Session description: Previous workshops at IGF have dealt with the question of core Internet values such as openness, layered architecture and the end-to-end principle, and they have addressed principles of Internet governance, describing it as multilateral, transparent, democratic and fully inclusive of all stakeholders. IGF discussions are held in the name of future generations, but young people are generally left out of these sessions that address fundamental questions. This workshop brought young Internet activists together with veteran thinkers to discuss the core Internet values and principles and compare and contrast their worldviews regarding the Internet. An aim of this discussion was to identify and define common values and principles that should be applied in future Internet governance discussions. (Audio quality in the room was inconsistent due to technical difficulties at the conference, so there is some distortion in video sound.)
September 16, 2010 - Dmitry Epstein from the Youth Coalition on Internet Governance led a lively discussion in which young people showed their knowledge of issues and their serious concerns for the future of the Internet and an all-star group of older-generation Internet experts were on hand to share their views of foundational ideals.
The consensus view was that there should be a much more focused concentration on the involvement of young people in governance activities. All participants encouraged greater inclusion of young people’s views in future decision-making and they supported the need for more education and capacity building to support that.
The session also featured a debate between veterans of Internet politics over whether codifying a set of values and principles is an achievable goal or whether these concepts are always worthy of discussion but impossible to codify in a universally acceptable manner. In order to allow the young people of the session to retain their rightful position as the lead element in this account, it has been written mostly in chronological order, starting with the youth expressing their views, followed by the veterans’ session-ending, diplomatic disagreement over the values and principles question. The debate over establishing a formal document on Internet governance values and principles that started in this session was continued in the plenary session on Taking Stock of Internet Governance later in the day.
Panelist Drew Smith, a research assistant with the Imagining the Internet Center and undergraduate at Elon University, said a survey he helped conduct at the 2009 global IGF in Egypt showed many of the participants there were concerned that “institutions and governments might exert controls that divide and conquer the Internet and stifle accessibility, knowledge sharing and creative innovation online.”
He added support for core values can assure that the Internet is available as a public service for expression. “Access isn’t enough,” he said. “There must be education to support the use of the Internet. If we don’t guarantee these principles happen, we cannot foster creativity, we cannot foster digital inclusion and digital literacy. An affordable, non-discriminatory, open Internet with access to all is vital for the youth today and the greatest hope for all tomorrow.”
Grace Bomu, a lawyer and secretary of the ICT Consumers Association of Kenya, said many of the young people in her region of the world access the Internet with cell phones. “In developing countries youth seem to be leading the way and everybody else is following,” she said. “Seeing as young people are our rightful stakeholders in this Internet environment, is it enough to discuss youth in Internet governance terms solely in regard to issues of the safety of young people on the Net?
“Developing countries are already lagging behind in many fields, and youth cannot afford to be left behind as far as the Internet is concerned. We have to develop the future together. The youth in Kenya have to pay so much to access the Internet yet we are in a global village. When will these youth catch up to the Internet the rest of the world is enjoying? For young people from developing countries to participate in Internet governance we have to start building an Internet culture in these areas.”
She said she hopes that the fact that the next global Internet Governance Forum meeting will take place in Kenya will challenge East African governments to enhance Internet access for schools. She said young people’s views are key to developing best practices and regulation.
“If you’re talking privacy,” she said as an example, “you have to remember that as youth in this field we have said many things we would like to forget, but we have said these things and they are now permanently on the Net and the Net never forgets. From our view, it is important that the Internet community discusses the right to be forgotten. In many examples youth input is required and should be considered.” She listed copyright law, Net neutrality, cloud computing and management of critical Internet resources as further examples.
People do not understand what Internet governance is
Marie Casey, an ITU Youth Forum alumna and Internet Society Fellow from Ireland, said the idea of “governance” of the Internet is a mystery to most young people. She asked a few friends back home and most of them had no inkling that it might be a concern. “One of the people I asked said the Internet is seen as a structure that exists outside of government or anyone’s control. They basically think it’s their right rather than a privilege to use it … One of the most important things is to get more people my age involved.”
