UN Internet Governance Forum Sees New Challengers, From Top Down And Bottom Up 08/09/2014 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 5 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)ISTANBUL – The Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace by John Perry Barlow in the end somehow reconnected the 9th Internet Governance Forum and the new Internet Ungovernance Forum held in Istanbul last week. The UN-led initiative is facing profound new challenges as the global split widens over the future of the internet. The UN-led Internet Governance Forum (IGF) met from 2-5 September. Internet Ungovernance Forum took place on 4-5 September. The IGF resulted from controversies over internet governance, mainly the management of internet core infrastructures, which the 2005 UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) could not resolve. Both Syracuse University (US) Professor Milton Mueller, giving the speech for civil society at the official IGF venue, the Lüfti Kirdar Congress Center, and World Wide Web expert Harry Halpin, speaking before the Ungovernance event organised by the Alternative Informatics Association at Bilgi University, referred to Barlow’s vision of freedom of a new people on the net. It was the first time that a large alternative conference was held outside of the UN event on all things internet, but it was not the only challenge to the forum. Just minutes apart, Mueller and Halpin spoke on the new global community connected via the network rather than between borders that challenge the concept of state, sovereignty and also traditional democracy with more radical ideas on consensus building. The excitement surrounding the IGF came from the “feeling that we are building some new kind of political community, maybe even revolutionary forms of governance,” Mueller said after a week with over 80 workshops on access, human rights, and governance structures on the net. And while he said multi-stakeholderism (a current term for transformation) is a “lousy label” for a revolution, the key issue about it is that it “elevates transnational non-state actors to the same status as governments.” IGF Excludes Turkish Activists’ Workshops Halpin, on the other side of the city, talking about the W3Cs WebWeWant Initiative and the need to seize back the net after the surveillance revelations by Edward Snowden and to rethink the meanings of democracy and freedom, reflected the sentiment of the Ungovernance organisers: “We feel the discussions at the IGF are exclusive and no longer useful,” he said. Snowden issued a statement [pdf] to the event. Well-known academics and activists from Turkey, including law professor Ayam Akdeniz and the Ungovernance organisers from the Alternative Informatics Association, had proposed four workshops on the situation of internet censorship and media in Turkey, but were awarded with none of the more than 80 slots at the official IGF. Requests during the IGF to the hosting Telecommunications Authority to comment on its internet legislation have remained unanswered. Ungovernance: Censorship, Surveillance and Possible Reactions To allow discussions about Turkey’s notorious Internet law 5651, about the growing cooperation of social media networks like Twitter and Facebook with the authorities and the long list of ongoing court cases against activists and simple users, Turkish civil society had to organise their own conference. Law 5651 has been made more draconian this spring in defiance of a 2012 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that had declared already the original 2007 version to be in violation of the European Charter of Human Rights which Turkey has signed. “It [the IGF] should not be called Internet Governance Forum, but Internet Censorship Forum,” said surprise keynote remote guest, Julian Assange. The Wikileaks leader, who for technical reasons could only send a written address, warned about the holes that censorship equipment is making into secure networking channels. “Perhaps in time, governments will realise that the serious cybersecurity and foreign surveillance threats posed by censorship equipment outweigh whatever supposed benefits of national stability and control that they bring,” he said. Akdeniz and representatives of the Alternative Informatics Association (AIA) had more reservations about the official IGF than the exclusion of their topics. “What is the benefit of those meetings when the net rapidly becomes a dystopia of surveillance and censorship,” a representative from AIA asked. During Ungovernance, potential technical and societal answers were debated, including Pond, a forward secure messaging system. Talk Less, Work More Calls to improve the IGF were also made at the official venue. European Union Commissioner Neelie Kroes, making her last appearance as a Digital Agenda Commissioner, asked the IGF “stop talking, but act.” United Kingdom Foreign Minister Ed Vaizey made an appeal on the same lines, while Macedonian Minister for Information Society and Administration Ivo Ivanovski said he was amazed that ministers of education, science and culture were absent from the Forum. “If it would be only IT, it could go to the ITU,” he said. The calls to make the IGF more productive are not new. For instance, a working group by the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) reported on IGF improvements three years ago. But given that the second five-year mandate of the IGF is running out next year, and that some governments themselves stepped up after the Snowden revelations to probe a new format – the April NetMundial meeting in Brazil – there is some pressure on the IGF to prove it is worthwhile. Top-Down: WEF Enters the Arena In addition, the Geneva-based World Economic Forum has jumped onto the stage by collaborating with the always active management of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), on