefully make the application becomes a success. In terms of traffic increase, content providers are moving data streams to the edge to improve performance, reduce latency as well as costs of traffic delivery. This is essential for 5G. See the increased importance of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and the impact Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) have in that regard.

Maarit pointed to research from the University of Toulouse that the introduction of mandatory fees would have a positive welfare impact as price decreases for connectivity would offset the potential price increase that content providers would apply to cover their increased costs.

Peter from Denic stated that content providers, confronted with a fee regime in the EU, most likely would move their points of interconnection outside of the EU, introducing longer routes and service deprecation. So it is definitely not clear the end effect would be positive.

Verona from the OECD agreed that the situation in South Korea, a country leading in the area of 5G and the roll out of fibre networks, where a similar fee regime was introduced, indicated that content providers indeed moved their points of interconnection from South Korea to Japan.

Is there a real challenge in Europe? And if so, how to overcome it? The situation differs in EU member states. In Germany for instance it is not an issue of money but of installation capacity. So a case-by-case approach makes sense. At least in Europe competition seems to work.

Maarit replied that CDNs offer propriety services and they are not regulated. They also sell capacity to others, third parties, and should be regulated as such. She mentioned that this debate about fees is a EU topic, it is not a global discussion.

Peter said that one can charge the big platforms, but their customers are from the EU and they will pass on the price increase. An as the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has mentioned on numerous occasions, there is a documented lack of necessity when it comes to the proposal to introduce mandatory fees fro large content providers.

- Bastiaan (20 June 2023, 19:15 UTC)

Day 1 - Towards Sustainable Tech

The looming climate change crisis has turned the topic of developing sustainable tech into something urgent and important. My colleague Vesna Manojlovic shared with the audience a number of useful resources as well as events that address the issue. For example, the IAB (Internet Architecture Board) hosted a workshop on Environmental Impacts of the Internet Applications and Systems in December 2022. Read my colleague Vesna's report on it.

Quantum, a new and exciting tech, is unfortunately very climate-unfriendly. It desperately needs to develop in a more sustainable way. Check out this paper describing the sustainability impact of the quantum Internet.

Last week, the ninth workshop of Computing within Limits researched alternative and fringe topics about how computing can take into consideration the environmental impact of the Internet. Have a read of this paper suggesting introducing ecocide as a proposed crime for environmental damage.

During COP27 the OECD launched a report taking stock of what exists when it comes to measuring the AI footprint.

The fact that we still don't fully understand the impact tech has on the global efforts towards sustainable development makes the multistakholder model that more important. All panelists agreed that regulations on a global scale is necessary. They should also include definitions to make sure that we are talking about the same thing.

We also need to keep in mind that we can only change what we measure. There is an urgent need for us to collect and share more data, standardise data collection and make it transparent - to users, consumers and the broader society.

- Gergana (20 June 2023, 18:45 UTC)

Day 1 - Internet Fragmentation: What’s Next?

In a session focusing on finding tangible solutions to fragmentation, Esteve Sanz, Head of Sector, Internet Governance and Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue talked about how the Global Digital Compact encouraged the member states to discuss the topic, adding that we need to avoid fragmentation by respecting multistakeholder organisations. It is necessary to keep the conversation going at fora like the IGF, allowing the world to design policies that empower fundamental human rights.

Izaan Khan, representative of YOUthDIG, argued that irrespective of what is considered fragmentation, there is a solution to most issues, and interoperability is being preserved. The Internet is inherently political, not only at the technical level, but at any other level. The main aspect of that is understanding what is causing fragmentation, which was done by the PNIF, together with other organisations’ impact tools.

Vittorio Bertola, Head of Policy and Innovation at Open-Xchange, encouraged not to merge problems and conversations that are separate, since the main issue with fragmentation is at the technical level. When we move to the application level we have two main issues: fragmentation of private sector and the idea that regulations are fragmenting the Internet.

The panellists had different ideas about what is Internet fragmentation. Some said that as long as we keep the technical level together, it's not a serious problem if the application level is different. Others said said that censorship is technically a list with domains that are blocked and it is completely political, even at the technical level.

- Claudia (20 June 2023, 16:45 UTC)

Day 1 - Understanding the Risks of Internet Fragmentation 

The moderator, Dr. Tatiana Tropina from Leiden University, opened the session stating that there are different definitions of Internet Fragmentation, but that the session will instead focus on what dangers that need to be addressed and what the main causes for acting are.

