from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: August 7, 2015

August 7, 2015

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

  • A multistakholder group released its proposal to transition the critical functions that keep the Internet running to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN currently administers the critical functions, known as the IANA functions, under contract from the U.S. government. In March 2014, the U.S. government announced its intent to relinquish its oversight role and hand it to the Internet community. According to the proposed plan, a separate legal entity would oversee ICANN’s operation of the IANA functions and a separate external review process would oversee the legal entity’s work. The plan has come under criticism for being overly complex, though the proposal seems to have broad support from the Internet community. The plan is open to public comment until September 8, 2015.
  • Two major cybersecurity conference, BlackHat and DefCon, took place this week. Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, headlined BlackHat, only the second woman to do so since 1997. In her presentation, she argued that the dream of Internet freedom--where bits flow freely and computers make the world a better place--was dying thanks to government regulation, security concerns, online civility and usability. Nevertheless, she ended her presentation on a positive note, saying that the death of online freedom was not preordained and that people had the power to reverse the trend.
  • India blocked porn websites late last week, only to unblock them four days later. After the Supreme Court of India last month refused to rule in favor of a complete ban on pornographic websites, the Indian Department of Telecommunications ordered Internet service providers to block 857 websites that host pornography. The order drew on a provision (69A) in the 2000 Information Technology Act that allows the Indian government to block web content if it serves the interest of national security and public order. While those 857 sites are only a drop in the bucket of online porn, the ban sparked a debate online, with opponents accusing the government of censorship. Sensing that public opinion was against them, authorities quickly changed their tune, and on Wednesday, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology said that a new ban order would be issued, this time only ordering ISPs to block sites that promote child pornography.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported on a court case that could decide whether the International Trade Commission (ITC) can halt the import of digital goods. The ITC prohibited a Texas-based company to "stop receiving digital models and data from Pakistan for the manufacture of teeth aligners, invisible mouthpieces used as an alternative to braces" because the company was found to have infringed the patents of a competitor. Trade groups representing Internet companies oppose the ITC’s actions, arguing that it sets a dangerous precedent that could disrupt how Internet traffic travels around the world.