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Different Internet governance models are complementary

As the 7th Russian Internet Governance Forum (RIGF 2016) rolled on, debates shifted to the “Para Bellum? Si vis pacem!” (If you want peace, prepare for war) section. Its moderator, Mikhail Anisimov of the Technical Center of Internet (TCI), noted that the biggest challenge facing Internet infrastructure is how to protect itself. Experts present at the meeting discussed matters concerning the reliability and operational efficiency of national Internet infrastructure and various approaches to dealing with these issues.

Oleg Demidov of the PIR Center spoke about critical infrastructure governance in the European Union. Georgiy Gritsai of the Open Network Association, who took part in Runet security exercises, reported on the potential threats that had been studied during those exercises and offered key recommendations for preventing them, namely: the systematic monitoring of critical resources in the Russian segment of the Internet, coordinated efforts of all organizations responsible for administering these resources and the creation of platforms for open debates on the issue. Andrei Yarnykh of Kaspersky Lab brought up the problem of cyber weapons. Virtually any cyber weapon, he said, can lie dormant in ordinary PCs, waiting for a command.

Yelena Voronina of MSK-IX drew attention to the fact that when it comes to debating Internet security matters, some terms need clarification: for example, it should be specified what exactly “critical Internet infrastructure” actually means. “In my opinion, any company that uses the Internet in its work is part of this critical infrastructure and must also be protected,” she said. Maarit Palovirta of ISOC believes that the standardization of the Web seriously affects its security.

The “East is East, and West is West, and shall the twain finally meet?” section focused on Internet governance, with horns locked over two different approaches – the multi-stakeholder model based on the participation of all interested parties, and the multilateral model in which international diplomacy and international organizations are given priority. William Drake of the University of Zurich voiced an opinion that these two models should be regarded not as mutually exclusive but as complementary. The multi-stakeholder model should, in his view, borrow from multilateralism even stricter compliance with laws and regulations.

Anna Murzina, an EU representative in Russia, spelled out the European Union’s vision: the Internet should remain an open international space in which everyone’s rights are equally protected. Madina Kasenova of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized the multi-level structure of the Internet. Hence, she argued, there should be several governance levels as the Internet cannot be administered from any one center. Anatoly Streltsov of the Institute of Information Security at Lomonosov Moscow State University called for a more active role of national governments. The section’s moderator, Mikhail Medrish of the Internet Support Fund, presented a report by a team of UN experts from 20 countries, who spelled out their proposals regarding the norms and principles of how their governments behave on the Web. The participants, on the whole, approved the idea but warned that its practical implementation might run into serious difficulties.

The Internets and Institutions section opened with a presentation by Leonid Todorov of APTLD. Debates centered on horizontal communications networks that push the advancement of the Internet. Opinions were divided on this issue. For instance, Dmitry Marinichev, Russia’s Internet ombudsman, claimed that the multi-stakeholder approach, on whose principles the modern Internet is largely based, is not the best governance model for the Web and that it would be better to entrust Internet governance to the academic and technical community. Chris Buckridge of RIPE NCC objected that the multi-stakeholder model is the pillar of the modern Internet and that it should be further improved. He added that the key principles for the Internet are openness and transparency. William Drake remarked that Internet governance should stake on diverse approaches, as what suits some countries may be totally unacceptable to others.

Alexander Shepilov of the Federation Council, the lower house of the Russian parliament, believes that the Internet has integrated into our life and infrastructure far deeper than one might think: “Pretty soon, the Internet will become as vital as roads. The Web will be part of our reality and it will alter this reality. It no longer matters how institutions influence the Internet, what is really beginning to matter is how the Internet influences those institutions.”

The 10 Internet principles approved by the Council of Europe five years ago were the focal point of the “Rocking your ten commandments” section. Patrick Penninckx of the Council of Europe noted that the global Internet network had suffered major changes over the past years. Hence, it’s simply impossible to compare the present-day Internet with the one that existed before Edward Snowden’s revelations and before the latest terrorist attacks and the FBI- versus-Apple standoff. According to Mr Penninckx, “Internet governance principles cannot be inscribed on stone tablets once and forever, as they can and must change.” Wolfgang Kleinwachter of Aarhus University assumes that if a common direction has been chosen correctly, then it is more important to monitor the proper usage of the already existing principles than to invent new ones. “If you tackle a problem without a broad discussion, imposing a solution from above, you may create a medicine that will kill some particular disease. But in all probability, it will kill the patient as well, perhaps more than one… Complicated issues require complicated solutions,” Professor Kleinwachter added.

Andrei Kolesnikov spoke of the so-called “arms race” phenomenon in Internet governance. He believes it’s impossible to create all-embracing laws as any legislative initiative inevitably becomes outdated because new technologies emerge, revealing more and more vulnerabilities in the previous one. Olga Makarova took a look at Internet governance principles in terms of network neutrality. She spoke about the history of the matter, what kind of approaches to regulate network neutrality issues are used in the United States, Europe, India and China, and that each of those approaches serves to protect, in the first place, the economic interests of the parties concerned.

Summing up the results of the discussion, moderator Andrei Vorobyov lauded its significance: “People wonder sometimes why it is so important to discuss global Internet governance at a Russian forum. Yet, I am convinced that the more we will participate in working out decisions and making ICANN and other international bodies aware of our opinion, the more we will be able to participate in global Internet governance.”

After the breakaway sessions, the RIGF 2016 participants had an opportunity to talk to IETF experts during a video session with the IETF’95 conference held in Argentina at the same time. They received live answers to their questions about new Internet standards and how the IETF is working on them.

And that brought RIGF 2016 to a close.