Bill Graham, director of global strategic engagement for the Internet Society, also later expressed concern in this session about most people’s lack of understanding of the importance of the processes of Internet governance. “It’s just there, it works,” he explained that most people – not just young people – generally think. “We have a responsibility to assure people retain the rights for access to choice. How do we communicate that so it grabs attention?”
Smith and other participants noted that there should be more education about Internet issues and Internet governance at the undergraduate and graduate school levels at universities. Discussants said governments, educational organizations and corporations have vital roles of social responsibility in terms of Internet governance, not only in making their actions open and transparent but in educating the public about the politics involved in the architecture and governance of communications networks.
“The extent that we enjoy openness and freedom on the Internet today is no guarantee that they will be with us tomorrow unless we make sure that they are,” said Graham.
Rafik Dammak, the coordinator of the Youth Coalition on Internet Governance,said freedom is a key core principle of the Internet.
"While young people see the Internet as a space for opportunities, other people see it as a space for danger and risk, leading to restrictive decisions and policies," he said. "Everybody can understand how freedom is critical. It is ironic that people would advocate for such policies because they are aiming to protect users from themselves. It harms youth in their right to access to information and knowledge. Yes, I have a fear. This fear is that the Internet we know now is going toward more restriction, more control, more over-regulation and denying rights and liberties. I don't need to elaborate any conspiracy theory to have such a fear."
Youth are dominant population in developing nations
'Gbenga Sesan of Paradigm New Nigeria said 70 percent of the people in his country are young people. He told of how Goodluck Jonathan, the interim president of Nigeria, first broke the news of his candidacy for the official election for president on Facebook on Sept. 16, the day before this workshop.
“Consider the fact,” he said, “out of the 45 million who have Internet access, 95 percent of them are people who are under 34 … and 23 percent of these young people spend more than five hours a day online. Now this is a country where many people don’t have access, where many people do not have a power supply to power computers and all that. Some of them move from one place to another, go to a hotel where you can get free wifi or somewhere to get access. That speaks a lot to what this generation will go ahead and do.”
Sesan said smartphones and cell phones are allowing more access in West Africa. “The Internet, for Nigeria and developing countries, is a socioeconomic leveler,” he said. “Education may be something that people in developing countries have access to, but they have a mobile phone. I have a friend who is trying to develop a way so you can tell if a drug is counterfeit or if it’s real, and all that. It’s definitely going to ride on the mobile revolution.”
Vladimir Radinovich of DiploFoundation represents an organization that has established one of the world’s finest programs for international education about Internet governance. It offers young people from developing countries online courses and experiential learning opportunities at global Internet conferences. He said the evolving concept of privacy, the ability to exercise free choice, the expanded ability to use native languages online and the opportunities for entrepreneurship are all important concerns for youth in Internet governance.
“Kids are extensively using e-tools to push activism,” he said. “And I’m glad to see that they realize it’s not enough to start a campaign. You have to take steps in physical life as well.”
Transparency of processes and openness are native to the Net
Vint Cerf, vice president and chief evangelist for Google, noted that when he and Bob Kahn began working on ARPANET he was 25 and Kahn was 30 to design what would become TCP/IP – the Internet protocol – he was 30 and Kahn was 35.
“Bob Kahn started the Internet discussion with a very open sense,” Cerf said. “He wanted different networks that were differently implemented and operated to be able to connect, and he had a set of principles that he thought would enable that. He was very careful in his formulation not to overspecify things. He wanted enough specification and functionality that interworking would be capable, but he didn’t want to specify, for example, what applications would be run on the platform, he wanted to leave that open to possibility. So the term ‘open’ gets used a lot in Internet discussions, and it’s very appropriate because we wanted very much that this design be open to evolution, be open to the ingestion of new technology, be open to contributions from anyone who had a good idea."
Cerf said you can see the principle of openness reflected in many of the institutions that have been created to build and maintain the Internet. “The Internet Engineering Task Force doesn’t have any membership,” he noted. “You just show up and participate. You don’t become a member of it, you just show up and if your ideas are considered useful, then they may get adopted. It’s a meritocracy. No one can force anything. The Internet Society, when it was formed – at least in my mind – was a reflection of an expectation that a society would evolve out of this Internet platform because of its connectedness, because it would allow people to connect to each other in flexible ways, and I think that we have seen a society emerge and much of what we heard from our young panelists earlier reflects the social networking and the connectivity that the Internet confers.”
