Session description: This session allowed participants to share their views on the evolution in the overall Internet governance landscape since the first IGF meeting in Athens in 2006. It was aimed at serving as a checkpoint on the changes, if any, in the practice of Internet governance over the first five years and at serving as a baseline from which to measure the changes over the next five years leading up to a 10-year review of implementation of and follow-up to the outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2015. Moderator for the main-room session on Taking Stock was Jonathan Charles, a correspondent and anchor for the BBC.
Participants note evolution
September 17, 2010 - The participants in this final-day main-room session began a discussion of the possibility of using "core values" or "core principles" of the Internet as a theme for the 2011 global IGF if the mandate for the meetings is continued by the UN. Most speakers generally made statements in support of the evolving processes of the Internet Governance Forum. They noted as a positive the growing number of regional and national Internet Governance Forums at which people from all sectors of society can meet to discuss issues and best practices.
Vint Cerf, a longtime leader in the Internet Society and IETF and Google's chief Internet evangelist, got the discussion about Internet principles and core values started near the beginning of the session. He noted that the presentation by Brazilian participants in IGF earlier in the week outlining 10 key principles is an example (see transcript here: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/
Later in the session, Vittorio Bertola of the European Council of the Internet Society made a personal statement in which he said some concepts considered key to Internet values are endangered today.
"There are two issues that five years ago were just starting to appear and that now I think are really pressing," he said. "One is the emergence of discriminatory behavior by Internet service providers on content, so the issue of network neutrality. And there are attempts by Internet service providers and content providers to form alliances and maybe to bring consolidation into the market.
"And the other one is 'social' networks - which I find an unfortunate way of even defining this concept because it's not really a network, it's actually a database. A network is something which connects information starting in different places, while here what we have is a concentration of a huge amount of personal information in a single point and in the hands of a single entity - the exact opposite of what the Internet is about.
"The basic principles of the architecture of the Internet are that information is to be distributed; intelligence and control has to be at the edges. And there must not be any central controlling point. What we see is the emergence of controlling points and the push towards consolidation, which will change the Internet change fundamentally. So we are actually at risk of not having the Internet anymore, as it happened in the past with other media. IGF as a community has to think of whether it wants to address these questions, which are really pressing. How do we actually address these questions and get something changed? Or maybe not changed so we can actually get something done to protect the original principles of the Internet?"
The idea of more directly addressing core Internet values and principles really took off when Everton Lucero, a representative of the government of Brazil, directly proposed that if there is a sixth global IGF in 2011 that this should be a theme of a main session.
"My suggestion is that we engage precisely in that discussion: What are the core values and principles of the Internet we want to preserve?" he said. "We should do that progressively, starting with national IGFs and regional IGFs, always in a multistakeholder environment, and we will come here and bring our conclusions and discuss. We don't need to agree on principles. We don't need to negotiate or get to treaty level at this forum, because I understand this is not the place to do it.
"Considering that the principles may also evolve together with the Internet, I believe this is a ongoing exercise, that once we start, we will always have material to discuss again at the next and next and the years to come ... We, the Brazilian delegation, we've made our contribution throughout this process, and we are fully decided to continue engaging in it. This year, we brought our little leaflet with 10 principles as our contribution to the debate. Maybe it can inspire further discussion so that we may always keep this discussion alive and contributing to maintaining an Internet that is safe, reliable and secure for all."
After moderator Jonathan Charles requested that session participants suggest some core values to consider, there were a number of suggestions, including:
Freedom of expression, the right to find out the truth' the right to not be offended, the right to have something you create protected in some way (all suggested by David Wood); interoperability (suggested by Fernando Botelho); co-existence - to define the rules of engagement for a broader and broader diversity of people with different values, different moral, cultural, religious values, political values, and how we define the rules of engagement and the governance protocol that allows us to stay in a common space and respect one another (suggested by Bertrand de La Chapelle); independence of the IGF Secretariat and cooperative regulation with industry taking the practical lead and government having a legislative role and civil society providing transparency and creative engagement (suggested by Alun Michael); innovation without permission is not innovation without responsibility (Steve DelBianco); multistakeholderism (Jonathan Charles); inclusiveness (Katim Touray).
