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CircleID Launches the First in a Series of Community Dialogues on COVID-19 and the Internet

A CircleID community dialogue series to assess challenges and implications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Internet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the rapid migration of the world’s workforce and consumer services to virtual spaces, has amplified the Internet governance and policy issues including infrastructure, access, exponential instances of fraud and abuse, global cooperation and data privacy, to name but a few. The need for practical, scalable and efficient solutions has risen dramatically.

This was the context in which CircleID hosted its first community dialog via virtual conferencing, which took place on May 7. The topic was “COVID 19 and the Internet” as this is certainly top of mind in the CircleID Community.

I had the privilege of moderating this event. It included a diverse line up of industry leaders who shared how they are responding to the crisis, how their perspective on their work may have changed, and where they think they are headed in the coming months and years. The conversation was broad-ranging as panelists shared what they were thinking in real-time. The goal was to frame questions during this transformational period for Internet infrastructure and Internet-based commerce. The answers are still unfolding.

The line-up of panelists included (in speaking order):

  • Head of European Policy at Cloudflare, Caroline Greer
  • ICANN CEO Goran Marby
  • Co-Chair of the Data, Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice at Greenberg Traurig, Gretchen A. Ramos
  • Presidential Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Utah, George Contreras
  • ArkiTechs Inc. CEO Stephen

Mr. Marby explained ICANN’s recent initiative to identify suspect “covid” domain name registrations. (See here.) This initiative drew the most questions from the viewers as this type of preemptive program is not normally offered by ICANN. Time will tell whether this program is successful and what impact it will have on ongoing concerns about phishing, malware, spam, botnets and acts of fraud that are pervasive in the DNS. Marby noted that, as of the panel date, the 80,000 domain names reviewed, 7,000, were identified as potentially malicious.

Ms. Greer and Mr. Lee discussed how their companies are scaling up to meet the demands of their clients. Cloudflare is adding more staff and providing enhanced services. As expected, policymakers in Brussels are focused on COVID-19 response efforts and weathering the crisis. Mr. Lee pointed out that in less-developed regions, like the Caribbean, issues around sustainability are key. As demand for Internet access and bandwidth increases, the need for costly infrastructure increases. The challenge is to manage this increased pressure on internet resources in a time when normally strained economies are considerably more vulnerable.

Ms. Ramos observed how the transition to virtual operations has amplified questions around privacy and data security and that norms are changing. The question is, how? The world is waiting to see.

Professor Contreras described The Open Source Pledge, a cooperative effort to share patents and copyrighted content in the fight against COVID-19. He is part of an international group of lawyers and academics that created the pledge and a model, open-source license to facilitate cooperation and information exchange. Notable signatories include Amazon, Facebook, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Microsoft and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTEch. The world awaits the outcomes of this endeavor. We plan to check in to see the progress of this initiative.

All the participants stressed that, while swift action was imperative, much remains to be learned as to how the responses have worked, what more is needed, and how the changes implemented today will affect operations in a post-COVID-19 world. It was also noted that despite urgency and uncertainty, there is a lot of positive innovation and energy that has emerged from the response within the Internet community. The Internet was designed to be resilient and scalable. A truer test of its capacity and adaptability has never been seen as it did in the last few months.

CircleID encourages you to watch and share your thoughts. They are especially interested in hearing what issues you think are ripe for more in-depth discussion. They welcome suggestions on topics, questions and potential speakers. Stay tuned…

By Lori Schulman, Senior Director, Internet Policy at INTA

Lori is Senior Director for Internet Policy for the International Trademark Association (INTA) where she is responsible for managing the association’s various Internet policy and advocacy initiatives and serving as liaison to INTA’s Internet and Data Protection Committees.

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