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Who rules the internet?


On 23 November, Brick Court and techUK hosted a conference entitled ‘Who rules the internet?’ which examined some topical issues in the interaction of law and technology in relation to the internet. The well-attended conference featured three panels containing a mix of legal, industry, and governmental perspectives. The panels discussed three topics: ‘Censorship and Compliance,’ ‘Cyber Security,’ and ‘Privacy and Surveillance.’

The first panel was chaired by Talal Rajab from techUK and addressed the topic of ‘Censorship and Compliance.’ It commenced with presentations from Nicholas Saunders and David Anderson QC of Brick Court, along with Simon Milner from Facebook. Nicholas Saunders explored the boundaries of liability and enforcement for the infringement of IP rights online, while David Anderson QC focused on the respective roles of government and intermediaries, such as Facebook, when tackling extremist material online, analysing various possible ways forward. Simon Milner offered an industry perspective, outlining how Facebook deals with content which potentially infringes its rules. The speakers were joined by Jennifer Morrish from the Home Office for a lively discussion which centred mainly on the effectiveness and need for any potential regulation in this space.

Victoria Wakefield of Brick Court chaired the second panel, on ‘Cyber Security.’ This began with speakers from the National Cyber Security Centre, who discussed in outline some of the threats faced and some of the strategies they employ to protect from them. This was followed by a talk from Jasbir Dhillon QC from Brick Court on potential legal remedies for companies which have been hacked. The final talk was given by Andrew Rogoyski of CGI, who addressed cyber security from an industry standpoint. Siân John from Microsoft provided a second industry voice in the wide-ranging panel discussion, which explored the full range of responses to the cyber threat, including regulation, self-protection, cyber-insurance, and legal remedies.

The final panel of the evening was entitled ‘Privacy and Surveillance,’ and concentrated on the new Investigatory Powers Act. Gordon Corera from the BBC chaired a panel comprising Jennifer Morrish from the Home Office, Graham Smith from Bird & Bird, and Rt. Hon. Sir Adrian Fulford, the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who each provided different perspectives on the Act. The Act was further explored in the panel discussion, for which Martin Chamberlain QC from Brick Court joined the speakers. Topics in the discussion included the mechanics of how the new Investigatory Powers Commission might operate, and the legal challenges posed by the interaction between law and technology in this area. The issue of transparency was also canvassed, with the panel exploring whether the new regime would lead to more openness, in particular looking at whether important statutory interpretations would be made public, or would still have to be discovered in the course of litigation, as occurred with the government’s interpretation of “external communications” in the Privacy International Investigatory Powers Tribunal proceedings.

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