Alejandro Pisanty of the National University of Mexico, a longtime leader in the Internet Society and in WSIS and IGF processes, has participated in several formal panel discussions of core Internet values over the past year, at IGF and WWW 2010 meetings. He noted that the Dynamic Coalition on Core Values of the Internet met and decided to begin mapping out the debate over core values. He said the Internet is in "permanent beta" mode.
"Permanent beta is a derivative of all others," he said, "but it is one of the things that we continually have to have on the Internet, and ample space for experimentation and for success of whatever is found useful and good. And I would like to surmise also that it would appear that following up on the very good reception that Everton Lucero's motion is finding, and which you are echoing and Markus is allowing to go on core values, that the Dynamic Coalition already has its work cut out and we would be very glad to carry on that piece of the work forward."
De La Chapelle noted that participants had started two sets of core values - one for the Internet and one for IGF. He suggested two to add to Michael's suggestion of an independent IGF Secretariat - openness and self-organization in Internet governance.
"And," he said, "I would like to support for next year the idea of taking the Brazilian list of principles for the core values of the Internet, as an input into the IGF. We talk about outcomes. We can take that as a base for discussion."
Charles noted, "Sounds like core values ought to be the title of next year's IGF."
Outcomes from IGF processes were also a key topic
Parminder Singh of IT for Change raised concerns over rising political threats in Internet governance and asked for more concrete efforts to address looming issues.
"When different kind of people use Internet for variety of different kind of acts, differential interests come in. It becomes more of a political question than it was earlier when there were more or less users of the same kind which similar interests and similar backgrounds using the Internet for a small range of function," he said.
"The second thing is about the architecture of the Internet. And here the news is rather worse. Increasingly very few companies dominate the Internet ... issues like network neutrality, cloud computing, wireless Internet are changing the Internet. There's consolidation of power and loss of diversity. And this consolidation of power needs a political response for the people, for the common people, to reduce that consolidation, to democratize power on the Internet. This calls for a more political response.
"We should be able to make progress on clear questions of social media, network neutrality, interconnection charges. Choose a couple of questions and let's try to make progress on that ... The IGF is increasing participation, it's increasing awareness. The next step ask to channel the kind of what we have done at IGF into real global policy making"
Most IGF participants have supported the idea that it should remain a space for nonbinding discussions, but several in this session suggested it could still be a platform where some concrete outcomes could develop.
Cerf mentioned that IGF could be a place where people come to agreement on which specific global venues would be best to handle Internet issues. He said while IGF is not aimed at taking action or achieving consensus, it could be a forum in which people undertake "to identify the location, the venue in which those problems might be addressed, and that we seriously take that as a matter of responsibility, and in the following year ask ourselves, 'How much progress have we made in pursuing a particular goal?'"
Valeria Betancourt, speaking for the civil society organization the Association for Progressive Communications, said, "An international space for open exchanges on matters of public policy affecting the Internet must continue to thrive in conjunction with regional and national processes which are evolving according to local particularities and priorities. If the IGF is to continue, APC would like to see us find ways to make IGF outcomes more visible and even tangible without compromising the nonbinding and nondecision-making nature of our deliberations."
Emily Taylor, a member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group that works year-round to facilitate IGF processes in association with the UN IGF Secretariat, noted some positive outcomes from IGF discussions.
"Thanks to contacts built within the IGF, there are now a growing number of Internet exchange points in Africa," she said. "These directly reduce the cost of interconnection. Secondly, as a stakeholder group the technical community understands the importance of sharing experiences and best practices to build up human capacity through the exchange of ideas, processes and knowledge of what didn't work as well as what did. Best practices sessions have taken place within the IGF from the beginning. Now the IGF has published a collection of those reports to stand as a capacity-building resource."
