We have just completed the 2022 Policy & Internet Conference, which we held at the University of Sydney at the picturesque Women’s College.
This is the first time the conference has been held outside of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and was an opportunity to bring scholars and policy advocates together to discuss the current state of affairs for internet and policy now. It was also a chance to focus the direction of the journal for the next 12 months and direct the scholarship, too.
Day one was opened by our own Professor John Hartley who laid out a clear argument for why global internet policy is not a thing and that we should be looking towards younger, local audiences to see better forms of regulation. It was wonderful to have such a provocation that went through the remainder of the conference and was a welcomed touch point to refer to with each of the following sessions.
We then heard from Matthew Nguyen, Damar Juniarto and Jay Daniel Thompson to explain some of the critical concerns of internet policy from their respective regions. The key issues emerging were the increasing takedown/censorship issues from Southeast Asian country governments that work with big tech platform providers, alongside the lack of co-design and consultation for regulatory design.
Our second keynote speaker was Associate Professor Crystal Abidin who took us through her three years of DECRA research data that has explored the Southeast Asian region specifically looking at the social media influencers cultures. Through this talk, it became obvious there is a lack of regulatory oversight for the influencer industry from young people, agencies and general practices for most stakeholders in the field.
This observation was cemented with the final panel for the day that was a result of the special issue (15, 4) from Policy & Internet that specifically looked at the influencers in the Asia Pacific Region. We heard from four of the authors who presented work on YouTubers, livestreamers and TikTokers.
Day two was opened by Associate Professor Tanya Lokot who expertly explained how the Ukraine environment is under a networked authoritarian regime. One of the most inspiring take-aways from Tanya’s presentation was how new forms of resilience were emerging, including through collaborative measures with satellite providers (yes, Elon Musk) and through state initiatives that have been established to improve and secure user data.
Following Associate Professor Lokot was the first panel of the day which was chaired by Professor Terry Flew and included Dr Joanne Gray, Associate Professor Diana Bossio, Professor Kim Weatherall and Professor Julian Thomas. It was excellent to hear these well versed, experienced and critical scholars outline the issues with platform governance and regulation right now. The two takeaways for me were the lack of coordination for everyone who is doing work on regulation for platforms at the moment (many individuals are overworked) , and the need for policymakers to be up-skilled on contemporary practices.
Panel three was chaired by Professor Gerard Goggin and featured the work of Associate Professor Paul Harpur and Dr Natasha Layton. The focus was disability and internet policy and it seems we can learn much from your the histories in this space in terms of accessibility (or lack of) and assistive technologies. The cross over between infrastructures, technologies, governance and regulation seems full of insights for policymakers and advocates.
And finally, we heard from Professor Rohan Samarajiva, who expertly laid out the issues for internet policy in the Sri Lankan case. Through his years of experience of working both as an academic and advocate, it was obvious the lack of consultation has resulted in inappropriate and non-useful policy outcomes.
Special Issue – Policy & Internet 15(2)
There is no doubt there is a clear thread for the next moment of internet policy, and as a result we have designed the call for papers for the next special issue (15, 2) for Policy & Internet. Overall, the conference was a success and while we learnt a great deal to put hybrid conferences on in this era, we are looking forward to the 2023 iteration.