The power of the noncommercial users on the internet

8 Dec 2016 10:45h - 12:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

Ms Farzaneh Badii of the Internet Governance Project began by providing the context for the discussion which was structured as a debate to assess the effectiveness of non-commercial users in making Internet governance policy changes.

Badii lamented the lack of sufficient representation from the non-civil society for an effective debate but committed to openly discussing civil society’s failures. She invited Ms Corinne Cath of the Oxford Internet Institute to begin.

Cath described her research experience and work with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), who is responsible for defining standards and protocols that make the Internet work. She spoke of encountering initial resistance because the potential human rights impact on protocols and standards was not immediately clear to this technical community. A research group was formed to determine the relationship between human rights and protocols which was noted as a success in the engagement with the technical community.

Ms Tatiana Tropina of the Max-Planck Institute spoke on commercial stakeholders in ICANN facilitating the adoption of human rights bye-law. She observed the collaboration with non-commercial stakeholders to quickly achieve this during the IANA transition. Despite initial resistance from different parts of the community, they were able to get formal support for the drafting of the bye-law’s text.

Mr Giovanni Seppia of Eurid shared how country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) serve communities and are independent of ICANN policies and procedures. Many ccTLD policies are driven by local communities including known commercial stakeholders. Seppia referenced the liberalisation policy introduced in the past decade that removed the limitation on who could register a domain name which contributed to CCTLD growth.

Ms Rachel Pollack, Project Officer; Communication and Information Sector (CI) at UNESCO spoke as an individual member of the non-commercial users and shared her discussions with civil society organisations. One success was the protection of free expression and fair use against intellectual property interests like the SOPA/PIPA registration in 2011 and 2012. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) led a campaign together with civil society groups and private sector companies with a blackout of content on Wikipedia, instead redirecting users to information on the legislation. Mozilla, Google, and Flickr pages also carried announcements which led to 3 million people e-mailing Congress and 4.5 million signatures on a petition. The two bills ultimately failed.

Pollack hailed the Keep it On coalition led by Access Now which was launched following the Internet shutdown in Uganda during its elections. The coalition worked successfully with the African Commission and in the lead-up to the recent elections in The Gambia, their advocacy shortened the Internet shutdown in that country.

Mr Chris Buckridge of RIPE NCC described the RIR’s policy development process which has mainly been engaged by business operators, government, and law enforcement representatives and not regularly by civil society members. He mentioned a RIPE NCC programme called RACI designed to engage the academic community.

Ms Maria Farrell of the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) described a period in Brazil where harsh bills were being proposed for common online behaviours and a civil-society movement convinced the then government to put the bill aside. Farrell said that the current environment is not as conducive for this dialogue and asked for international support.

Badii invited comments on failures and Tropina described the IANA transition as being negative for her with different civil society groups fighting and not aligning.

Pollack shared two examples. First the push for greater privacy with the WHOIS database, for example, which collects more information on domain name registrants than needed. Secondly, she commented that the awareness campaigns on surveillance legislation were not leading to significant changes.

Cath advocated for greater understanding of the technical issues for clear communication with the technical communities in a non-adversarial manner. An IETF member described the difference in its operation from stakeholder communities and invited more participation for wider consideration of the technology being built.

Mr Klaus Stoll of ICANN advocated for professionalisation of policy development vs volunteerism. Mr Alfredo Calderon of the Internet Society’s Puerto Rico chapter, described his ICANN involvement stirred by the IANA transition. Seppia described the Academy, a EURid capacity building program.

The presenters discussed the limitations of funding and the impact on the diversity of representation in pertinent discussions. Mr Adam Peake, Senior Manager, Accountability at ICANN, advocated for more positive dialogue about civil society’s achievements within ICANN and otherwise.

by Andre Edwards, Trinidad and Tobago