She also noted that the generation of regional and national IGFs and the growing use of remote-participation tools offered by the global IGF are allowing more people globally to participate in IGF processes.
Some encourage more-concentrated futures thinking at IGF
Alun Michael, a member of Parliament in the United Kingdom and chair of the UK IGF expressed concern that accelerating technological change makes it difficult if not impossible to keep up with the new issues cropping up and support for industry and government partnerships in regulatory efforts, with input from civil society and parliamentarians. He urged that representatives of industry become more engaged in IGF efforts throughout the year at the regional/national and global level.
"Inevitably, as we are human beings we can't keep up with the pace of development," Michael noted. "I think there's a tendency sometimes to talk about self regulation when it comes to dealing with difficult and criminal activities, and I don't think it's self regulation that's needed. It's, if you'd like, a cooperative model of regulation, where the industry leads because that's where the developments are taking place - they're the people at the cutting edge - it's important to design in things like safety for young people and so on.
"And of course, government has to be involved, but you can't leave it just to industry and government alone. There needs to be transparency and openness, and that's where the engagement of parliamentarians and civil society is absolutely vital. The other things that I think have been particularly exciting are things like the development, as I say, of national IGF processes, but also regional processes in a number of parts of the world."
Regarding taking on more futures-oriented discussions during IGF, moderator Charles also noted: "Bob Kahn said something at lunchtime which I hope you won't mind me repeating, a very interesting thought. That was that we should perhaps devote some of our speaking time at future IGFs to the idea of looking further ahead because we spend a lot of time looking at the current issues, when actually, the Internet is moving faster than we are sometimes. And maybe there is a case for sometimes throwing our perspective 10 or 15 years ahead and have some very specific broader blue skies thinking on that."
Kahn, a co-inventor of the Internet protocol, pointed out later in the session that good progress was made at this IGF in discussing the Internet of Things and identity management and how these future concerns fit in the current Internet framework.
"I think we all recognize the importance of involving both new ideas and new participants into the discussions going forward, and particularly, that we be open to relevant aspects of new technologies and application services as they may apply to the Internet in the future," he said. "The biggest challenge going forward will be how to steadily improve the IGF, and to make it continue to be relevant to all of us in the future."
The IGF-USA national forum in 2010 was mostly focused on discussion of a set of 2020 scenarios, and the one-hour session led by IGF-USA participants as a report on that national forum outlined outcomes of those futures-oriented talks. (See transcript here: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/component/content/article/102-transcripts2010/685-rnusa)
A colleague of Michael's in the British Parliament, echoed the need for looking ahead at IGF. Andrew Miller, chair of the Science Select Committee, said: "The Internet is moving faster than us. Governments alone cannot provide the solutions. I am a very strong supporter of the partnerships that have been created within networks like this, bringing together industry, academia, Civil Society, all the key players that can deal with some of the issues. We need to be horizon scanning."
Jeff Brueggeman, a global policy leader at AT&T, agreed that the multistakeholder approach is the way to address accelerating tech evolution.
"Consider how the IGF is adapting to the rapid change compared to other organisations and entities," he said, "and I think in that context, the multistakeholder framework of the IGF has shown that it's very adept at adapting in terms of identifying issues, expanding a global perspective and identifying - more importantly - solutions. So I think as we just heard, that the multistakeholder framework will show itself to be a framework that is best matched to the rapid structure and change of the Internet itself.
"Another way to think about and assess Internet governance is to consider, 'How would things be different if we didn't have the IGF?' Unquestionably, we are better off for having gone through this process for the past five years."
Katia Bodard, policy manager at the International Chamber of Commerce, said the businesses represented by ICC value the multistakeholder discussions at IGF as being timely in addressing emerging issues. "We encourage continued evolution of the broader topics and consistent integration of new IGF policy issues which are on the horizon," she said.
Other key points raised in this session:
* Many mentions were made about the spontaneous, bottom-up development of regional and national IGFs that allow more people to participate in the processes and identify and discuss challenges and opportunities of the digital future. Today we had a roundtable of all the regional and national meetings," said Markus Kummer, leader of the UN's IGF Secretariat.
