Week in Review: May 26, 2016

by Muira McCammon

Chechnya: Ramzan Kadyrov, Leader of the Republic of Chechnya, Takes to Instagram to Find His Lost Cat

Ramzan Kadyrov has caused a bit of a global uproar on Instagram by asking the Internet for help in finding his pet. (Kadyrov is the leader of Chechnya and has the support of Vladimir Putin.) The story gained attraction when HBO’s Last Week Tonight host, John Oliver, mentioned Kadyrov’s cat on his show. The Guardian included a full translation of the politician’s plea (from Russian to English). It translates roughly as follows: “We have completely lost our cat. He looked like a little tiger cub. Visitors have always said that he is very, very similar to a tiger cub. Ten days ago, he disappeared. We all thought that he would reappear, since he is very attached to the children and loves to play with them and go out with them in the yard. But now we have begun to seriously worry. Perhaps he is with someone nearby. That person may not know how to find the owners. I am sure that no one needs someone else’s cat. Therefore, we would be grateful for any information. Thanks in advance." Many have found humor in Kadyrov’s request for help—in large part because he is known in most policy and press circles for his toughness and roughness. It is normal for people to take to Instagram, Twitter, and other social networks to ask for assistance in locating lost people, pets, and belongings, but this represents a first for Instagram. It is the first time that a politician of Kadyrov’s stature has taken to the social media platform to ask the public for help in finding a cat. Kadyrov responded to John Oliver’s segment with another post on Instagram; he shared a photo-shopped image of the comedian wearing a t-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s face on it, and in the background, he included the following message in English: “I’m tired of jokes. I want to care for cats in Chechnya.” More details about this story can be found here [EN].

European Union: Commission Redefines “Online Platforms” and Updates Its Audiovisual Rules

Online platforms have been in the news a lot lately in the European Union. Today, on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, the European Commission published an updated Audiovisual Media Services Directive that addresses how online platforms are to be defined and regarded in the European Union. In a press release, the Commission justified the need to reassess the diversity of online platforms: “Today the Commission concluded that a 'one-size-fits-all' approach was not appropriate for consumers to benefit from the opportunities and for the rules to meet the different challenges posed by the very diverse types of online platforms. Based on this approach, the Commission will look at each area where it can act, from telecoms to copyright rules, to address any specific problems in a future-proof way for all market players." The press release also calls for: (1) comparable rules for comparable digital services, (2) an obligation for online platforms to behave responsible, (3) a fair and innovation-friendly business environment. A document detailing some of the policy changes as they relate to online platforms is available here. These changes would likely impact a number of popular online platforms, including YouTube, Google, and Ebay. Interestingly, as Tech Crunch notes, the European Commission is not including social networks, such as Facebook, in its definition of online platforms. As Fortune adds, it could take years before the European Parliament agree to the European Commission’s proposal, but if government officials do approve the measures, online platforms, particularly those providing on-demand video services, will be required to make sure that minors do not have access to inappropriate material. It is unclear how online platforms, such as Google and YouTube, might approach that challenge. Many tech companies have not yet weighed in on the European Commission’s latest press release.

United States: Senate Committee Discusses the Future of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority

On Tuesday, May 24, 2016, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened for a hearing entitled “Examining the Multistakeholder Plan for Transitioning the Internet Assigned Number Authority.” The gathering included testimonials from Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of the Internet Association; Steve DelBianco, the Executive Director of NetChoice; the Honorable David A. Gross, the former U.S. Coordinator and Information Policy at the U.S. State Department; and three other stakeholders. A full webcast of the proceedings is available here. At the center of the discussion was the timeline of the proposed transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) from the control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to what is being described as a “global multi-stakeholder community." Five senators, including recent presidential candidate Marco Rubio, wrote a letter to Larry Strickling, the chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), expressing concern over the “expanded role of governments” during the transition. The NTIA is currently the body responsible for overseeing IANA. A number of Internet policy experts have spoken out in favor of the transition. Access Now, Article19, the Centre for Democracy & Technology, Human Rights Watch, the Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, and Ranking Digital Rights published a joint statement and explained, “We believe that executing upon the IANA transition is the best way to ensure the continued functionality of the global internet and to protect the free flow of information so essential to human rights protection." The NTIA’s contract to run IANA is set to expire on September 30, 2016.