He explained that this technology, like so many others is simply a tool that reflects the people who use it. “The Internet is a mirror of society,” he said, “and if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, don’t break the mirror, you have to do something about what’s reflected in the mirror. Some of our fellow inhabitants on planet Earth don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart.
“There are some freedoms we want to preserve in the Internet, and they are freedoms are more broad than just the Internet. The freedom to speak and hear is something that’s in the UN Charter of Human Rights. The freedom of choice, to choose where to go, what information you want to share, what services you want to obtain. There should be a freedom of privacy, and it’s difficult in this environment to assure that. One other freedom which is also very hard to assure is freedom from harm in this environment. You can be harmed by people who abuse the Internet platform. Achieving that freedom is not easy because it’s not just a question of law enforcement. It’s a question of moral principles, it’s a question of what values we hold, it’s a question of international agreements - many of which don’t exist – in order to achieve that freedom.”
Concerns about transparency and security mentioned
Laura DeNardis of the Yale University Information Society Project noted that that practice of Internet governance takes place every day in the institutions of Internet governance (for instance, ICANN, etc.), in government policies and in the private sector. But what has been an open and participatory process in the past is undergoing change.
“We need to worry about trends that are not transparent,” she said. “There are a lot of issues that are hidden in private industry practice. You go through private contracts, network management practices, secrecy increasing, lack of transparency in what some governments are doing. It’s fundamental to increase transparency.”
Cerf said the success of the Internet has brought pressures that challenge openness.
"It has become globally visible, it has become a source of revenue, it has become a source of entrepreneurial development so lots of parties who neither cared nor knew about the Internet have become very interested in it for different reasons," he said.
"There are some entities that feel threatened by the freedoms that the Internet promises. There are other entities that would like to build toll roads and make money out of the need for peole to pass traffic through the Net. There are lots of different motivations, and they aren't necessarily all alarming. One thing worth reminding you of is a comment that George Soros made in 1994 at an Internet Society INET meeting. He is a successful financier and he comes from Romania, a place that was not very free. He made a very profound statement. He said, just because the Internet is free today - that it is open and accessible - is no guarantee that it will be tomorrow.
"Reminding us now of that observation is very important. The extent to which we enjoy Internet freedoms today is no guarantee we will enjoy them tomorrow unless we make sure they are."
Nii Quaynor of Ghana.com, a longtime leader in global Internet governance, said striving for ideals can help shape a positive future in a time of change.
"The atmosphere that these values create enables us to continue to evolve and endure the particular issues in the changing of our time," he said. "Issues that were associated with openness years ago are not necessarily the ones that are top on our priority list today. The atmosphere that the principles create allows us to continue to reason about it and to adjust and manage our responses to those things in respect to governance."
To codify or not to codify values and principles, that is the question
Raquel Gatto, a young Internet researcher from Brazil and moderator of the remote participation in this workshop, introduced the fact that her country has developed a set of Internet principles - a Brazilian civil rights framework for the Internet, which was the center point of discussion at an earlier workshop. “It brings in Net neutrality, it brings freedom of expression and other principles that are very important to youth,” she said.
Everton Lucero, a representative of the Brazilian government rose to speak about this document. “I believe that after five IGFs we have reached the stage where we are more clear about the essential values we want to preserve for future generations,” Lucero said. “The 10 principles that were developed in our own multistakeholder Internet steering committee are a contribution we brought to this IGF. Perhaps we could think of from here on as the next steps, not to create anything that is legally binding, but to do something that would be a reference for any further development related to Internet governance.”
He noted that global issues in the past have generally been tackled through diplomatic meetings and the negotiation of a treaty that is offered for global acceptance by all governments will to participate, citing the examples of the Montreal protocol to address the depletion of the ozone layer and the nuclear weapons nonproliferation treaty. He said for a global solution for Internet issues such as fraud and child abuse to be effective it might have to be addressed this way.
