Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms

Internet Safety/Security

Cite this article as:
Chris Wiersma (17/12/2021). Internet Safety/Security. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio. https://platformglossary.info/internet-safety-security/.

Author: Chris Wiersma

The terms internet safety and internet security are closely connected. In the words of the European Commission (2020:1)1, “[s]ecurity is not only the basis for personal safety, but it also provides the foundation for confidence and dynamism in our economy, our society, and our democracy”. Thus, internet safety/security is perceived as general policy issues. These are general policy concerns about worldwide challenges such as crime, health, and safety on an individual level.

However, when the internet infrastructure is perceived as a critical environment, specific security challenges are dealt with by the internet governance measures that are tailored to bring about guarantees surrounding the internet’s technical functioning. Importantly, platforms and other service providers who are tasked with the provision of access to their users play a general role in this sense.

As introduced above, the concept of ‘internet safety/security’ evokes other terms commonly understood as threats in the digital environment. For this reason, many national legislations on regulating misconduct are relevant for this topic. This is reflected in the approach taken in the Convention on Cybercrime (Council of Europe, 2001)2, which aims to have its members maintain, update or introduce substantive criminal law measures to deal with the problem of cybercrime. Regarded as the first international treaty on this topic, this Convention is widely used as a reference for developing law and policy (see for example the site on EU Law on Cybercrime)3. In pursuance of developing these solutions, in recent years several soft-law measures have been taken, such as the “EU Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online” (European Commission, 2016)4. The EU took the initiative for seeking more proactive responses and accountability from major private internet companies. As pointed out by the European Commission (2020:13) 5

The latest evaluation shows that companies assess 90% of flagged content within 24 hours and remove 71% of the content deemed to be illegal hate speech. However, the platforms need to improve further transparency and feedback to users and to ensure consistent evaluation of flagged content.

With threats being often described as ‘hybrid’ in form, in recent years, many elements of responsiveness to the issues surrounding internet safety and security are leading to the regular renewal of or the adoption of new strategies by different governments all over the world. As an example, the latest “National Cyber Strategy” (2018)6 in the US presented the intention to increase the imposition of “costs” on all kinds of different players in the internet environment, in order to “to deter malicious cyber actors and prevent further escalation” (i2018:2)7. Examples of the implementation of this strategy by the US government are the executive orders by President Trump (2015-2020) seeking to restrict the possibilities of users to access several (social) media and mobile applications, such as WeChat and TikTok (see the orders of The White House, 6 August 2020)8 9. These orders against WeChat and TikTok were motivated as being based on national cybersecurity-concerns. A detailed plan to install specific prohibitions was announced in order to specifically limit the offer of the targeted apps in US stores. However, both executive orders have led to further administrative actions and judicial (counter-)measures limiting their execution and the reopening of the access to the US market. Another approach that was recently initiated by the Russian Government takes the form of establishing a network that can operate alongside the WWW in case of an attack. This so-called RuNet is envisioned as an obligation for internet providers in Russia by implementing new rules established by the “the Federal law N. 90-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (in terms of ensuring the safe and sustainable functioning of the Internet in the territory of the Russian Federation)”10.

It is likely that more of such new technical safety measures or even new protocols for the technical functioning of the internet will be brought up as policy choices in response to safety and security threats, also on the international level such as ITU. For example, such topics are high on the list for discussion at the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly – 202011 (such as a “New IP” protocol system persistently promoted by Huawei and the Chinese Government)12.

Major policy areas that are related to this term can be found in connection to all the national legal interventions that are responsive to fundamental (human) rights (such as children’s rights) as well as the general issues of cybercrime already pointed to above (such as racism, xenophobia, hate crime, theft, etc). These areas get regular attention in terms of proposals for common legal and regulatory responsibilities, which would be applicable across the internet. In this regard, a notable, legislative initiative is the UKs recently proposed online safety laws as put forward in the “Online Harms White Paper” (2019)13, which proposed a broad (statutory) duty of care. See also: harm.

References

Internet Society. (2020). ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly 2020. Available at: https://www.internetsociety.org/resources/doc/2020/itu-wtsa-2020-background-paper/.

ICNL. (2020). Russia. ICNL. Available at: https://www.icnl.org/resources/civic-freedom-monitor/russia

Symposium: Online Harms White Paper. (2019). Journal of Media Law. Vol 11, Issue 1; Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rjml20/11/1?nav=tocList&.

UK. (2020). UK Government. Joint Ministerial foreword, Online Harms White Paper. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-harms-white-paper/online-harms-white-paper#the-harms-in-scope.

UK. (2019). UK Government. Press release. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-introduce-world-first-online-safety-laws

  1. European Commission. Communication from the commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, on the EU Security Union Strategy. Available at:  https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-eu-security-union-strategy.pdf.
  2. Council of Europe, Convention on Cybercrime, adopted 23 November 2001, entered into force 1 July 2004, ETS n˚.185. Available at www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/005.
  3. European Commission. EU Law on Cybercrime. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/cybercrime_en.
  4. European Commission. (2016). The EU Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/combatting-discrimination/racism-and-xenophobia/eu-code-conduct-countering-illegal-hate-speech-online_en.
  5. European Commission. Communication from the commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, on the EU Security Union Strategy. Available at:  https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-eu-security-union-strategy.pdf.
  6. The White House/President Trump. (2018). National Cyber Strategy. Available at: https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/National-Cyber-Strategy.pdf.
  7. Ibid
  8. The White House/US President Trump. (2020). Executive Order on Addressing the Threat Posed by WeChat. Available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/11/2020-17700/addressing-the-threat-posed-by-wechat-and-taking-additional-steps-to-address-the-national-emergency.
  9. The White House/US President Trump. (2020). Executive Order on Addressing the Threat Posed by TikTok. Available at: https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-addressing-threat-posed-tiktok/.
  10. Russian Federation. (2019). Federal law No. 90-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation. Available at: http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201905010025?index=0&rangeSize=1.
  11. World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly. (2020). Available at: https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/wtsa20/Pages/default.aspx.
  12. Huawei and the Chinese Government. (2019). New IP protocol system. Available at: https://www.itu.int/md/T17-TSAG-C-0083.
  13. UK. (2019). Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport and Home Office. Online Harms White Paper. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-harms-white-paper/online-harms-white-paper.
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By Chris Wiersma

Chris Wiersma is an independent researcher and senior adviser-jurist. Chris specializes in Information Law, especially having expertise in media law, IP/copyright, data protection and the impact of digital technologies on human rights, in the context of European legislation. Previously, Chris held positions as scientific staff at the Universities of Amsterdam and Ghent, where he taught classes in law and political/ social sciences. His work has been published in Dutch and English in journals such as Mediaforum (deLex), Auteurs en Media (Larcier), Nordic Journal of Human Rights (Taylor&Francis/Routledge) and Communication Law and Policy (idem). Recent research on ORCiD at 0000-0002-5137-6046.

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