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Today, internet policy must confront issues relating to embedded interests, monopoly power, geopolitics, colonisation, warfare, automation, the environment, misinformation, safety, security and more.

*Submissions for this event have closed. Please refer to the event page for further details* Policy innovation for inclusive internet governance  Location:Social Sciences Building (A02), Lecture Theatre 200, University of Sydney, Camperdown Campus Dates and time:28-29 September, 20238:30am – 4:30pm Call for papers The task of internet policy making has changed markedly over the past two decades. The ‘move fast, break things’ era—during which a central policy concern was how to manage economic disruption across industry sectors from entertainment to journalism, retail, transport and hospitality—has evolved into a digital era characterised by complex and interconnected social, political and economic global challenges. Today, internet policy must confront issues relating to embedded interests, monopoly power, geopolitics, colonisation, warfare, automation, the environment, misinformation, safety, security and more. As DeNardis (2014) has argued, conflicts within internet governance involve critical negotiations over economic and political power and how these conflicts are resolved “will determine some of the most important public interest issues of our time”.  In seeking to resolve these conflicts, there is a risk that the dominant economic and geopolitical actors will structure outcomes in their interest. An inclusive approach to internet governance is needed if we are to achieve an equitable distribution of digital resources and opportunities. Inclusive internet governance requires that the voices, interests and values of the maginalised are included in policy making processes, so that dominant ideologies can be challenged and alternative imaginaries realised (Gurumurthy & Chami, 2016).  Novelty and innovation in internet policy is itself challenging. Typically, policy making is driven by past experiences (Schot and Steinmueller, 2018) and constrained by institutional formalities, hierarchies and procedures (Bauer, 2014). Innovation, on the other hand, requires space for exploration and experimentation with opportunities “only partially known” (Bauer & Bohlin, 2022). How does policy innovation occur?  This conference seeks to bring together a range of international voices to demonstrate how varying approaches towards internet policy are established, embodied and engaged with by…

Within our current online and hyper-connected lives, is it possible to have such a thing as global internet policy?

Black fractured stone

*Submissions for this event have closed. Please refer to the event page for further details* Datafication. Platformisation. Metaverse. Global Internet Policy or a Fractured Communication Future? Special Issue Call for Papers, Volume 15, Issue 4 Datafication. Platformisation. Metaverse. What is the state of global internet policy? Within our current online and hyper-connected lives, is it possible to have such a thing as global internet policy? Building off the 2022 Policy & Internet Conference, this special issue addresses the complex and multiple perspectives of internet policy from around the globe. As we evolve through the Anthropocene and attempt to navigate the significant challenges humanity currently faces, we are consistently reminded of the most pressing critical issues of our epoch. Economic systems are the point of breaking, industrial action mobilised by unions is at an all-time high, inflation is rising, workers’ pay continues to fall, and the stability of our political systems has come into question. Our health systems are under unfathomable stress, refugee numbers are increasing through displacement, and the war in Ukraine continues, all of which adds to the growing global societal, economic and political pressures. And yet, concurrently, our connectivity through digital media and its surrounding environments is at an all-time high, arguably from the rise of technology players providing suites of social media platforms and its supporting infrastructures that enable a seamless and convenient, always-on lifestyle. The same app that enables us to chat with our friends and family can also book our rideshares, order our food, pay for our purchases and tempt us to become internet celebrities. What was once framed as user generated content activity has now become a normalised cultural pastime, as TikTok influencers feed the demotic turn that sees ordinary folk become internet superstars in rather small timeframes. At the same time, policymakers are reforming legislation to address the incomprehensible imbalance of power that is generated by technology giants. One of the immediate issues…

Examining how the current developments within digital media spaces has a regulatory impact.

