INTA Joins Dynamic Coalition on Data to Fight Infodemic

Published: January 20, 2021

As citizens of the world reel from the effects of the pandemic, they have been met with a rise in malicious websites, emails containing false information, pretexts for stealing personal data, and sales of counterfeit goods. In response to this crisis, the Internet governance community has come together to address the issues of consumer fraud and abuse associated with COVID-19.

Co-founded by United Kingdom–based Oxford Information Labs and EURid, the registry for .eu, the Dynamic Coalition on Data Trust held its first meeting on November 5, 2020, as part of the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF). INTA attended as an inaugural member. The discussion, led by Oxford Information Labs CEO Emily Taylor, was framed around the responses from domain name registrars and registries, social media platforms, and Web service providers to the COVID-19 pandemic and the misinformation it engenders.

“The Dynamic Coalition will identify best practices and develop policy recommendations to raise the quality of online data, combat disinformation, and enhance public trust,” as stated in the 2019 INTA Annual Report.

The outcomes of the Dynamic Coalition will focus on how to build trusted channels of information inside platforms, minimize the opportunities to spread misinformation, ensure proper privacy controls, and increase awareness and self-help tools for end users.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an ‘infodemic’ of health misinformation, quack cures, and conspiracy theories,” according to Giovanni Seppia, External Relations Manager for EURid.

The goal of creating the Dynamic Coalition, he said, is to “have an evidence-based policy discussion on creating effective industry responses to improve trust and confidence in the online.” The issue is so important to the domain name industry that EURid has taken on the role of sponsor as well as co-founder.

Discussion participants agreed that the Internet industry is in a crisis of trust and that there is a dire need for data quality to ensure consumer safety online. The issue of how to ensure data accuracy and avoid misinformation is complex.

The intention of the group is to:

  1. Examine the self-regulatory actions by registries and registrars to combat disinformation or scams relating to COVID-19 in the domain name system; and
  2. Engage the broad ecosystem of actors whose services are used and abused by websites that systematically publish disinformation (including disinformation relating to COVID-19).

The objective is, through inclusive discussion of the issues, to deepen understanding of the challenges, build consensus, and identify good practices and other actions to improve quality of data and information.

This issue is especially relevant to INTA. Members have reported spikes in domain name abuse and counterfeiting of their brands under the guise of pandemic-related scams on the Internet. Lori Schulman, INTA’s Senior Director for Internet Policy, intervening on behalf of brand owners, emphasized the critical connection between brands and trust. Any discussion of building trust must include considerations of brand protection, stressed Ms. Schulman.

INTA and EURid have a history of working together to promote voluntary best practices to avoid intellectual property infringement and abuse within the domain system, most notably by convening the Innovations in Domain Name Safety event during the ICANN66 annual general meeting in Montreal, Canada, in 2019. The Dynamic Coalition is an extension of this work. INTA will monitor the work of the coalition and contribute to developing the deliverables. It is envisioned that the project will take two years.

The Dynamic Coalition working model is part of the United Nations IGF, of which INTA is an active participant. Dynamic coalitions are organized around specific Internet policy topics and meet between annual IGF meetings.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest. 

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