The Open Internet and Its Enemies

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...

Internet Freedom? Yes, of course…(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Can we in fact proceed or accept the outcome of any MS [multistakeholder governance] process without a very close re-examination and structuring of those processes; that is, to develop a means for providing appropriate safeguards against contamination, subversion, distortion or interest capture by or on behalf of one or another of the significant players whose interests in Internet development may be quite the opposite of the open, inclusive, transparent Internet that is the evident goal for most of those particularly from Civil Society who espouse MSism so passionately?”

The Open Internet Society and Its Enemies: Can Multistakeholderism Survive “Information Dominance”? | Gurstein’s Community Informatics.

 

The Internet Society, one of the active players in the debate on Internet governance, says this:

Each year, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) provides all stakeholders a unique opportunity to discuss openly critical emerging Internet-related issues.

This year’s overarching IGF theme is: “Building Bridges” – Enhancing Multistakeholder Cooperation for Growth and Sustainable Development”

As part of its engagement at the IGF, the Internet Society strongly supports the fundamentals of the open and sustainable Internet:

-Open Global standards for unleashed innovation;
-Open to Everyone: a freedom-enhancer for every Internet user;
-Open for Business and Economic progress;
-Open and Multistakeholder governance for transparent inclusion.

That sounds so very nice, vague, and naive (or maybe disingenuous). The bottom line: regardless of internet governance institutions, structures, or players we need to identify bad actors and deal with them appropriately.

Wikipedia says of multistakeholder governance:

“Multistakeholderism is a framework and means of engagement, it is not a means of legitimization. Legitimization comes from people, from work with and among people.”

So how do we identify good faith (bona fides) and bad faith (mala fides)?

One thing that comes to mind is “profiling” the way the FBI profiles serial killers on TV, that is, looking for behavior patterns that correlate with other bad actors in the past.

However we do it, we need definitions and tests of good faith and bad faith with some kind of empirical metrics.

BTW I think the US government fails all conceivable tests of good faith and should be put in the penalty box indefinitely.

PR

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“Internet Freedom” and Post-Snowden Global Internet Governance

“Internet Freedom” and Post-Snowden Global Internet Governance

by Michael Gurstein

And so we have the upcoming 8th session of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Bali with many of the main [“Internet Freedom”] protagonists having been more or less completely discredited…

So, what will be discussed at the IGF apart from the usual empty rhetoric about capacity building for LDC’s and legitimate campaigns against online skullduggery of the spam, kiddieporn, phishing variety?

Perhaps I could make a modest suggestion for the discussion. Perhaps we could discuss “Internet Freedom” but Internet Freedom in a post-Snowden world and without the hypocrisy and sanctimony of the previous discussions.

Perhaps we could discuss Internet Freedom as Freedom from undue and unaccountable surveillance; Internet Freedom as true Freedom of Expression where the forces of repression whether in Langley or in Moscow or Shanghai are made transparent and accountable; where Internet Freedom is anchored in the rule of law–not the, shall we say, rather “flexible” law of the world’s single superpower, but a rule of law to which all are expected to adhere and where mechanisms are in place to ensure that, to the degree possible, all are responsive and accountable; where Internet Freedom is not just for some but where it’s responsibilities and most importantly its protections are available for all of us — “foreigners” or no– and where all have some degree of input into how those laws are constructed and administered; where Internet Freedom does not mean that actions on and through the Internet will be subverted and directed simply to further enrich the already obscenely enriched, but rather to ensure that the benefits including financial benefits accruing from the Internet serve to reduce global inequalities.

I look for those who a year ago, were so eager to rally forces in support of Internet Freedom, to rally again to this somewhat battered standard; but now, one that is rather less naive and rather more reflective of the underlying reality of this technology enabled world in which we live. — Michael Gurstein [full article:  “Internet Freedom” and Post-Snowden Global Internet Governance]

[Is freedom just another word for the law of the jungle, the war of all against all, and might makes right? Instead of naive or disingenuous “freedom” rhetoric, we need the transparent, even-handed, rule of law starting with a Universal Internet Bill of Rights or “Internet Magna Carta.” The primary danger is always that lawmaking and enforcement can be hijacked by special interests. –PR]

Related PRA 2.0 posts

The Internet, Global Governance, and the Surveillance State in a Post-Snowden World (The Internet is Not Your Friend, Get Over It)

[This essay presents the issues without the spin and hyperbole common to most partisan and ideologically biased commentary. –PR]

Mike Gurstein’s “Post Script” is a good summary of the essay:

The dilemma of how to respond to the Snowden revelations–the loss of innocence with respect to the Internet, the very real threat of a totalized Surveillance (and Command and Control) Society–is a very real and immediate one.

Unfortunately none of the approaches so far being suggested seem capable of dealing with the realities which are being faced.

Challenges to these actions on the basis of existing laws (or constitutional guarantees) seem to be countered by processes of legalization and revision of constitutional interpretation (and very much depend on the existence of an enforceable rule of law which in some national jurisdictions at least seems questionable).

Arguments that current grassroots initiatives might scale sufficiently to present a form of counter-power or alternative technology/techno-social structures seem highly optimistic at best (open for example to intervention and manipulation as they might become successful and an apparent threat).

Technical solutions concerning encryption and structuring/restructuring of existing infrastructures appear dependent on the active involvement of significant technical and corporate bodies/individuals who to this point have been either complacent or even complicit in the developments noted above.

The development of broad framework agreements towards governing the Internet and the broad technical and telecommunications infrastructure are seen by many as quite unrealistic, however, they might provide the only realistic hope.  Their significance would be not so much in the capacity to enforce these agreements (the incapacity of existing of oversight and control structures in the face of political force, technology drive, personal and corporate interests and collective insecurities are not such as to lead to a great of optimism in this direction).  Rather their significance would come through the process of their formulation as nations and their citizenries globally would need to be confronted with the quite stark choice of acceptance of a Surveillance (and Command and Control) State or of a rule of law enforced through transparency and democratic oversight.  –Mike Gurstein

 

Related PRA 2.0 posts:

Gurstein's Community Informatics

Much has been made of the role that the Internet is playing in restructuring the way in which governance is executed both at the national and the global levels. The role of the Internet in supporting the rise of wide-spread autocrat-challenging movements in the Arab world, the role of the Internet in enabling middle class protests against out of touch officials and political structures in democracies, the power of the Internet to sway elections and directly influence policies are all obvious and widely commented upon.

Equally significant is the role of the Internet in creating global initiatives and global consciousness in a variety of areas–in supporting global movements in civil society; in making borders largely irrelevant in the transmission of information–importantly including images and direct communications; in allowing for the extremely low cost and largely frictionless sharing of experiences, good practices and how to’s in the whole range of areas…

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