Datafication. Platformisation. Metaverse.The state of global internet policy Location:The Women’s College 15 Carillon Avenue,Newtown NSW 2042 AustraliaDay One: The Sibyl CentreDay Two: Menzies Common Room Dates and time:28-29 September, 20228:30am – 6:30pm Our invited speakers will address the conference theme, Datafication. Platformisation. Metaverse. The state of global internet policy, which examines how the current developments within digital media spaces has a regulatory impact. The conference will present cutting edge research from areas around the globe that address issues such as what is the current state of play for the platform society and its consequent internet regulation, how internet regulation include/exclude groups and individuals, and the consequences of contemporary communication environment.  Through a series of keynote presentations and plenary panels, the 2022 Policy & Internet Conference will set the trajectory for the next 12 months of scholarship in this space. Morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and a cocktail event (Day Two) included. Conference program Register now Day One: 28 September 2022 Keynote Speaker:Professor John Hartley Research professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney Previously he was Head of the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University, Dean of Creative Industries at QUT, is John Curtin Distinguished Emeritus Professor at Curtin University. Hartley founded the International Journal of Cultural Studies (Sage), which he edited for 20 years, and Cultural Science Journal (Sciendo). His recent books On the Digital Semiosphere (Bloomsbury) and Advanced Introduction to Creative Industries (Elgar) seek to widen the scope of global technological and media analysis to include the crucial role of culture. Keynote Speaker:Associate Professor Crystal Abidin Associate Professor, Principal Research Fellow, & ARC DECRA Fellow in Internet Studies, Programme Lead of Social Media Pop Cultures at the Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT) at Curtin University. She is also Affiliate Researcher with the Media Management and Transformation Centre at Jönköping University. She recently received the International Communication Association Popular Communication Early Career Scholar Prize and ABC TOP 5 Humanities Fellowship. Panels: Emerging Internet Policy…

Do these technologies offer ease of connectivity, or do they have the potential to be weaponised and misappropriated to further political agendas?

typing on laptop

*Submissions for this event have closed. Please refer to the event page for further details* Policy & Internet Journal: CFP Special Issue – Issue 1, 2022 Special Issue Editors: Jonathon Hutchinson, University of Sydney & Milica Stilinovic, University of Sydney The Internet Regulation Turn? Policy, internet and technology With the recent media focus on the regulation of social media platforms within our society, users, citizens, human rights advocacy groups, policymakers and content producers have all questioned the validity of these communication technologies. Do these technologies offer ease of connectivity, or do they have the potential to be weaponised and misappropriated to further political agendas, disrupt democratic processes, and abuse an individual’s right to (or assumption of) privacy? Recently, we have observed governments calling on platforms to account for their misalignment with local media markets. Regulators are asking platform providers for increased transparency into their distribution processes. Advocacy groups are asking for increased visibility. The custodians of the internet (Gillespie, 2018) are asking for better tools to manage their communities. At the same time, users are questioning the uses of their data. Nonetheless, our societies are enjoying the benefits of our contemporary communication technologies for a variety of reasons. We see new markets emerging based on platform economic models, increased connectivity in times of physical isolation, new trends and connections are emerging, new cultural conventions are being forged between disparate individuals, and friends and families enjoy the increased ease and connectivity of communicating with their loved ones. To say ‘if you do not pay for the product, you are the product’ (Orlowski, 2020) grossly misrepresents the entirety of the social dilemma we have found ourselves in – a hyper- commercialised and politicised internet of the 2020s. To combat this, we are observing several versions of a ‘Balkinized splinternet’ (Lemley, 2020) emerging, where nations and users are designing and creating their own version of what was conceived as a way to share…

Discussing the focus on ‘technological solutions’ in the context of the Irish border debate.

