During the morning of Day Two of the first Internet Governance Forum,
there was a multi-stakeholder dialogue on issues of “opennness.” The session spent the bulk of
time talking about freedom of expression issues and particularly the
responsibility of companies in using their influence to pressure
governments to be more open. Then the moderator moved on to focus the
discussion on IP and copyright issues. The highlight of the session
was when a representative of the Chinese government stated that China does
not censor any information on the internet.
More detailed notes follow…
Moderated by Nik Gowing of the BBC.
- Carlos Afonso, Technical Director of RIT (services and capacity-building network of ICTs)
- Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director, APC
- Hanne Sophie Greve, former judge at the European Court of Human Rights
- Joichi Ito, Creative Commons
- Jamie Love, Director, CPTech
- Senator Paschal Mooney, Government Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs (Ireland), broadcaster/ journalist
- Andrew Puddephatt, OBE, various human rights organizations
- Art Reilly, Senior Director, Strategic Technology Policy, Cisco Systems
- Richard Sambrook, Director BBC Global News
- Fred Tipson, Senior Policy Counsel , Microsoft,
- Catherine Trautmann, Member of the European Parliament
Brainstorming Section to put issues on the agenda:
- Amnesty International: Internet as a source of threat to human rights. Governments and IT companies colluding in violating them. Irrespressible.info campaign to combat this.
- Internet technology as bringing together people to protect the environment
- Keeping the infrastructure free – the problem of software patents
- Inter-operability and ease of access
- Rapporteurs sans Frontieres: CISCO is selling software to Chinese police. Isn’t this an ethical problem for you?
- on illegal content: French Yahoo case
- Freedom of expression and religion
- Access to information making government more responsive
Freedom of Expression Discussion
Andrew: Rights don’t form a central part of how we think about communications. Internet much less regulated than traditional media in many countries.
Anriette: Needs to look at rights as both economic and political rights together. Access as right as well as expression.
Carlos: Freedom of access and pricing as important.
Fred: I don’t think that companies bear responsibility for repressive governments actions where we do business.
Art: (On CISCO selling equipment to the Chinese police) We sell the same technology to all network providers.
Anriette: How do we use multi-stakeholder forums like this one to develop policies that deal with freedom of expression issues?
Catherine: The European Parliament has asked providers of equipment to take into mind the needs of the users rather than just the needs of the governments.
Joi: Don’t paint companies and countries with a broad brush. There are developments both within China and within Microsoft. Don’t intepret to malice what could be inertia or ignorance.
Richard: BBC takes the view that freedom of expression is too important to compromise on. So you can’t get access to the BBC in China. Other businesses take decision based on bottom line rather than other values.
Jamie: Why is the internet such a threat to authority. The internet routes around censorship. People use the internet to organize themselves, get access to information, propose fixes. Open standards lead to innovation and changes the order of things.
What can the IGF do to get things in the right direction?
Andrew: It’s not clear that doing business in China creates openings in China for democracy and freedom.
Jamie: Cisco is selling systems that will help internet service providers to filter information that goes against Net Neutrality.
Vint Cerf: We had a long internal discussion internally at Google about whether to do business in China or not. Google concluded that we would provide as much information as we could to the Chinese people. On Google, you can see what is being blocked at the request at the Chinese government. We do not offer mail or blogging in China.
Iran: Different applications of different values. Law based applications.
China representative: we are spending a lot of time on China. I would prefer we reflect on the issues that are being raised. There are many millions of Chinese that have no access to information. We would like to promote openness.
We don’t have blocking of websites, we have problems with accessing some websites. There are people who have access to BBC in China.
Carlos: What are the responsibilities of network operators? They are the ones who control the movement of bits, can privilege certain content over others.
Joi: Laws and technologies that we create to protect certain assets have effects on people’s ability to share content. Copyright being extended to internet to be on per view or per page. We need to relook at copyright law within a multimedia, internet world.
Anriette: Challenging public sector what is the public domain in the world of the internet.
Pascal: All public domain information should be made available on the internet by governments.
Richard: We do have a large collection of archival material that we own the copyright to. But there is a lot of content where there are copyright concerns that we have not worked out yet.
Jamie: Elaboration of a treaty on access to knowledge. South Africa has proposed at WIPO.
Hanne: Where public funding is used for research, it should be made available to everyone.
Joi: Editing multimedia content is just as valid as a written criticism. Free speech angle in being able to edit multimedia content. Young people are using video and music to remix content that is illegal because of IP concerns. This is a new restriction on freedom of expression.
Jamie: YouTube has become a new source of political criticism. It has improved how people report because there is instant feedback from people online.
Anriette: The right to share is part of APC’s platform.
[I left at this point to prepare for workshop presentation I was giving soon afterwards.]