This Week: CDT at the 2012 Internet Governance Forum

Next month, the world’s governments will meet in Dubai to decide whether to expand the scope of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) treaty to include regulating the Internet, a move that would mark a significant shift from the current status quo of global Internet governance.

Since the early days of the Internet, a variety of bodies and working groups have engaged in Internet governance. That process has customarily been open, to varying extents, to participation by expert stakeholders from governments, businesses, and civil society. In contrast, the ITU is a relatively closed, non-transparent, government-centric body and its treaty currently does not cover fundamental issues of Internet governance and policy, such as technical standards, peering arrangements, address allocation, or content regulation.

This week, Internet policy stakeholders from governments, businesses, the technical community, and civil society organizations around the world are meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan for the seventh annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Established by the United Nations to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue on the most pressing current issues in Internet policy-making worldwide, the IGF is one of the premier, truly global annual events for discussion and debate at this level. CDT’s Free Expression Director Kevin Bankston, Policy Counsel Emma Llansó, and former ISOC Director of Public Policy and current CDT consultant Matthew Shears are honored to be among those participating in this unique and important forum.

This year’s IGF comes at a critical time: Next month, the world’s governments will meet in Dubai to decide whether to expand the scope of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) treaty to include regulating the Internet. This would mark a significant shift from the current status quo of global Internet governance: Since the early days of the Internet, a variety of bodies and working groups have engaged in Internet governance. They have customarily been open, to varying extents, to participation by expert stakeholders from governments, businesses, and civil society. In contrast, the ITU is a relatively closed, non-transparent, government-centric body and its treaty currently does not cover fundamental issues of Internet governance and policy, such as technical standards, peering arrangements, address allocation, or content regulation.

Some governments are advocating revisions to the ITU’s treaty that would threaten online free expression, privacy, and access to information. Over the past year, CDT has been working to provide analyses of those proposals and to partner in our work with civil society groups around the world who are advocating on this issue. We have published extensive resources and other tools for advocates at our ITU Resource Center.

This year’s IGF will serve as a key opportunity for civil society organizations to promote open, decentralized, multistakeholder approaches to Internet governance through unified statements and other means, and to actively advocate for these approaches before government representatives. Although the IGF doesn’t begin until tomorrow, this work has already begun. We spent the weekend in Baku at Best Bits, an intensive two-day meeting of a diverse range of Internet rights groups and civil society organizations from around the world. This group of groups has now published a brief statement calling on the IGF to draw from the “best bits” of various Internet rights statements including the Internet Rights & Principles charter and the Declaration of Internet Freedom in order to develop a multistakeholder statement on Internet governance to be shared at IGF.

Best Bits participants from East, West, North and South also drafted a joint statement to ITU Members States, calling for a more transparent and inclusive treaty negotiation process for the WCIT, while urging Member States to reject any proposal that would expand ITU authority in ways that could threaten affordable access to the Internet or users’ rights to privacy and free expression online.

In addition to advocating on ITU issues and tweeting about the conference via @kevinbankston and @ellanso, CDT has prepared an IGF resources page that compiles various CDT projects, papers, and blog posts relevant to an international audience. CDTers will also participate in the following IGF panels on topics ranging from copyright to privacy to cybersecurity:

CDT is proud to have so many opportunities to participate in this critical forum on the future of Internet governance, and we look forward to meeting with allies old and new this week in Baku.

Share Post