Internet Standards, Technology and Policy Project

THE INTERNET STANDARDS, TECHNOLOGY & POLICY PROJECT: Internet Technology in the Public Interest

A Project of
The Center for Democracy & Technology

Funded by
The Markle Foundation and
The Ford Foundation

The Internet has tremendous potential to promote free expression and individual liberty online. But will future Internet technologies maximize this potential for freedom? Or will new ways to use the Internet have hidden downsides, such as a reduction of privacy? Will the technical requirements of new Internet services require resources beyond what individuals or small organizations can afford?

Increasingly, technical decisions about the Internet and its development can have far-reaching policy consequences. Often these technical decisions are made with little public awareness or input. At the same time, lawmakers and public interest advocates often debate policies governing the Internet without adequate tools to assess their technical merit or impact, and without appreciating how public policies can affect or even harm the technical development of the Internet.

To address these concerns, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has created the Internet Standards, Technology & Policy Project, intended to increase public interest input into the standards processes, and to increase public interest understanding of the concerns and goals of Internet standards technologists. A multi-year effort, the project seeks to address both sides of the technology and policy coin. On the one hand, the project will promote public awareness of and, where appropriate, involvement in the standards-setting, technical governance, and industry bodies that make technical decisions for the Internet. On the other hand, the project will seek to build better communication among technologists, public interest advocates, and academic policy leaders working on issues with broad relevance to Internet policy.

Among the key concerns behind the new Project are:

The Internet Standards, Technology & Policy Project is intended to address these concerns, with a number of different efforts: (a) To promote better public input in essential Internet standards setting, governance, and technical decision-making bodies, CDT is seeking both to bolster its presence within key Internet technical groups, and to work with those groups and other members of public interest community to promote public interest awareness of and participation in the decision processes. (b) To promote better understanding between technologists and those involved in policy debates, CDT seeks to facilitate regular conversations between these groups. (c) Drawing initially (but not exclusively) from the participants of these conversations, CDT seeks to identify key technical points early in public policy debates, and to develop prompt, concise, and understandable explanations of the technical issues on which the debates might turn.

Through a coordinated effort, CDT expects that the Internet Standards, Technology & Policy Project will be able to foster within the public interest community a greater understanding of the technical issues that affect policy on the Internet, and within the technical community a greater awareness of the ways that technical decisions can affect social policy. By getting the public interest community to participate in and contribute to the Internet standards processes – and by providing public advocates with the tools to understand the technical aspects of the issues – the Project seeks to ensure that the legal protections the Internet enjoys are preserved, and are not eliminated or made irrelevant by the technical evolution of the Internet.

To direct the Internet Standards, Technology & Policy Project, CDT has recruited John Morris, who was one of the lead trial lawyers in the Reno v. ACLU case that first defined the high level of legal protections that speech over the Internet merits.

For more information, please feel free to contact John Morris, Alan Davidson, or Jerry Berman at (202) 637-9800, or John Morris at [email protected]