Internet Governance

Last Tuesday, I attended an event at the European Parliament on the Internet Governance. It’s one in a series of events discussing the future of the Internet from the perspective of government. Governance of the Internet is usually divided into two parts, a technological part, from a perspective of an engineer, and a regulatory view taken from the perspective of government. Number of states would like nothing more than to destroy the decentralised architecture of the Internet, which makes it such a unique and powerful tool to use. Can one really trust China, Russia, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan to govern the Internet. It send shivers down my spine, imaging elderly politicians from a country that doesn’t care the slightest about utilising the Internet’s potential, but with only one interest to censor freedom of speech under a closed door meeting. This is not a nightmare scenario but a reality which was proposed on 12th of September 2011 in United Nations HQ

India has also come up with the plans of further governmental control over Internet by proposing Committee for Internet-Related Policies within the structure of United Nations. However the only problem with it is that United Nations is slightly tipped to the advantage of quantity of members, rather than the quality of the argument.

The beauty and complexity of the Internet structure is that it allows much more democratic participation than just our so called representatives, from each world state. Many national Pirate Parties use the collaborative deliberation software Liquid Feedback that utilises advantages of technology to improve decision making in a very democratic manner. This reflects Neelie Kroes’, Vice-President for Digital Agenda, call for all interest ecosystem to participate in the debate, not only government officials. The oft-quoted definition of the Internet Governance is as follows : “Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution of the Internet”. The multi-stakeholder approach is based on the idea that those who will be affected by decisions have a right to be involved in the making of them.

One of the main current bodies for the Internet Governance is as the name suggests the Internet Governance Forum (IGP), you can follow their youtube channel. It’s useful to keep an eye on the ball, especially in terms of the next IGP world conference which is on the International Communications (WCIT-12) convened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 4-12 December 2012. It will be important to follow if we get any surprise Christmas presents from policy makers afterwards. The topic is so sensitive and controversial that even both parties in US congress managed to agree that Internet Governance should not be left to statesman bravado.

However, Internet Governance is required due to crime that has emerged on the cyberspace in areas such as user privacy, cybersecurity, data protection, and child abuse content. These issues have catapulted Internet to the top of the agenda in many international institutions, such as the International Telecommunications Union, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Development and cooperation, the Council of Europe, the Organisation of American States, UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, and even the G8.

The cyberspace capabilities have become a soft-power tool for advanced foreign policy. Soft-power in International Relations implies the use of non-military capabilities in influencing foreign states. The freedom of communication is a threat to autocratic governments, Europe needs to look no further than Belarus, Syria or even Russia to see the huge potential that freedom in Internet communication has. That’s why Amelia is a rapporteur for a digital freedom strategy in EU foreign policy, on behalf of the International Trade committee.

Chinese government knows the power of free Internet better then anyone else, that’s why they have submitted ideas to split up DNS into different eco-systems, which goes in the completely opposite direction to net-neutrality.

Deciding how to govern the Internet with a multi-stakeholder ecosystem is not an easy task with no clear solution. But we have to go step by step towards our net-neutrality vision, stepping very cautiously as technology develops faster than governments can legislate, and the last thing Europe can risk is ruining the next EU blue-chip internet company and its future business-models with over-regulation.

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