Sheetal Kumar, PNIF Co-facilitator, mentioned “access'' and “control” as main focus words. She claimed it is incorrect to say that the Internet was ever perfect, but the current processes of fragmentation could have a strong impact on the future Internet.

Zoe Hawkins, Technology Policy Specialist, built on Sheetal’s comment, claiming that reforms around the world sometimes can raise the question of how these regulations reconcile with the democratic world. We could make a change by understanding which discrepancies between regulations from different geographical areas are okay and which are not.

Julf Helsingius, Co-chair for the RIPE Cooperation Working Group, ICANN GNSO Council, and Chair of Finnish ISOC national chapter, moved the conversation from the user experience perspective to more technical concerns. The Internet works on horizontally integrated players with no single central authority. Every application uses the same protocols, but they end up being closed ecosystems, or, as Julf said, walled gardens.

Elena Plexida, Vice President for Government and IGO Engagement at ICANN, stated that her organisation’s work is focused on avoiding fragmentation. What keeps the Internet together are the unique identifiers, which don’t know borders. Multistakeholder governance allows and protects the global Internet, but geopolitics are becoming an increasing concern. She argued that there is no such thing as “protecting my part of the Internet”. Either it works for everyone or it doesn't. 

If the Internet is a network of networks and therefore fragmented by design, what is so dangerous about diversity? The answers by the panellists were quite cohesive: Diversity is necessary and it is supposed to flourish. The diversity that most of the speakers are worried about is at the technical layer.

Vittorio Bertola commented that content should be global and simultaneously we need to protect ourselves from certain content. Sheetal promptly answered that, speaking from a human rights perspective, we need an Internet aligned with the global standards to address the changes in digital technologies caused by these technologies. The Internet should evolve in a way that the more people that join it can benefit from it.

Can regulation break the Internet? Elena answered that the concern for the technical side is to not break technical interoperability. The only regulation that is needed for the content level is antitrust. At the technical level there is no need for regulation. Zoe added that geopolitical context is definitely important. Tech regulation is happening, that ship has sailed. And the value driven stance taken by companies was to be expected. But it should not be applied to states.

- Claudia (20 June 2023, 14:45 UTC)

Day 1 - Internet fragmentation: The hot topic of 2023

There were two keynote talks that kicked off an afternoon of sessions focused on Internet fragmentation. Setting the stage for the discussions to come were Andrew Sullivan, President and CEO of the Internet Society, and Lise Fuhr, Director General of ETNO and member of the IGF Leadership Panel, who both gave succinct talks on a topic that has come to dominate Internet governance discussions recently.

Andrew Sullivan began with a sobering statement: We are losing the Internet, and we need to face that reality before we can confront it. He went on to explain that the open Internet is politically fragile, because it relies on the need for everyone with a controlling stake in it to believe that equitable access to the Internet is a good thing, and that policies are now chipping away at this principle by eroding the Internet’s interoperability.

He went on to proclaim that the Internet won’t “break” in a single step, but questioned whether we are heading towards a more global, interconnected Internet or away from that idea. In a powerful call to action, he concluded his speech by stressing how each and every one of us is accountable in making sure we don’t lose the Internet as we know it.

Lise Fuhr took a slightly different approach to the topic, highlighting that fragmentation leads to vulnerability in the face of increased cyber attacks and stressing the importance of an open Internet from a cybersecurity point of view. She also explained that fragmentation is not a single issue but includes any instance in which access to the Internet is limited, and that it can happen at both the infrastructure or applications levels.

The key points to avoid fragmentation, she said, were to avoid top-down protocols, to uphold a multistakeholder approach to governance that encourages collaboration between the private sector, technical communities, civil society and governments, and to ensure that Internet governance does not fall under the domain of intergovernmental organisations.

- Suzanne (20 June 2023, 13:45 UTC)

Day 0 - Setting the Scene

The Opening Plenary set the stage for the discussions we are about to have in the coming days. Pasi Hellman from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs reiterated Finland's commitment to the EU 2030 agenda, and the country's efforts to close the digital divide and tackle inequality in digital development. He pointed to EU's Global Gateway project which aims to invest 300 billion euros in infrastructure to improve connectivity around the world. Out of this, 150 billion will be channeled to Africa. In addition the project supports developments of regulatory frameworks in data protection and fair data economy and aims to enhance innovation partnerships. He acknowledged that new technologies such as AI, 5G, etc. require close cooperation with the Finnish private sector.