Technology is increasingly touted as an alternative to the Irish backstop, especially in light of the government’s difficulty to find a Brexit strategy that can command a majority in the House of Commons. As academics, we have been following the debate around the role of technology in monitoring the border with interest, but also scepticism and frustration. Technology can foster government innovation in countless ways and digital technologies, in particular, have the potential to transform the way in which the government makes policy and designs public services. Yet, in the context of the Irish border debate, the focus on ‘technological solutions’ is becoming a red herring and distracts from the political choices ahead. Technology cannot solve the Irish border problem and it is time to face the facts. 1: Technology cannot ensure a ‘frictionless border’ Any legal or regulatory restrictions on the movement of goods or people between the UK and the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit will make border-related friction inevitable. Setting the restrictions is a matter of political agreements. Technology can help enforce the legal or regulatory restrictions, but it cannot prevent the introduction of friction compared to the status quo. For example, technology may speed up documentation, processing, and inspections, but it cannot eliminate the need for these procedures, whose existence will mean new burdens on those undergoing them. 2:  There will be a need for new infrastructure at or near the border Technology may make it possible for some checks to be carried out away from the border. For example, machine learning algorithms can assist in identifying suspicious vehicles and police forces can stop and inspect them away from the border. Regardless of where the relevant inspections are carried out, however, there will be a need for new infrastructure at or near the border, such as camera systems that record the identity of the vehicles crossing the frontier. The amount of new infrastructure needed will depend on…

There is a clear trend of greater public participation in the process of constitution making, and with the growth of e-democracy tools, this trend is likely to continue.

Þingvellir: location of the Althing, the national parliament of Iceland, established in 930 AD with sessions held at the location until 1798. Image: Luc Van Braekel (Flickr CC BY 2.0).

As innovations like social media and open government initiatives have become an integral part of politics in the twenty-first century, there is increasing interest in the possibility of citizens directly participating in the drafting of legislation. Indeed, there is a clear trend of greater public participation in the process of constitution making, and with the growth of e-democracy tools, this trend is likely to continue. However, this view is certainly not universally held, and a number of recent studies have been much more skeptical about the value of public participation, questioning whether it has any real impact on the text of a constitution. Following the banking crisis, and a groundswell of popular opposition to the existing political system in 2009, the people of Iceland embarked on a unique process of constitutional reform. Having opened the entire drafting process to public input and scrutiny, these efforts culminated in Iceland’s 2011 draft crowdsourced constitution: reputedly the world’s first. In his Policy & Internet article “When Does Public Participation Make a Difference? Evidence From Iceland’s Crowdsourced Constitution”, Alexander Hudson examines the impact that the Icelandic public had on the development of the draft constitution. He finds that almost 10 percent of the written proposals submitted generated a change in the draft text, particularly in the area of rights. This remarkably high number is likely explained by the isolation of the drafters from both political parties and special interests, making them more reliant on and open to input from the public. However, although this would appear to be an example of successful public crowdsourcing, the new constitution was ultimately rejected by parliament. Iceland’s experiment with participatory drafting therefore demonstrates the possibility of successful online public engagement — but also the need to connect the masses with the political elites. It was the disconnect between these groups that triggered the initial protests and constitutional reform, but also that led to its ultimate failure. We caught…

Scholarly interest in online activism has grown with its use. Do social media really challenge traditional politics?

Thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Friday May 13, 2011. Image by Hossam el-Hamalawy.

Online activism has become increasingly visible, with social media platforms being used to express protest and dissent from the Arab Spring to #MeToo. Scholarly interest in online activism has grown with its use, together with disagreement about its impact. Do social media really challenge traditional politics? Some claim that social media have had a profound and positive effect on modern protest — the speed of information sharing making online networks highly effective in building revolutionary movements. Others argue that this activity is merely symbolic: online activism has little or no impact, dilutes offline activism, and weakens social movements. Given online activity doesn’t involve the degree of risk, trust, or effort required on the ground, they argue that it can’t be considered to be “real” activism. In this view, the Arab Spring wasn’t simply a series of “Twitter revolutions”. Despite much work on offline social movements and coalition building, few studies have used social network analysis to examine the influence of brokers of online activists (i.e. those who act as a bridge between different ideological groups), or their role in information diffusion across a network. In her Policy & Internet article “Brokerage Roles and Strategic Positions in Twitter Networks of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution”, Deena Abul-Fottouh tests whether social movements theory of networks and coalition building — developed to explain brokerage roles in offline networks, between established parties and organisations — can also be used to explain what happens online. Social movements theory suggests that actors who occupy an intermediary structural position between different ideological groups are more influential than those embedded only in their own faction. That is, the “bridging ties” that link across political ideologies have a greater impact on mobilisation than the bonding ties within a faction. Indeed, examining the Egyptian revolution and ensuing crisis, Deena finds that these online brokers were more evident during the first phase of movement solidarity between liberals, islamists, and socialists than in…

Mapping and evaluating emerging public-private partnerships, technologies, and responses to online extremism.

