Not only in developing countries but also in the US and EU, calls for stronger regulation of Big Tech are rising. At the precise point when we should be shaping global norms to regulate Big Tech, plans have emerged for an ‘empowered’ global digital governance body that will evidently be dominated by Big Tech. Adding vastly to its already overweening power, this new Body would help Big Tech resist effective regulation, globally and at national levels. Indeed, we face the unbelievable prospect of ‘a Big Tech led body for Global Governance of Big Tech’.
The open letter below can be endorsed by writing an email to email@example.com filling this form before midnight PST (GMT-8) of the 7th of March
The Secretary General, United Nations, New York
Your ‘Roadmap for Digital Cooperation’ rightly recognises that “the world is at a critical inflection point for technology governance, made more urgent by the ongoing pandemic”. We are however concerned that the proposal for a new “strategic and empowered” High Level Multistakeholder Body with substantial digital policies related roles runs directly counter to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society(WSIS) and its official follow-up process. It is in any case unacceptable that such an apex policy body will have corporation and government nominees sitting as equals. Worse, the proposed Body will rely largely on private (i.e., corporate) funding, and the main proposal currently on the table for this Body suggests linking gaining a seat on it with providing funding support. This is a new low for the UN, and an unthinkably dangerous direction for the future of global governance.
The WSIS mandated a process of ‘Enhanced Cooperation’ for developing “international public policies pertaining to the Internet” (or global digital policies), and a multistakeholder policy dialogue space, the Internet Governance Forum. While a multistakeholder UN Internet Governance Forum has been functioningsince 2006, the multilateral element of actual policy development, the ‘Enhanced Cooperation’ framework, is yet to come to fruition. However, it remains firmly on the agenda of WSIS follow-up, with the UN General Assembly in December, 2020, noting “the need for continued dialogue and work on the implementation of enhanced cooperation” as envisioned by the WSIS.