Internet Policy Observatory

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In the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden’s extraordinary leaks about U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance destabilized the foundations of international Internet governance. Speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2013, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff denounced NSA spying in the strongest terms, and, together with ICANN, started planning conference in Sao Paulo in April 2014 to reinvent Internet governance.

This article analyses these events and tries to make sense of what they might mean for the future of global Internet governance. It begins by looking at how the Brazil-ICANN initiative alters the political alignment of actors in the world. Second, it places these developments into a longer historical context, showing how it echoes recurring attempts to develop legitimacy and principles for Internet governance. Third, it applies critical political analysis to the process of organizing and managing the summit itself, with a particular focus on legitimacy and representation. After exploring these arrangements, the paper makes prognoses about impacts and outcomes of the meeting in Brazil.

The working paper is not just meant for the usual Internet policy crowd. It will attempt to use language that can be understood by communities not immersed in these issues. Academics who study related issues but not Internet governance, as well as NGOs, business-people and government officials confused by the often-obscure debates around Internet governance will hopefully find this article a starting point for future engagement.

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Date Posted: 06 February 2017