The evolution of Internet governance - beyond Internet freedom
Last year's ITU WCIT conference inflamed the community's fears of the extension of intergovernmental control over the Internet. Whilst this fear was legitimate, an over-emphasis on the ITU can obscure the fact that the Internet is already controlled in undemocratic ways - often by governments, through both national and global processes, but also by corporate interests. It also obscures the fact that government action is sometimes necessary to uphold the rights of Internet users, just as government inaction can sometimes support their freedoms.
This is no less true at the global level than at the national level, although the appropriate mechanisms of governance at each level differ. Specifically, there are some areas in which developing globally-applicable principles for the governance of the Internet could be valuable and important. Despite popular belief, there is no network of global multi-stakeholder processes or institutions that covers all of the important public policy areas in which such global principles could be useful. However, with the convening of a new CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation, we now have the opportunity to fill that gap.
To date, civil society has been very reluctant to participate in the development of such a positive agenda for the evolution of Internet governance arrangements. But if we do not, either the status quo will prevail or less democratic and multi-stakeholder alternatives (such as the ITU) will come to the fore. In the article linked below I suggest one possible format for operationalising the enhanced cooperation mandate from WSIS, but its principal message is that regardless of the format adopted, now is the time for the consumer movement and broader civil society to seriously consider the merits of a more formal institutional platform for the protection of the rights and freedoms of Internet users.
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