As technologies increase interdependence around the globe, the EU objective is to find a common European human-based approach - when it come to AI, quantum computing and developing tech policies to deal with cyber crime. Mr. Hellman praised multistakeholder events like EuroDIG as an excellent venue to discuss the way forward and build technologies that respect democratic values.

Next, Pearse O’Donohue from the EU Commission talked about the impact of the war in Ukraine. He said that ensuring connectivity in a crisis was of paramount importance for the provision of basic services. The resilience of the Ukrainian Internet showed that a distributed system with sufficient redundancy was a vital component of the open Internet. However the situaiton also showed that there were issues with the uptake of key Internet security standards and best practices.

He reiterated the EU's support of the multistakeholder model and cautioned that a more state-driven approach can lead to, not just fragmentation of the Internet, but a serious erosion of its benefits.

Another keynote speaker, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary General of the ITU, stressed that the Internet is again at an inflection point due to cybersecurity threats, concerns about fragmentation, rapid developments in AI, growing political tensions, a looming climate crisis and the fact that the UN sustainable goals are failing.

Members of YOUthDIG presented their key messages during the opening plenary.

Finally, in a discussion on cooperation between Europe and Africa, panelists agreed that many African countries don’t have a strong legislative environment that can protect citizens from big tech companies. A number of suggestion for future cooperation included:

  • Include a clause in EU regulation that forces tech companies to behave in a certain way even beyond the EU’s borders
  • Increase investments for infrastructure
  • Fund support for local NGOs instead of having European NGOs carry out projects in Africa
  • Cooperation at the technical level and increase capacity building.
  • Partner on research and innovation

- Gergana (19 June 2023, 19:45 UTC)

Day 0 - Cooperation, the UN and a European vision of digital governance

In one of EuroDIG’s “pre-sessions”, panelists helped shape a discussion around how and why to promote a European vision for digital governance and cooperation in the UN. 

The session touched on several major developments in Internet governance happening at the UN level now and in the coming years, including the Global Digital Compact (GDC),UN Summit of the Future, the evolution of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the World Summit on the Information Society review process (WSIS+20).

The first half, led by Wolfgang Kleinwächter (Professor Emeritus at the University of Aarhus), Nigel Hickson (UK Government) and Chris Buckridge (RIPE NCC and IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group), examined questions around how to maintain some of the Internet’s founding principles and systems of collaboration that have allowed the Internet to grow and innovate as successfully as it has for so long. Many of the panelists and session participants highlighted the importance of multistakeholder input to Internet governance processes and public policymaking, and expressed concerns about more multilateral processes taking over or trying to reinvent the wheel in recent years, particularly at the UN level. 

Mirjam Kühne, RIPE Chair, pointed out that collaboration and coordination are still very much alive at the technical level of the Internet’s operations, and that these processes need to be seen separately from the problems with content and applications that tend to be the focus of legislators and regulators. Several participants pointed out just how well the Internet’s technical layers continued to function after being stress tested by the pandemic and Ukraine war, and highlighted the need for policymakers to recognise the success of the underlying collaborative model between network operators that allowed the global Internet to continue functioning under those conditions. 

Wolfgang Kleinwächter said there is very little interaction between the technical and policy spheres when it comes to Internet governance, which is what leads to the continual invention of new venues and processes when existing ones - such as the IGF - are already fit for purpose, and how this makes it more and more difficult for all voices to be heard in policy discussions. Nigel Hickson also stressed that the development of a Digital Cooperation Forum - as put forward in the GDC’s recently published policy brief - shouldn’t second guess the IGF. Chris Buckridge pointed out that just because the IGF isn’t a decision-making body doesn’t mean that multistakeholder processes can’t make concrete decisions (with examples being the IANA stewardship transition and NETmundial Initiative), and that a more multistakeholder approach could and should be adopted at the UN level. 

The second half of the session, which was led by panelists Nele Leosk (Estonia government), Claudia Leopardi (YouthDIG and RIPE NCC intern), Sebastien Bachollet (ICANN’s EURALO), David Pasarelli (UN University Centre for Policy Research) and Esteve Sanz (European Commission), looked at questions around the future of Internet governance and the role of the IGF and EuroDIG in the GDC and WSIS+20 review. 

