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Policy makers rely on high quality research to underpin evidence-based governance decisions. But just how this evidence is to be obtained – the research agenda of key concepts and questions, the quality or ethical requirements for methods, the challenges of implementation, evaluation and interpretation – all of this is rarely discussed publicly between researchers and research users. Such matters are particularly important in relation to children’s rights in a global, digital age, with a host of associated practical, ethical and political issues attached.

China, supported by South Africa and others, brought a hostile oral amendment to the resolution, to include a further paragraph warning of the dangers the Internet poses for encouraging terrorism, extremism, racism, and religious intolerance. This would have introduced to agreed UN language a loophole for online censorship antithetical to the purpose of the resolution and international standards. Fortunately it was voted down by a resounding 28 votes to 15, with 4 abstentions.[1] “We are alarmed that established democracies, such as South Africa and even India, distanced themselves from consensus by supporting China’s attempt to justify State censorship” Hughes said. “The fundamental importance of open, critical and even controversial expression on the Internet is a universal value that applies in all societies. Today the HRC ultimately rejected attempts to condition the enjoyment of human rights on the Internet on ‘duties and responsibilities’ of Internet users. That is an important win, which the HRC must continue to build upon.”

Data from one enforcement vendor, for instance, showed that takedown efforts increase sales of ebooks. But the automation has also meant that perfectly legal content has been flagged for takedown. This can be amusing when copyright owners flag their own content. But it’s less funny when legitimate work gets caught in automated sweeps. Techdirt’s Mike Masnick flags the example of Warner Bros.’s Wrath of the Titans: Takedown notices went out for the movie’s IMDB page–and also for articles from BBC America and the Charleston Post & Courier. It’s hard to say how often these sorts of mistakes happen or what sort of impact they’re having on people who are trying to use copyrighted content legitimately online, because there’s little transparency from anyone involved in this system–not from ISPs and search engines, not from content creators and enforcement vendors, and certainly not from content pirates. That’s part of what the Takedown Project–a collaboration led by Berkeley Law School, where Urban now works, and the American Assembly–is meant to address. The project’s researchers are trying to look comprehensively at “the impact of automat[ing] both sending and receiving process of notice and takedown” and to survey online services providers about their half of this system.

This conference investigates the sharpening conflict between national law and state sovereignty on the one hand, and global online communications on the other hand. We appear to be at the brink of a potentially drastic transformation of the Internet into a much more territorially fragmented space, consisting of a number of separate, yet overlapping national and regional networks. Even European leaders are investigating the possibility of a European-only communication network, strongly reminiscent of China’s approach to online governance. The Westphalian model of state sovereignty is fighting back – but at what cost and what are the alternatives? The discussion of this conference seeks to advance the established yet stale academic debate on internet jurisdiction by taking a multi-disciplinary approach, going beyond the conventional parameters of the legal analysis. Rather than focus on specific jurisdictional rules and frameworks (all of which are premised on the continued viability of effective national laws in the global arena, i.e. the very matter in contention), the starting point of the discussion of this conference is the proposition that effective national law and unhindered transnational communications are irreconcilable and that any ‘compromise’ is indeed a compromise that comes at a cost either to peculiar national laws/values or free transnational communications or in fact both: you cannot have your cake and eat it too. With the acceptance of this position, it becomes possible to ground the debate in higher legal and political values, such as freedom of expression, democratic governance and the preservation of cultural identity/diversity, and to interrogate the possibilities of catering for these values through re-negotiated forms of governance.

Internet Jurisdiction Symposium – 10-11 September 2014