NETmundial: only a landmark event if ‘Digital Cold War’ rhetoric abandoned

Researchers Francesca Musiani and Julia Pohle explain what stands in the way of genuine multistakeholder internet governance as all eyes are turning towards Brazil and its NETmundial meeting. The full article can be found on the Internet Policy Review.

Over the last year, the continuous revelations by Edward Snowden about the massive surveillance data mining programmes of the US National Security Agency (NSA) have led to what can be considered a “wake-up call” for global internet governance. They have entailed, among several of their important consequences, an exacerbation of the differences between the more or less established actors in today’s internet governance landscape. While privacy and its transposition to the internet context has been a central concern for quite a long time, the Snowden revelations have highlighted the extent to which it is a core political issue, with intense national interests, as well as individual ones, taking shape around it. Around this tension, challenges to offshore internet governance from the United States and to assume local or regional control of data fluxes have multiplied, coming most notably from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The privacy-surveillance controversy has prompted what is perhaps the most prominent and ambitious call in internet governance history to break the dominance of United States control on internet infrastructure and to move the internationalisation and the globalisation of internet governance1 to the next level: the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, or NETmundial. Scheduled for April 23 and 24 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the meeting is set to focus on “crafting Internet governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem”2— with a very thinly veiled objective to undermine US predominance, and a newly found legitimacy prompted by the Snowden revelations. Recently, the expectations of the global internet governance community about this meeting were additionally fueled by the United States government’s declarations that it is time to take a “step back” in its control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) (DoC, 2014).


While, as internet governance scholar Milton Mueller has noticed, “the US government’s attempt to position itself as the standard-bearer of Internet freedom, always dubious, was finished off” through the disclosure of the NSA surveillance programmes (Mueller, 2013a), the PRISM scandal was maybe the last, but surely not the only recent event that challenged the status quo of the…

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This article by Francesca Musiani and Julia Pohle, originally published on the Internet Policy Review ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany (CC BY 3.0 DE) license.

 Featured Photo Credit:AttributionSome rights reserved by nicolasnova

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