Nele Leosk pointed out that regulation doesn’t always increase trust or achieve its aims when it comes to digital governance, while Claudia Leopardi said that many processes taking place at the UN level, including the GDC, have shifted toward a multilateral - rather than multistakeholder - approach to Internet governance. Many of the panelists and other participants pointed to existing, successful multistakeholder engagement, including at the national and supranational levels. 

Finally, the UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, Amandeep Gill, said there is a recognition and concern about gaps between policymaking bodies and technical and standards-setting organisations, and stressed that the GDC policy brief supports the IGF and relevant multistakeholder processes. 

Among all of this discussion was a recognition that stakeholders need to work together to develop a shared vision. This is a tall order, to be sure, but one that all agreed is necessary if the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance will continue to shape the global Internet - and, indeed, ensure the survival of a single, unfragmented global Internet - for the next generation. 

By the way - if you’re interested in learning more about all these topics and more, check out the RIPE NCC’s free course on Internet governance.

- Suzanne (19 June 2023, 15:45 UTC)

Day 0 - TLDs and NIS 2

Member states have to transpose the new EU Network Information Security Directive (NIS2) into national legislation before 17 October 2024. Registries and registrars started to introduce self-regulatory measures to increase the accuracy of registration data.

In article 28 TLD registries and entities providing domain name registration services are required to collect and maintain accurate and complete domain name registration data in their databases and they need to verify that registrants who provide those data are indeed reachable and responsive. This has to be done in accordance with EU data protection law (I.e. the GDPR), and access to non-public registration data will have to be given, on request, for ‘legitimate access seekers’ like law enforcement agencies. 

EuID and CZ.NIC provided insight on some of their changed TLD registry procedures: what potentially dubious registrations are proactively checked, and how registrants can identify themselves as simply as possible, for instance by using e-ID tools or via SMS. If all else fails customers can always provide copies of utility bills or their passport, but that is not a scalable solution. The Swedish registrar Loopia demonstrated the successful use of Sweden’s online ‘BankID’. 

Since e-ID’s from EU member states are not compatible registrants cannot use them outside of their home country - something that would hopefully change soon. Another challenge is that registrars do not check registration data they initially receive as the requirements from NIS2 and the AI act for TLD registries is not sufficiently clear. Better feedback from law enforcement agencies would be appreciated when potentially malicious registrations are shared with them.

All panelists agreed that continued cooperation is key. We are on the right track and should build on existing tools.

- Bastiaan (19 June 2023, 15:15 UTC)

Day 0 - Lessons from the war in Ukraine

A lot of lessons can be learned from Ukraine - targeted not only by military means but by propaganda. Media outlets show that the main narratives of Russian propaganda are:

  • Russia is seeking peace
  • Russia has a moral obligation to protect the people in Eastern Ukraine
  • Ukraine is aggressive towards people in Eastern Ukraine
  • The tensions are created by the West and not by Russia
  • Russian propaganda remained almost untouched in Africa and South America playing on the Western colonisation card which is a very sensitive topic for these countries. 

Marta Gromada from the Ukrainian National Research Institute presented the work of the Counter-Disinformation Unit during the first year of the war in Ukraine which focused on preventing disinformation in Poland with regards to the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The propaganda aimed to change the perception of the Polish society about the war by misrepresenting facts and spreading opinions. Four lessons learned:

  • You need to respond quickly
  • Social platforms play a very important role in spreading propaganda and disinformation
  • Education and deepening the discussion in the society is crucial
  • The is is a need to increase the number of experts working on fighting the propaganda, and to exchange knowledge at the operational level

Rūta Beinoriūtė, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania also shared their experience with Russian propaganda which has been going on for over a decade. As the absurdity of Russian propaganda reached another level and the rhetoric became more aggressive, the county was portrayed as an aggressive and hostile Russophobic state. Lithuania is investing in education in order to combat the threats of Russian propaganda. 82% of Lithuanian and 87% of Polish people support suspending Russian propaganda channels on the EU level, with 67% as EU average. 

- Alena (19 June 2023, 14:15 UTC)


You may also like

View more

About the author

Gergana Petrova is the Community Development Manager at RIPE NCC. She helps lead the RIPE NCC's engagement with a broad range of stakeholders, including the RIPE NCC membership, the RIPE community, government, academia, civil society and other Internet stakeholders. Gergana has been working for the RIPE NCC since 2013. Originally from Bulgaria, Gergana studied in Germany before relocating to the Netherlands. Gergana has a Masters in Business Research.

Comments 2