a proposal for a NetMundial initiative to follow-up to the successful Sao Paolo meeting. Alan Marcus, head of IT and telecommunications industries at the World Economic Forum (WEF), tried to assure the IGF participants that the WEF-ICANN NetMundial initiative, which was accused of pirating the name NetMundial. The WEF initiative is intended to “bring our ‘grass tops’ [as opposed to grassroots] community to the issues of internet governance,” he said, and invite them to “bring their resources and identifying solutions and convening coalitions around those solutions to move some of our collective challenges forward.” Permanent, Long-Term, Continuing The WEF cannot take over from IGF, Jeremy Malcolm from the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Intellectual Property Watch after the closing of IGF and IUG. Malcolm before the IGF meeting wrote that there might be a need for an IGF successor: “We all know that the IGF has been a disappointment and has failed to deliver,” he said, adding that he is willing to withhold judgment for another year. But Malcolm is opposed to making the IGF as an institution permanent. The five-year mandate adds pressure for results, he said. Governments that made strong statements at the opening and were nearly expected to join the call for permanency ultimately returned to requests for renewal of the forum in their final statements. “We support the renewal. We said that in the UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] committee,” said US State Department Coordinator for Cyber Issues Christopher Painter, giving praise to the convening of the ever-growing number of stakeholders from around the world. “We don’t see it as a talk-shop,” Painter underlined, “but as a place where stakeholders coalesce and find solutions.” The IGF should be long-term, Painter told Intellectual Property Watch, but he did not leave out the limits: no negotiations here. Tangible Outcomes Many say the lack of the possibility in the IGF to negotiate joint statements of some sort make it difficult to answer the call for action on the other hand. The chair of the Membership Advisory Committee, Janis Karklins, never tired of promoting steps towards “tangible outcomes.” For the first time, best practice papers on how to organise multi-stakeholder mechanisms, how to tackle spam, Computer Emergency Response Teams, enablers for local content development, and online child protection were discussed and are now put out for comment until 15 September. “We have a tangible outcome,” said also Marianne Franklin, chair of the IGF Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, pointing to the just-finalised Turkish version of the fundamental rights document by the Coalition. While not binding in any way, it made the case for fundamental rights in the digital sphere. Also for the first time, the IGF picked two focus issues, net neutrality and the much-discussed transition of the oversight of the internet domain name system (DNS) root zone management away from the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Both net neutrality and the transition (of oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or IANA), did succeed in exploring differences, though, and, for IANA, resulted in a warning about the timetable. IANA Stewardship Transfer Byron Holland, chair of the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation which represents the national name zones like .ch, .us. and .in at ICANN, said in Istanbul: “I believe we are up against some political realities in the US, which is coming to the end of a US administration over this timeline. And late stage US administrations tend to be lame duck administrations. Policies getting pushed through become less and less likely.” According to Holland, each day past the September 2015 deadline, when the contract between the ICANN and the US government ends, “we have to face the fact that it becomes more and more difficult.” The transfer of oversight over ICANN and IANA was something that brought about the IGF in the first place. After last week, NetMundial host Brazil has much on its plate again. On 10-14 November, it will hold the last IGF under the current mandate at Joao Pessoa, in Paraiba. Those disappointed and those more hopeful think it could be the place to “stitch some things together” based on their NetMundial (and an earlier IGF hosting) experience. Benedicto Fonseca Filho, director of the Department of Scientific and Technological Affairs at Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations, said at the official closing that a measure of success of the internet governance according to his understanding was if the community managed to realise the “vision conveyed by the Tunis agenda [2005 WSIS) document a reality, a reality in which internet governance is composed by a multiplicity of stakeholders working in cooperation in their respective roles and responsibilities to make sure that the system as a whole will function better.” That entails, he added, that the IGF also seeks to relate to existing policy processes, including intergovernmental processes. “We can remain in silos, discussing among ourselves in those different settings or we can try to build bridges and make the best out of all of what we have,” Fonseca said. While the Turkish activists might have liked that description, out of the Ungovernance Conference came the call that for the time being the activists think ungovernance will be necessary in Brazil, too. The Turkish version of the rights and principles declaration is here [pdf]. Image Credits: Flickr – Justin Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Monika Ermert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."UN Internet Governance Forum Sees New Challengers, From Top Down And Bottom Up" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.