November 15: Internet Freedom, Geopolitics, and Taiwan’s Role

November 15: Internet Freedom, Geopolitics, and Taiwan’s Role

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 from 11:00AM – 12:30PM (ET)

Event Description:

The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a seminar titled “Internet Freedom, Geopolitics, and Taiwan’s Role.” Since its inception, the internet has quickly evolved into a global platform connecting an unprecedented number of people from different countries, and governments have consequently increased their efforts to regulate and control it. As a result, global internet governance has become increasingly important, while simultaneously becoming more challenging due to differences in values, standards, and norms among democratic and authoritarian governments. Recognizing the geoeconomic and political importance of the Internet, the Biden Administration announced the “Declaration on the Future of the Internet” in April 2022 that sought to promote a shared vision for internet freedom among democracies.

According to Freedom House’s 2022 Freedom on the Net survey, Taiwan ranked fifth in internet freedom worldwide and first in Asia. Clearly underscoring its role as an advanced techno-democracy, Taiwan, represented by Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang, participated at the initiative’s launch. Looking to the future, how can Taiwan contribute to global internet governance efforts? What lessons can the world take from Taiwan’s own internet governance policies? How can democracies most effectively counter authoritarian restrictions on internet freedom? This panel will discuss the current and future of internet freedom, geopolitics, and Taiwan’s role. This event is organized by the Global Taiwan Institute and supported in part by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

Doors will open at 10:30 AM, and the event will begin at 11:00 AM. If you plan on attending in-person, please RSVP here by November 14, as seating is limited. A light lunch will be provided. Please only register if you would like to attend in-person. Please direct questions or concerns to Program Manager Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org.

The event will also be broadcast live on our website and on YouTube beginning at 11:00 AM.

**Media: Please contact Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.

COVID Procedures: Proof of vaccination will be required at check in. Attendees unable to provide documentation will be required to wear a mask. Masks are optional for vaccinated individuals who are able to provide proof of vaccination. 

The Speakers:

Wu Kuo-wei currently serves as the chair of the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum (TWIGF) and on the board of the National Information Infrastructure Enterprise Promotion Association (NIIEPA) as a senior consultant. Additionally, he was a member of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a global multi-stakeholder organization that is responsible for continuing the success and safety of the internet. In addition to these roles, he has also served as deputy director of the National Center for High Performance Computing (NCHC), senior vice president at Yam Digital, and vice president at Acer. He is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of the internet in Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region and has experience across the public and private sectors.

Steven Feldstein is a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where he focuses on issues of democracy and technology, human rights, and US foreign policy. He previously served as the holder of the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs and an associate professor at Boise State University. Feldstein also served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau in the US Department of State, where he had responsibility for Africa policy, international labor affairs, and international religious freedom. Previously he was the director of policy at the US Agency for International Development, and also served as counsel on the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where he oversaw US foreign assistance programs, State Department management, and international organizations. He is the author of The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance (Oxford University Press, 2021). He received his BA from Princeton and his JD from Berkeley Law.

Manpreet Singh Anand is the regional director for Asia-Pacific programs at the National Democratic Institute. Most recently, he served as an adjunct professor at the National Defense University and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security while leading the South Asia practice as senior vice president at the Albright Stonebridge Group. Previously, Manpreet served as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia in the Obama Administration, and Deputy Assistant Administrator at the US Agency for International Development. Manpreet also worked for Chevron Corporation as a senior policy advisor, providing policy analysis and guidance on emerging geopolitical and socio-economic issues. Manpreet also served as the senior policy advisor for South and Central Asia issues in the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. Manpreet earned an MBA and an MA in international studies from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.    

The Moderator:

Russell Hsiao is the executive director of GTI, senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. He is a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He previously served as a senior research fellow at The Project 2049 Institute and National Security fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007 to July 2011 and a special associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the US Trade Representative. Hsiao received his JD and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University’s Journal of Law and Technology. He received a BA in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.

Event Summary:

On November 15, the Global Taiwan Institute hosted a public seminar titled “Internet Freedom, Geopolitics, and Taiwan’s Role.” The event featured Wu Kuo-wei of the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum (TWIGF), Steven Feldstein of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, and Manpreet Singh Anand of the National Democratic Institute. The event was moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao.

Feldstein began the event by discussing the backdrop of digital technology, internet governance, and platform accountability. He cited the recent takeover of Twitter as a prime example of the fragility of internet governance structures, calling for stricter and more structured regulatory approaches. Feldstein then attributed the deterioration of digital protections to three factors. First, he cited “norm contestation,” where citizens believe it is legitimate for the government to encroach on civil liberties. The second is the “corporate surveillance model,” which primes the people to have less expectations for privacy. Lastly, Feldstein mentioned “non-democratic exploitation,” which occurs when leaders use the media to extend their rule.

Next, Wu continued the conversation by discussing the significance of geopolitics in the Taiwan Strait. He explained that due to Taiwan’s proximity to China and the large volume of shipping vessels that travel through the Taiwan Strait, maintaining submarine cables has become critical for security. Additionally, Wu described the importance of transparency, stating that it is “critical to internet freedom.” Lastly, Wu stated that Taiwan’s democratic model should serve as an example to demonstrate the possibility of a free and democratic society in China. 

Anand corroborated Feldstein and Wu’s claims by asserting that democracy is being challenged by authoritarians on multiple fronts. He identified the abuse of visual technologies and platforms as a prominent means by which non-democratic actors manipulate information, spread cynicism, sow division, amplify conspiracy theories, and ultimately interfere with citizens’ ability to make informed choices. He also concluded that these authoritarian trends do not exist in a vacuum, and disproportionately target vulnerable communities. To prevent the continued growth of these trends, he described the potential benefits of adopting Taiwan’s multi-stakeholder approach on a larger scale. Through implementing a multi-stakeholder approach, Anand argued that Taiwan has made truth more viral than disinformation, and strengthened the trust between civil society, government, and the public at large. 

In response to a question posed by Hsiao, Wu discussed the prospects of communication and coordination among regional actors to combat digital threats. He asserted that although he was hopeful for increased transparency on the Chinese end, Xi Jinping’s rise to power has decreased the prospects for cooperation. Additionally, he emphasized the role of international forums such as the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum, as they can engage regional powers in internet governance.

Next, Feldstein discussed internet fragmentation, attributing the issue to differences in governance, politics, and approaches to values. In order to address this issue, he argued that it will require a more nuanced approach that considers the underlying factors and systems that enable authorities to restrict access to information. Anand expanded on Feldstein’s claim by taking a more micro-level approach to examining the issue: specifically, he maintained that while global conversations are critical in addressing internet fragmentation, grassroots civic actors also play an indispensable role. Wu rounded off the conversation by discussing fragmentation from a technical perspective, concluding that the internet has transformed as a result of unfair operating methods from China.

This summary was written by GTI Fall 2022 Intern Anais Fang.

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