[discuss] On the contribution(s) of the European Commission to NETmundial

Andrea Glorioso andrea at digitalpolicy.it
Wed Mar 26 15:31:41 UTC 2014

Dear all,

I meant to send this email much earlier, but work got in the way.

I refer to the thread on the 1net list which touched upon the
contribution(s) of the European Commission to the NETmundial conference
(which are available at

The thread is available in the archives of the mailing list at

The contribution(s) to NETmundial are based on the Communication on
Internet Policy and Governance which was adopted by the European Commission
on 12.2.2014 (see
all EU official languages).

More specifically, a passage of one of the contributions to NETmundial
(which comes directly from the Communication) has been quoted, namely:

"*Technical details of Internet protocols and other information technology
specifications can have significant public policy implications. Even where
the technical discussion process is open, key decisions are frequently made
by technical experts in the absence of broad stakeholder representation. An
effective multistakeholder approach to specification setting on the
internet will be based on efficient mutual interactions between technical
and public policy considerations so that technical specifications more
systematically take into account public policy concerns. This is
particularly important when legal rights of individuals, especially their
human rights, are clearly impacted. The implications of this evolution in
norm setting in relation to the Internet require an open public debate with
all concerned. *

*The Commission proposes to convene, together with interested parties, a
series of workshops with international experts in law, ethics, social
sciences, economics, international relations and technology, in order to
develop concrete and actionable recommendations to ensure coherence between
existing normative frameworks and new forms of Internet-enabled
* Furthermore, all stakeholders should strengthen (and where appropriate
create) structured mechanisms to allow regular, early and truly inclusive
upstream participation, review and comment in technical decisions. These
structured mechanisms should also strive towards consistency of technical
decisions with human rights. The Commission stands ready to discuss with
relevant stakeholders the best options to achieve this objective.*"

An interpretation has been offered on this list, claiming that the above
passage is calling for "*forms of oversight to make IETF standards
conformant to public policy concerns*".

While of course everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, I'd like to
point out that:

   - the word "oversight" is not used once by the Commission in the quote
   passage. When adopting a Communication, which implies political and
   sometimes legal responsibility, we are quite careful in our choice of words.
   - besides the terminology, and focusing on the substance of the
   contribution itself, it is difficult to understand where to find a "call
   for oversight " in (1) convening "workshops with international experts"
   that would produce "actionable recommendations to ensure coherence between
   existing normative frameworks and new forms of Internet-enabled
   norm-setting"; or (2) suggesting that stakeholders involved in Internet
   technical decisions should make sure that the full involvement of all
   stakeholders (not specifically governments / public authorities) is
   facilitated to the extent possible.
   - if the European Commission had wanted to focus specifically on the
   IETF, it would have mentioned the IETF by name. Obviously the IETF is a
   very important player in the Internet technical community and I have myself
   had some quite interesting discussions - which are certainly not over - on
   the IAB "InternetGovTech" mailing list (archives available at
   But the activities mentioned by the Commission are broader in scope.

Incidentally, I fully agree that we shouldn't fall prey of simplifications
when interpreting the "code is law" concept / meme. This is one of the
reasons why the Commission is proposing a series of workshops with experts
from various fields to explore the interactions between "code" and "law".

Andrea Glorioso
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