“Perhaps before opening these Pandora’s boxes of negotiating treaties what we need to agree on is precisely these core values and principles, on which any further steps to tackle specific problems we detect will have to be based,” he said. “So once we have that stage we will, perhaps, be able to engage in a negotiation. Because we don’t see, really, an alternative to law-making in case we want to curb some really bad behaviors in the Internet. It’s the old question of, ‘How are social relations to be ruled, by technical standards or by law?’ Our society is ruled by law, or should be ruled by law and not by code.”
Cerf responded, “This idea of taking those 10 notions from the Brazilian declaration and trying to expand that is an actionable idea – it’s a ‘proliferation’ treaty, we want the Internet to proliferate. The question I ask is in what venue would you propose to pursue this? One of the values of this Internet Governance Forum is to identify actionable items and then decide how they can be undertaken and where.”
Lucero said, “The IGF can be seen as a place to which everybody who’s interested in these core values and principles converge. It’s a window of opportunity for us to make sure that during the next five years the IGF will devote itself to something more specific. Not in terms of getting a negotiating result … To make a collective construct with the view of having in the end something that we may say, ‘Oh, this is the product of our work throughout these years.’ We have these core values and principles to offer to the global community.”
Graham, Pisanty say values can’t be nailed down in a beta world
Graham responded to Lucero by reminding everyone about Cerf’s mirror analogy. “In Vint’s first remarks were his comment about how the Internet is a mirror of society, and if you have a problem with what you see in the mirror the way to fix it is not to break the mirror,” he said. “People don’t do bad things on the Internet that are in any way different from the bad things they do in real life. So the notion of having any specific control mechanism or specific treaty around the Internet really doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you want to talk about social values, number one, you have a lot of trouble with universality, number two, controlling it on the Internet isn’t going to stop anything in real life.
“For me, it really isn’t a question of, ‘How do you want your Internet to be?’ If you want your Internet to be something that’s open and will continue to evolve, dealing with the problems in the real world rather than the virtual world is the best way to ensure that.
“As a colleague of mine says quite regularly, ‘If you think you know what the future of the Internet is, you’re probably not talking about the Internet.” That has to apply to considerations of law-making and treaty drafting, as well.”
Alejandro Pisanty, a longtime Internet governance leader and director of academic computing at the National University of Mexico, said the Internet evolves quickly and while a discussion of values is vital. “The one value of the Internet that we don’t have to codify but make sure that it’s made permanent is that it’s ‘always beta’ – the permanent-beta value – the fact that it’s being built, it’s being experimented with, it’s changing in unexpected ways, and we have to make sure that the ability to experiment – what we have already mentioned in other sessions in this IGF – permissionless innovation can really go far.
"We just have a few things that we don’t want to happen - the breakdown or fragmentation of the Internet, the creation of closed spaces. This is being achieved by extreme adherence to interoperability and openness."
He talked about meeting of the Dynamic Coalition on Core Values that took place the previous day. He chaired the session, which included a lively debate in which opposite definitions of “openness” were discussed and defended. He pointed out that people who have thought through values such as openness can “passionately believe completely opposite” views.
“So the value we have to preserve will not be one specific value that gets codified but the value that these values are permanently under discussion. And one more point, people, particularly young people, have shown themselves ready and even eager to fight for them. We have to keep looking at these core values across the generations.”
Youth of the world drive innovation, must take responsibility
Sesan said the challenge for the future rests on the shoulders of young people. “The onus rests on us as young people,” he said. “Millions of young people can’t come to IGF. You have a responsibility to get back to your own community and pass on the message in terms of building your capacity and getting them connected to both the process and the opportunities.”
Cerf said the vast numbers of young people going online globally are driving the development of new applications on the Internet. “The things that you find most interesting and useful are the things that will propagate and new things will be invented to support your interests,” he pointed out.
“If you want the Internet to retain the properties that you like right now, you are going to have to take some responsibility because eventually we [he pointed to the Internet veterans on the panel] won’t be here to do that. The time is now to begin to engage. When we’re talking about freedoms, another important one is gaining access to governance processes that surround the way in which the Internet is operated is absolutely essential, not just for young people but for all of us. It is very important to have that visibility, that accessibility as part of our plan, part of our target.”
The UN's video recording of the CIR event can be found at this link:
The UN's official transcript of the CIR event can be found at this link:
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