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Cooperation Working Group Minutes RIPE 78

Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 14:00-15:30
WG co-Chairs: Johan (Julf) Helsingius and Achilleas Kemos
Scribe: Gergana Petrova
Status: Final

Julf welcomed attendees to the session. He asked the audience to approve the minutes from RIPE 77 as well as the agenda for the session. He added that Milton Mueller, who was not on the agenda, would talk about the Christchurch call. He then invited the first speaker to the stage.

1. Council of Europe Framework of Cooperation with Business Partners Patrick Penninckx, Council of Europe (CoE)

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Hervé Clément, Orange/ETNO, asked if the CoE cooperated with ETNO.

Patrick confirmed that they did. ETNO had been one of the first to sign on to the partnership.

Malcolm Hutty, LINX and Chair of the Intermediary Liability Committee at EuroISPA, speaking in a personal capacity, asked how Patrick viewed the issue of complaints made by states for violations of terms of service. He explained that when intermediaries received complaints about content or users, they did not reference a breach of law but rather the terms of service or code of conduct of that particular service. Online services had the freedom to determine the kind of content and behaviour allowed on their platform, beyond simply what was lawful. This made it easier for state and non state actors to limit a broader range of behaviours. He asked if the CoE had looked into the implication of this, especially in cases where state actors worked with online platforms to broaden the range of prohibited actions in their terms of service.

Patrick said that the Committee of Ministers had taken a recommendation on the roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries, and how states should behave with them. A number of recent legislations put the burden (and in a way, the judicial authority) on Internet intermediaries. The CoE did not support this development. The roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries should be defined and limited. The ultimate decision-maker should be the European Court of Human Rights. When recommendations were interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, they turned from soft into hard law. The CoE was going to look into how the law concerning liability would be applied in national procedures.

Malcolm asked Patrick’s opinion on making a platform’s terms of service into the standard. The proposed European regulation on terrorist content online obliged online intermediaries to act in response to complaints about content. Yet the platform retained full freedom to determine what was permitted. When content was removed on the basis that it did not fit the terms and conditions that the platform was free to set (rather than a legal standard for terrorist material) the content author had no basis to mount an appeal. He feared that essentially platforms’ terms of service were often created in coordination with state actors and enforced at the initiative of state actors, while not actual law.

Patrick responded that ultimately the European Court of Human Rights decided if states’ decisions were embedded in law.

Malcolm said there was a difference between “lawful” and “on the basis of law”.

Patrick explained that the first concerned the proportionality principle and the second to which extent a decision was necessary in a democratic society.

Chris Buckridge, RIPE NCC, thanked Patrick for his presentation. He added that the RIPE NCC had contact with the CoE and commended the CoE’s soft-law approach of bringing different groups together, which was similar to how the RIPE community worked and set policy.

Patrick welcomed close cooperation between the RIPE NCC and the Council of Europe and pointed to existing cooperation on cybercrime and training.

Chris encouraged the audience to advise the RIPE NCC if they felt the RIPE NCC should take a position on any of the issues Patrick had spoken about in his presentation.

Niels ten Oever, University of Amsterdam, asked if artificial intelligence-informed routing was covered in the framework CoE was considering on algorithms [or if the framework solely focused on content moderation].

Patrick said he would inquire about that. He added that the recommendation on the manipulative possibilities of algorithms was still under consultation and invited the audience to contribute to the open consultation, which would open in the summer.

2. A Human Rights Assessment for Registrar and Hosting ServicesCollin Kurre, Article 19 & Michele Neylon, Blacknight Solutions   

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3. An Update on Continuing Work in the ITUChris Buckridge, RIPE NCC

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Michele Neylon, Blacknight Internet Solutions, asked Chris how the RIPE community could help the RIPE NCC engage better and make sure they were sending the right kind of message.

Chris explained that the RIPE community was very diverse and the RIPE NCC did not claim to represent it. By working with community members who were involved with the ITU [pointing at Jim Reid as an example of this], the RIPE NCC had matured its external engagement. Appreciating that it was not realistic for SMEs to get involved with the ITU, he again urged the community members to discuss with him any issues that they think the RIPE NCC should address with external parties or keep an eye on.

