Parliamentary perspective and opportunities for action

25 Nov 2019 14:35h - 16:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

This session served as a premiere. As Mr Hansjoerg Durz (Member of the German Parliament, Christian Social Union) explained, for the first time, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is systematically involving parliamentarians. The aim of this endeavor is to push and provide impulse for more debates on Internet governance and the IGF at national parliaments; but also to bring more perspectives of parliamentarians into the IGF and connect members of parliaments dealing with digital affairs and stakeholders from other areas.

A moment of silence was dedicated to the memory of a leading digital agenda figure of the Bundestag, Mr Jimmy Schulz (Member of the German Parliament, Free Democratic Party) who passed away earlier today.

With the hope of providing future generations with an open and free Internet, the session’s aim was to provide ‘a gift to the future of the IGF’, explained Durz. At the IGF in Paris last year, it became very clear that the perspectives of parliamentarians are needed for Internet governance.

The host country identified four themes of digital policy debates that play a particular role for parliamentarians globally, later discussed in split groups:

1. Artificial intelligence (AI)
2. International co-operation for a safer, open, and free Internet
3. Digital age: Democracies tool or trap? And the role of social networks
4. Peace and digitalisation

On AI, Mr Mario Brandenburg (Member of the German Parliament, Free Democratic Party) stressed that the perception of AI is different depending on who you talk to. ‘We might need to rethink our terminology,’ he stressed. There is a momentum and a chance to push for more AI debates. He criticised the confusion around the term ‘AI ethics’. He said that there is no AI ethics, there is only ethics. MPs need to talk to people to take away their fears of new technologies and consider the existing positive examples of applying algorithms.

On international co-operation for a safer, open, and free Internet, Mr Ulrich Lechte (Member of the German Parliament, Free Democratic Party), speaking from his point of view as the chairman of the parliamentary sub-committee dealing with UN issues, reminded the audience of the importance of UN and multilateral co-operation.

Ms Anke-Domscheit Berg (Member of the German Parliament, The Left), a former Internet activist, elaborated on the digital age with provocative remarks on the monopolistic tendencies of digital platforms. Can they still be regulated, or is it too late? ‘Their business models are dangerous for democracy and they are laughing about the high fines,’ she stated.

In regards to peace and digitisation, Mr Jens Zimmerman (Member of the German Parliament, German Labour Party) reminded the participants how the Internet has become part of the conflict and is definitely one of the areas of future conflict. Some questions he addressed were: How to maintain peace in the digital sphere? Do armies need to have offensive capacities? As well as questions on hackbacks and counter-attack. He mentioned that the rule of law needed to be applied in the digital field. The track also stressed the need for capacity development of parliamentarians to follow digital policy issues.

The session served as a starting point for more debates involving parliamentarians from all over the world throughout the event.

By Tereza Horejsova