Greater government control is not the answer to trust issues
Laura DeNardis, Professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC and Director of Research for the CIGI-Chatham House Global Commission on Internet Governance, USA
World events have created a loss of trust in the stability of the Internet, the stewardship of governments, and by default the private companies and global institutions that coordinate the Internet. One threat to the future of Internet governance is that reactions, often misdirected reactions, will address this loss of trust by instituting politically driven and nation-specific policies that further fragment the universal Internet. A closely related threat is the possibility of moving from multistakeholder Internet governance to multilateral governance that fails to account for private interests and civic engagement.
Fiona Asonga, CEO, KIXP, Kenya
The greatest threat is the activities of governments and government representatives that feel threatened by the open, multistakeholder Internet governance model.
Heather Dryden, Senior Advisor, Government of Canada and Chair, Governmental Advisory Committee to ICANN, Canada
The pursuit of narrow political objectives and lack of understanding about the technology could result in irreparable damage to the openness and stable functioning of the Internet and those institutions entrusted with managing its critical functions.
The greatest threat facing Internet governance is the way too much power afforded to governments to control communication on the network. To me, this is mainly manifested in the increasing actions of online mass surveillance carried out by some governments and the threats that this poses to privacy; and the ability of some governments to stop all Internet communication using a “kill switch.” We’ve seen this happen in Egypt during the 18 days that brought Mubarak down, but it’s also still happening on a smaller scale in parts of Egypt (mainly the Sinai), with the government claiming it’s done in the interest of “national security.”
Sam Dickinson, writer and and public affairs consultant. www.linguasynaptica.com
The greatest threat to Internet governance is external politics. It’s got nothing to do with the Internet itself. It’s developments like the revelations of widespread NSA surveillance and existing tensions between countries with rival political views. Resentment towards the USA means that NSA surveillance is being used as a catch-all argument in Internet governance discussions. Equally, stakeholders from Western developed countries often automatically view with suspicion the different perspectives of those from the Middle East, Russia, and China. The less-than-perfect human rights records of many of these countries is used as unstated justification that their views on non-human rights related are somehow less legitimate than those from more “enlightened” developed countries. Combine these wider political prejudices held by stakeholders with the looming deadline to reframe the WSIS vision for the next decade, and you end up with a significantly reduced chance of real progress in Internet governance.
Governments. I see governments as a two-way sword in that trust has been breached or eroded, which in turn could undermine the success or full potential of the Internet as an enabler and tool for innovation, e-commerce and the free flow of information. This brings me to a related issue, the U.S. government’s influence over ICANN and control over the domain name system (through the IANA contract). To me, this is no longer appropriate so to the extent that such legacy influence continues, it would continue to plague ICANN and ICANN will continue to suffer a legitimacy problem
Fiona Alexander – Associate Administrator for International Affairs NTIA, USA
We clearly face challenges to maintain a free and open Internet in the wake of the unauthorized disclosures of U.S. governments surveillance practices. Some countries are using these disclosures as an excuse for cutting off or disrupting the free flow of information. This would cause significant economic damages and could impede technological advancement and innovation, which rely on global cooperation. We cannot let the surveillance issues jeopardize this. Too much is at stake. So, we must work to discourage the building of barriers, and we must work to reduce and eliminate the threat to the existing multistakeholder process of Internet governance.
Nurani Nimpuno, Head of Outreach and Communications, Netnod, Sweden
The greatest threat the Internet faces today is not technological in nature, but political. Politically motivated and technically ignorant decisions, risk eroding the open and stable functioning of the Internet, and restrict further growth and innovation. There are huge challenges with bridging the digital divide, enabling access and connectivity in big parts of the world and fostering innovation and growth. Technically, the Internet can handle this challenge with ease. But the challenge is to support this development in the political arena.
Fear and over-reaction will cause collateral damage
The greatest threat is that impatience and fear of status quo approaches, all of which are evolving and improving, will harm the work and critical focus needed by the existing Internet Governance approaches and mechanisms. All of these organizations have critical work to do.
Rather than strengthening and building, enhancing, and deepening first the existing mechanisms, some are enamoured with starting over without first testing whether a radical change can survive. In the meantime, attention and engagement is diverted away from existing important work activities. Critiquing, and studying, and proposing expansion for Internet governance is apparently the newest way to burnish one’s portfolio. For a variety of reasons, including the siren song of ‘green fields’, fewer folks are showing up to do actual work on building and engaging in the present opportunities for multistakeholder participation and engagement, and decision making. Diversion from core work is a risk that is being ignored in favor of engaging in the newer opportunities.
There is also a risk that being enamoured with multistakeholder participation as a concept has blurred the understanding of what expertise is needed, where, to make sound policy, and implement it. Some fora require expertise, others may be able to survive with opinion based input. Crowd sourcing is being proposed in some settings as a panacea, regardless of the accountability and survivability of the outcome of a decision.