Michele responded that many outsiders might not see the difference between the RIPE community and the RIPE NCC.

Chris responded that outside of the room the difference might indeed be unclear.

Nurani Nimpuno, Asteroid, commended Chris’s presentation and the informative articles on RIPE Labs. As someone who had attended the Plenipotentiary in 2014, she was surprised to learn about the deep divide on a number of issues in the 2018 edition. The shift in leadership in the ITU might have changed the way contention points were managed, such as basic infrastructure, connectivity and other increasingly complex technical issues. Nurani asked Chris if there were any suggestions on how to resolve the divide.

Chris responded that already recognising the problem was remarkable. The situation was very dynamic. He gave the example of the lively WhatsApp discussions during the Plenipotentiary on various topics, which was a mode of interaction that wouldn’t have happened in the past and really changeed the speed at which the discussion developed. 

Nurani added that governments could not make decisions on the spot, which forced delegates to fall back into their safe default position.

Chris agreed.

Jim Reid, RTFM, commended the job Chris and his colleagues were doing.

Chris highlighted that much of this was down to the work of his colleague Marco Hogewoning.

Jim also pointed to RIPE NCC’s work with friendly governments on advancing the agenda for the betterment of the Internet. Finally, he added that a lot of decisions were based on geopolitics instead of rational decision-making and it was not uncommon for a Member State to oppose regulation simply because it was proposed by another Member State. He encouraged members of the RIPE community to join in the work and talk to their respective governments.

Alexander Isavnin, Internet Protection Society, recalled Chris’s presentation on the technical community’s representation in the international Internet governance arena and asked if there were any updates.

Chris responded that overall there was more coordination and active engagement by the technical community. The RIPE NCC’s engagement was maturing, but so was ISOC’s and the other I* organisations. He added that ICANN was looking to become a member of the ITU in June.

4. Indicators of FlamingCarolina Are, City University of London

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Jim Reid, RTFM, mentioned that “flaming” used to mean “a fairly robust style of debate”. In similar fashion “hacking”, which used to have a positive connotation, was now connected to computer attacks. He expressed his concern for journalists and editors who did not check their sources, but used information shared on social media as a basis.

Carolina agreed that there were many definitions of “flaming” since the 80s, including alternatives such as “cyber harassment” or “digital hate speech”.

Jim suggested the term “abuse”.

Carolina agreed.

Regarding Jim’s comment on lazy journalism and PR, Carolina responded that her research found that the majority of users were recycling news they heard about the McCann’s in a toxic way.

Malcolm Hutty, LINX, mentioned that the UK had strong laws on sub judice, which did not apply in the McCann case, because there was no case pending. He wondered if Carolina was focusing on this, or if she is trying to make a broader case for more restrictions on user-generated content.

Carolina said she was trying to make a case for the latter. She added that despite the existence of laws regulating social media content, violations were still happening in real life.

Malcolm said her proposal could be viewed as an attempt to restrict social discourse and clamp down on outsider voices. He asked if Carolina could give him an example of unacceptable trolling against a cause which she disagreed with.

Carolina said she acknowledged that regulating content should not indiscriminately restrict non-traditional content. She underscored the importance of human intervention to avoid censoring minorities/content which was not causing harm, and pointed out that she disagreed with the removal of a lot of content on Instagram, for example.

Malcolm asked if there was an example where she supported censoring someone who was speaking in support of a cause she also supports.

Carolina responded that she was definitely willing to play both sides. If somebody said they didn’t like the McCanns and didn’t sympathise with them, Carolina would not call their statement a crime or call for it to be censored. A statement such as “Ha-ha, brushing the smell of your daughter’s dead body” was too far and a balance needed to be found.

Carsten Schiefner (remote participant) asked if there was first-hand experience showing that banning helped or if the offender just turned up with another name. Secondly, he asked if there were other proposals for dealing with the issue, as it appeared to be getting more out-of-hand by the day.

Carolina agreed that there had been cases of banned users appearing with a different username and being outed by the community. Concerning the McCann case, the press has been allowed to say many things about the case and so people on social media felt entitled to do the same. The way we use social media needs to change and she saw this change already happening among young people. More education on how to conduct oneself on social media was needed.

5. Information about the Christchurch Call/PledgeMilton Mueller

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