Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves gave an impassioned speech for Internet openness at the start of the country's fourth International Conference of Cyber Conflict. Painting the current situation in cyberspace as "a struggle between competing systems of government and economic organization", Ilves warned that free trade and open markets was as much as spur to authoritarian regimes and economies as it was to democratic ones. He also noted that the very openness of the Internet meant that users were no longer protected from destructive influences outside their countries. He gave five suggestions for how to improve the situation: embracing the digital revolution more fully; identifying new models of working; becoming much more open and transparent; expanding international cooperation; and creating a community ethic when it comes to Internet issues. The conference was started in response to a cyberattack on the country by Russia in 2007 that brought down the websites of the country's parliament, banks and media outlets. It stemmed from a political row over a statue.
A coalition of groups that had opposed the SOPA in the US Congress published a "Declaration of Internet Freedom" online, arguing for a "free and open Internet" and listing five basic principles for protecting the open Internet: access, openness, innovation, privacy and freedom of expression. Not to be outdone, libertarian Ron Paul put his name to a similar statement calling itself "The Technology Revolution." The latter declaration takes more of a combative approach to Internet freedom, complaining about the "arrogant attempts of governments to centralize, intervene, subsidize, micromanage, and regulate innovation". The former is more positive in tone.
The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was dealt its most powerful blow yet when the European Parliament voted against it by 478 to 39 (with 165 abstentions). The agreement has been the focus of significant protests claiming that it would significantly impinge on Internet freedom. The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors but has subject to a number of leaks and has been used as a rallying point for online democracy. Pressure is now building on other countries to reject the agreement. Meanwhile, however, much of the controversial text has found its way into a bilateral trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA), sparking further protests. ACTA is intended to tackle online piracy but its wording put the onus on ISPs to police their own customers for infringement.
The United Nations formally acknowledged freedom of expression and information on the Internet in a statement approved by the Human Rights Council and endorsed by the General Assembly. The statement also recognized the open and global nature of the Internet and stressed that nation states should promote access to the Internet. One of the key drivers behind the motion, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt write an editorial for the New York Times over the approval calling it "A victory for the Internet". The move was also welcomed by the Internet Society.
The former Russian republic has a long history of silencing free speech. Credit: Human Rights Watch.
When Azerbaijan was announced as the host of the 2012 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on the last day of the 2011 forum in Nairobi, it took a little less than an hour for civil society representatives to take the microphone and point out the country's poor human rights record.
That concern fed into the last preparatory meeting of the IGF in Geneva last month, with frequent questions and requests for more information over Azerbaijan's plans taking up several hours of planning discussions.
Such interventions are of course largely pointless and all too frequently slip into self-righteousness, but with freedom of expression one of the more abiding traits of an open and global communications medium, it is a question that any IGF host can be expected to face, and be expected to answer.
Below is a video and transcript of the conclusions closing session of the Swedish Internet Forum on 19 April 2012. The presenter, Emily Taylor, also provided a written version of her summary for .Nxt.
In 2005, which in internet terms is really ancient history, I came across an article which was written in the New York Times about a funny little argument that was preoccupying those of us in our small circle of internet geeks and we were terribly worried about. Now the article is memorable for a couple of reasons. First of all, and this is unusual, believe me, in the internet space, it was short, cogent, humorous. And it sort of rose above the confusing detail and explained why this stuff was important. And the second surprise is that it was written by a politician. That politician was Carl Bildt.
Below is a video and transcript of the close of the Swedish Internet Forum on 19 April 2012.
Olof Ehrenkrona (OE): Can I start with asking all those who... In the team who are still standing on their feet to stand up. And there you are. Let's give the team a great big hand.
OE: And can I then ask the moderators and the still living panelists to stand up. Some of you. Yeah, some of them. Let's also give them a big hand.
And thanks to you, we have had such vibrant discussions and we have not been hesitating to take on also the most difficult questions. This is very, very much thanks to you and what you have done. This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. There will be a continuation and let me then ask Bela Szombati from Budapest to come here and present very, very shortly the next event, upcoming event in Budapest.
Bela Szombati: Well, thank you. Very shortly, though I can't exactly see the clock.
In 2005, I came across an article in the New York Times about a funny little battle that was going on in the Internet corner of the world that no one outside of the small circle of Internet geeks seemed to understand or care about.
This article was memorable for several reasons. First, it was cogent, humorous, it rose above the dirty, confused, detail and explained why this stuff was important for all of us. Secondly, it was written by a politician. That politician was Carl Bildt.
Fast forward to this week. I was asked to moderate a couple of sessions at the Stockholm Internet Forum, and to provide some reflections at the end of the conference. This article highlights some of the themes I picked up from the two days of discussion.
Taylor moderating one of the sessions. Credit: Swedish Internet Forum
We spoke to those in and around the closed-doors negotiation of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). This is what we learnt.
The most contentious aspect of closed-door negotiations around the Registrar Accreditation Agreement has been the matter of Whois verification.
The issue is dealt with in two of the 16 specific changes that were put forward by law enforcement and have formed the foundation for the discussions (C1 and A1b).
From the start, ICANN’s negotiating team made it clear to their registrar counterparts that "verification" of domain name registrants would be used as a benchmark for the success of the negotiations overall.
Initial discussions moved away from the strict requests made by law enforcement, which include verification of a large number of different aspects from IP address to billing address to email and phone numbers.
The Internet governance dance card gets fuller every year as each stakeholder group adds its own meetings on various isssues to the mix. Below is a list of 12 meetings within the global inter-governmental space to keep an eye on in 2012.
1. Panel discussion on freedom of expression on the Internet