Legislation. The lack thereof. How do we get our governments to understand what opportunities the internet presents & not put in place laws that limit the use of the internet
Impasse and rat holes due to aggressive accusations and defensiveness that one or another stakeholder uses to achieve a single stakeholder agenda.
The greatest single threat to the Internet is that fear and anger paralyzes the possibilities of opening a broader dialogue that includes new voices from all stakeholders.
The greatest danger the Internet faces is that we will forget the Internet is the greatest stream of communication ever created — and treat it only as a stream of commerce. The threat is that we will create and allow rules that punish all Internet participants as if they were commercial speakers, rather than support and empower their use of the Internet to deliver ideas — political ideas, personal ideals, minority positions, creative thoughts, unpopular views for change and dissident ideas for reform. If we set up a system for surveillance and takedown, particularly of domain names, but also of other Internet pages and postings, without privacy, without due process, without care, we doom the freedom of communication of those who will follow us, including our children and grandchildren.
Maria Farrell, Senior Consultant, Internet at InterConnect Communications Ltd www.crookedtimber.org, Ireland
The single greatest threat to Internet governance today is lack of curiosity and courage amongst decision-makers who listen largely to lobbyists with a narrow, corporate point of view and a back pocket full of convenient factoids and manufactured fear. Existing jobs are important, but so are creativity, freedom and the ability to innovate without permission. Most of the people running the Internet today could never in a million years have invented it. Doesn’t that tell us something?
Lack of universal, affordable, open access
Without doubt, for many of us in the developing world, robust Internet access is an aspiration that far outweighs all others. In many countries, entry point Internet access is still far beyond the reach of many.
Alice Munyua, Convener of Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET)
Unequal access/online violence against women and girls.
Loss of the openness of the internet to old regimes, to commercial interests only.
Joy Liddicoat, Valeria Betancourt, Jac sm Kee, Mallory Knodel, Association for Progressive Communications
The greatest single threat facing Internet governance today is the lack of universal, affordable, open access. There is an increasing trend for governmental control of the internet (at the end, a centralized, governmental control of the internet can impact on the provision of universal, affordable and open access). A particular concern in openness is not just government control, but also consolidation of power and control by the private sector, and often in collusion or collaboration with governments. Maybe this is what’s meant by “universal” but with the slowness of tech migration – to things like IPv6 and DNSSEC – we’re risking a fractured internet in the future. Meaning, we might all have access to internet, but if that internet doesn’t connect with other internet in other places, then it’s not the internet we want.
The small gene pool of Internet policy making
Greatest threat: very small number of people, some with vested interests, making decisions about the framework of our future existence- of which the vast majority of us are completely unaware.
Privatisation of the public interest
In the US and in Europe, we are increasingly putting the responsibility for enforcing laws online onto our companies. This is unsettling to other countries, who may not want to follow our laws as they are enforced by our technology companies or service providers. Then they call for greater sovereignty because they lose the power to control their own jurisdiction, and also they fall under our jurisdiction by means of technology and service exports. The greatest threat therefore is that American and European legislators and executives are unwilling to carry the responsiblity of upholding the law, human rights and due process – even though these are all core missions of the governments according to many human rights conventions.
Can people power really govern the Internet?
The greatest challenge is in implementing and practising a globally trusted multistakeholder model.
- To maintain the required balance in representation of all stakeholders, from developed and developing countries, with appropriate geographic diversity and maintained gender balance.
- To ensure that participants are authorized and truly represent the views of the stakeholders they belong to.
- To ensure good participation, not only in terms of counts, but in terms of informed active participation throughout the process, including attendance, discussions and decision making.
- To successfully implement a multistakeholder model at a global level, while not (yet) adopted/practiced at national/regional levels. To work on promoting such model at national levels without getting into the sensitive issue of national sovereignty. To coordinate a trusted fully inclusive bottom-up process and still be proactive and cope with the dynamics of the Internet world.
- To identify the right venue(s)/platform(s) for implementing such a model and how this fits (those fit and interact) within an overall ecosystem.
Trust issues and technical vulnerabilities
Desiree Miloshevic, Internet public servant and Trustee of the Internet Society, Serbia
Certainly one of the biggest threat is exploitation of the technical vulnerabilities of the Net. A 9/11 type of meltdown.
What if there were a long Domain Name System outage? Who would be fixing it? Would it be ICANN or its Security and Stability Advisory Committee? Who would be an official voice of for the fixing of that? Would it simply be Paul Vixie working to fix things with three or four other domain name geeks around the world? Would it be the Regional Internet Registries covering the geographic region where it happened?
The trust that the general public has in just “using the Internet” would be broken. Who are our trusted anchors today?