Internet Governance Forum

Just a quick post about the Internet Governance Forum that was held in Greece over the past 3 days. Some information about it is available below.

The introductory remarks of the section that I, personally, am most interested in (the "openness section," i.e. the freedom-of-speech section) included the following, loosely transcribed:

The institutional fears of the new empowerment, because of the new fragility which is out there for governments and cooperation in power at the moment. The instinct of many still to control and intervene. Online censorship, the pressure now on bloggers. There's a particular case here in Greece at the moment. Should the major corporations use their massive bargaining power to change the terms that host governments give them to operate in some countries? Blocking by governments. Questions, should Internet service providers maximize freedom of expression in countries with restrictive laws on information and communication? The aspiration of knowledge for all. Those tensions that are built into the system. The tensions between defining copyright and intellectual property rights issues, how to balance the rights of the consumer and the content producer, and the threat to upholding human rights. Questions like, shouldn't companies resist compliance with local laws that are inconsistent with human rights principles? How to square that circle defined yesterday here at this time by the prime minister, Mr. Karamanlis, to enhance democracy, to have social cohesion and respect the rule of law. Recall Commissioner Reding's remarks yesterday. We must respect fundamental human rights and protect freedom of expression. That's the core of openness. So what are the best practices to strengthen freedom of expression through openness? What are the limits acceptable to preserve openness? Legal, policy, regulatory frameworks?

This forum has largely been relegated to secondary news sources recently, however it is an important one to have at least a small amount of knowledge about, based on the fact that the majority of us use the internet on a very regular basis, and there are those who would like to take away many of the inherent freedoms that the internet provides for the flow of information.

(I would like to take a random sidebar here and mention that recently I have had the opportunity to have a look through some of the scanned books available on Google Book search... it's basically an online library, with a large number of volumes available for perusal. If you have a few minutes to kill, it's well worth a look, just to look up a random topic you're interested in and see what books come up. And yes, they are actual published books, a large percentage of which were kindly scanned (by hand on desktop computer scanners by [I believe] the University of Michigan, and to them we should all say a big thank you.)

Back on topic, the IGF is essentially just a big meeting with no policy-making power that was put together with the intention of getting a large percentage of "stakeholders" in the internet together to try and find some common ground on what have emerged as some somewhat contentious issues regarding internet use, such as the balance between transparency and privacy, the prevailing english-language monopoly on internet programming and use, internet security, etc. As mentioned before, this forum has no policy-making power, however based on the fact that the intention was to get together some influential groups on the subject, it's conclusions are likely to at least carry some influence.

I haven't had time to look through much of the information available or the conclusions reached, but some of the sources include the Internet Governance Forum Official Website, some background on its creation, the original group that this forum was built upon, and the UN Secretary General's message to the forum.

With the constant assaults on freedom of speech in recent years in some of the worlds most industrialised nations, it is important to take note of issues such as internet regulation.

To give just one example, lets look the the US's "War on Terror." Some will argue that the "terrorists" using the internet, i.e. Al Qaeda cells allegedly communicating messages to each other, should (naturally) have this ability taken away from them. But who is to say what is a terrorist message? Is an internet post that could be interpreted as inciting violence against "coalition" forces in Iraq a terrorist message? As some neo-conservative advocates are arguing these days, if a withdrawl of US forces from Iraq would be a victory for "the jihadists," than isn't anyone who says the US should get [their imperial occupation forces] out of Iraq then supporting the terrorists, and as such supporting terrorism, and as such engaging in what the military commissions act of 2006 calls "hostilities" against the U.S., and shouldn't they be silenced? Perhaps shipped off to Auschwitz (sorry, I mean Guantanamo)? Where should it end?

Who was it that once said "I may not like what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" ?

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