The process of radicalization still lacks clarity, and relies on theorizing that is rife with assumptions. Image of flowers left at London Bridge in June 2017, by Gerry Popplestone (Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

*Submissions for this event have closed. Please refer to the event page for further details* We are calling for articles for a Special Issue of the journal Policy & Internet on “Online Extremism: Government, Private Sector, and Civil Society Responses”, edited by Jonathan Bright and Bharath Ganesh, to be published in 2019. The submission deadline is October 30, 2018. Issue Outline Governments, the private sector, and civil society are beginning to work together to challenge extremist exploitation of digital communications. Both Islamic and right-wing extremists use websites, blogs, social media, encrypted messaging, and filesharing websites to spread narratives and propaganda, influence mainstream public spheres, recruit members, and advise audiences on undertaking attacks. Across the world, public-private partnerships have emerged to counter this problem. For example, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) organized by the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate has organized a “shared hash database” that provides “digital fingerprints” of ISIS visual content to help platforms quickly take down content. In another case, the UK government funded ASI Data Science to build a tool to accurately detect jihadist content. Elsewhere, Jigsaw (a Google-owned company) has developed techniques to use content recommendations on YouTube to “redirect” viewers of extremist content to content that might challenge their views. While these are important and admirable efforts, their impacts and effectiveness is unclear. The purpose of this special issue is to map and evaluate emerging public-private partnerships, technologies, and responses to online extremism. There are three main areas of concern that the issue will address: (1) the changing role of content moderation, including taking down content and user accounts, as well as the use of AI techniques to assist; (2) the increasing focus on “counter-narrative” campaigns and strategic communication; and (3) the inclusion of global civil society in this agenda. This mapping will contribute to understanding how power is distributed across these actors, the ways in which technology is expected to address the…

The Internet seems to provide an obvious opportunity to strengthen intra-party democracy and mobilise passive party members. However, these mobilising capacities are limited and participation has been low.

The benefits of political participation may remain unclear if public deliberation takes place without a clear goal or a real say in decision-making for the participants. Image: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Nordrhein-Westfalen (Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Political parties have been criticised for failing to link citizen preferences to political decision-making. But in an attempt to enhance policy representation, many political parties have established online platforms to allow discussion of policy issues and proposals, and to open up their decision-making processes. The Internet—and particularly the social web—seems to provide an obvious opportunity to strengthen intra-party democracy and mobilise passive party members. However, these mobilising capacities are limited, and in most instances, participation has been low. In their Policy & Internet article “Does the Internet Encourage Political Participation? Use of an Online Platform by Members of a German Political Party,” Katharina Gerl, Stefan Marschall, and Nadja Wilker examine the German Greens’ online collaboration platform to ask why only some party members and supporters use it. The platform aims to improve the inclusion of party supporters and members in the party’s opinion-formation and decision-making process, but it has failed to reach inactive members. Instead, those who have already been active in the party also use the online platform. It also seems that classical resources such as education and employment status do not (directly) explain differences in participation; instead, participation is motivated by process-related and ideological incentives. We caught up with the authors to discuss their findings: Ed.: You say “When it comes to explaining political online participation within parties, we face a conceptual and empirical void.” Can you explain briefly what the offline models are, and why they don’t work for the Internet age? Katharina / Stefan / Nadja: According to Verba et al. (1995) the reasons for political non-participation can be boiled down to three factors: (1) citizens do not want to participate, (2) they cannot, (3) nobody asked them to. Speaking model-wise we can distinguish three perspectives: Citizens need certain resources like education, information, time and civic skills to participate (resource model and civic voluntarism model). The social psychological model looks at the role of attitudes and…