In recent years the one of the Internet’s leading oversight bodies, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has moved from a non-profit seen to be controlled by the U.S. to one that increasingly is making room for the participation of other countries.

Its multi-stakeholder process is now one of the reasons ICANN should play a big role in fighting cyber crime, says a Canadian who has served on the agency’s working groups.

Elliot Noss, CEO of Toronto-based domain name registrar Tucows Inc, make that pitch during his keynote address at the first conference of the Canadian Internet Governance Forum.

“I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to know who the criminals are and be able to do nothing about it,” he said. Right now “cyber security is an exercise to managing the damage. There is no downside to being on the other [criminal] side.”

One of the biggest problems is there are no international agreements to fight cyber crime, he said. Yet law enforcement officers often attend ICANN meetings.

ICANN co-ordinates the maintenance and procedures of databases controlling the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet. Until October, 2016 it was officially under the wing of the U.S. commerce department. Since then, however, it has been independent.

Noss praised ICANN’s “multi-stakeholder experiment,”, comparing it to other international agencies where governments sit in control and other groups watch from the sidelines.

Adding fighting cyber crime to ICANN’s responsibilities would be a natural extension of its multi-stakeholder framework, he argued, because law enforcement officials already attend some of its meetings.

“The two saddest parts of [cyber crime] are the asymmetry,” Noss said. “The difference between attacking and defending is ridiculous.” The other problem is there are no international agreements on fighting cyber crime. Yet nation states are represented on ICANN.
In an interview he also noted many police forces, including the RCMP, the FBI, Interpol, as well as civil society attend ICANN meetings, so a cyber body could be a working group. Perhaps it would then spin out on its own.

In a follow-up interview Noss wanted to make clear he isn’t suggesting ICANN change its mandate. His point is that people who are interested in cybercrime could leverage the fact that they already meet at ICANN sessions.

However, in he was also cautious about the possibility, noting police are “inherently national and paranoid,” he said, which goes against a multi-stakeholder solution.

He also noted that nation-state participation in ICANN is still tentative. The government advisory committee now meets openly and members participate as peers with three other international advisory committees, he said. “This is in no way settled,” he admitted. “It is still being contested,” he admits, “but the evolution over 20 years is remarkable.”

The Internet Governance Forum is a multi-stakeholder policy advisory unit of the United Nations. It cannot adopt resolutions. It exists to facilitate discussion between governments, intergovernmental organizations, private companies, the technical community and civil society organizations that deal with or are interested in Internet.

Wednesday’s conference of the Canadian IGF, attended by academics, government officials and members of the IT community, held sessions on disinformation, cyber security challenges for business, improving the security of IoT devices, privacy, inequality on the Internet and Canada’s role in Internet governance.

A Canadian journalist warned a panel on disinformation that people here shouldn’t think that fake news on social media networks only comes from other countries.

“A lot of this (misinformation) is locally driven.” said David Skok, editor in chief of The Logic. “Just as we had negative campaign advertising on TV, we now have campaigns drive wedge issues around immigration because it is such a reactive issue that is dividing the populace.

“Don’t be fooled into thinking this is only foreign actors. Your local politicians and campaign staff and crisis communications firms are doing this more than foreign actors are.”

“There are lots of examples of domestic actors inciting, creating discourse and divisiveness through the platforms that could do far more damage than a Russian bot or Macedonian bot could do.”

Kevin Chan, Facebook Canada’s director of public policy, said company has made many efforts to fight disinformation since it allegations that Russia made great efforts through social media to disrupt the 2016 U.S. federal election. In the last two quarters alone it removed 1.5 billion fake accounts worldwide. On the other hand, he admitted that on any given day as many as four per cent of accounts are fake.

He also said Facebook Canada hasn’t yet seen the kind of social media manipulation seen in the U.S. 2016 election campaign.

Facebook is working with Canadian political parties to ensure they have contacts to alert his company if they see worrisome content on the platform, Chan said.

“I don’t think our work will ever be done, it is a security issue” and bad actors will always evolve their tactics. “But we feel increasingly good about our posture.”

Anatoliy Gruzd, who holds the Canada Research Chair in social media data stewardship at Ryerson University’s business school, said  94 per cent Canadians on the Internet have at least one social media account, “so the potential for exposure to disinformation is huge.”



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