"We discussed various aspects related to their relationship between - with global IGF, looked at questions as each of the regional initiatives is somewhat different. We looked at what - whether there should be a common template for all of them, whether they should follow the global agenda, whether they should set their own agenda. There was a general agreement that we should be very flexible in this regard - they should be free to set their own agenda, to put issues on their agenda, which are is of particular interest to their region.
"We will try to keep in touch inter-sessionally. We will create a list for this and we will try and have maybe before the next open consultation a video conference among those who would like to engage in this type of discussion. There was a general feeling that it is beneficial for them to compare notes on how to go about things, from fundraising to organising meetings. About how to involve their respective governments. And also that the interaction should not just be between the national and regional level and the global level, but also among themselves.
* Cerf suggested that a "cyberfire department" be established to deal with situations in regard to safety and security in the Internet environment. "We recognize there are various kinds of threats that interfere with the use of the Net by citizens and by governments and others," he said.
"Sometimes this discussion is lodged in a crime-based framework, and we might think about attacks against the network in the same way we would think about a fire in a building. You typically call the fire department, not the police department. After the fire has been put out, there are questions about arson, about how the fire started, indeed there may be need for legal investigation. But the first objective is to put the fire out. The people whose cybersystems are on fire may not be prepared to respond themselves. They may need help and having a place to turn to or places to turn to for that kind of help strikes me as an interesting proposition. In what venue might we pursue the creation of or experiment with such an idea?"
* Brueggeman said IGF participants and catalysts should "continue to look for other ways to strengthen the feedback loop between the global IGF and the National and regional IGFs so that they complement each other, and the discussion should flow in both directions between, so that the global discussion is supporting and also being informed by national and regional IGFs."
* There has been a difference of opinion over whether a human rights approach can or should be taken in the realm of Internet governance. Maria Hall of the Swedish government's Ministry of Enterprise and Communications said on behalf of Sweden: "The human rights approach should be applied to all areas of Internet governance. The IGF is well suited to promote such discussions, and we encourage more governments to take an active role in this process. Net neutrality as well as responsibility and different roles of media are issues that would benefit from more analysis from a human rights perspective."
Oliver Robillo, speaking as the representative of a group of civil society representatives from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Phillippines, said they recommend that "any national security policy must not deviate from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all international human rights covenants to which states are a party."
He added: "Our recommendations to the IGF: Immediately address as an urgent global Internet Governance issue the increasing implementation of laws that suppress and restrict freedom of expression and access the information, especially within developing countries. Fully integrate the Universal Human Rights agenda into IGF programs, and engage systematically and regularly with the human rights bodies. Ensure that the IGF policy proposals and recommendations are in line with international human rights and principles and standards."
* Chris Disspain, the CEO of the Australian domain name administration and chair of ICANN's Country Code Name Supporting Organization, spoke up for the contributions made to IGF over the years from the technical community and requested that they be considered a separate group represented in IGF processes. "The technical community has been generous with funding, in-kind donations and expertise. We hope that the technical community will be recognized as a stakeholder group in its own right during the upcoming discussions on the IGF."
* Several leading speakers noted positively the contributions of more youth participants at this global IGF meeting than ever before. A dynamic coalition for young people interested in Internet governance efforts has been established and youth participants have also been more involved in some national/regional IGFs over the past year. "Young people have a unique experience as early adopters of new technologies," noted Joonas Makinen while reading a statement prepared on behalf of the Youth Coalition on Internet Governance. "We have firsthand information and knowledge on what needs to be done to make the Internet a better place for all of us." Makinen, a coalition member from Finland, said more information about the coalition can be found at http://www.ycig.org.
* Nariman Hajiyev, a representative from the government of Azerbaijan proposed that the 2012 global IGF, if one is scheduled, be hosted there, in Baku.
The UN's video recording of the Taking Stock session can be found at this link:
The UN's official transcript of the Taking Stock session can be found at this link:
- Video recorded from a remote location, captured