Internet Governance by Social Contract

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Alvin Bryan

Alvin Bryan is a freelance writer and online privacy enthusiast enthusiast currently contributing quality tips and troubleshooting on personal VPN services, and online privacy and security news. You can also find him on Google +.

Internet GovernanceIn the mid 90s, John Perry Barlow wrote the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. It highlights the independence of cyberspace. And it urges governments to steer clear and not try to impose their power on this realm. It is not exactly what cyber citizens want to say today, but it remains strong on the grounds that cyberspace should be governed from within. The Internet operates differently from the real world because it rests on different circumstances. We must therefore have a separate social contract for Internet governance.

Internet Governance Forum

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual gathering of government representatives, industry leaders, and other individuals. They discuss Internet policy and provide an opportunity for private stakeholders to air their viewpoints. This year’s gathering concluded in early September in Istanbul, Turkey. Milton Mueller, a professor at Syracuse University, called the Internet a budding identity, close to becoming a nation of its own. The Internet has always held this potential. It quickly developed as a society with its own stakes that would naturally act for its own welfare. As such, Mueller understands that it has its own culture and sense of community.

Internet Governance ForumMueller’s closing address reflects the same feeling of discontent that many feel about how Internet governance is being handled today. The IGF thinks that it is a constructive body, but there has not been substantial proof of this in practice. Other groups have formed as a result, each with their own ideas on Internet governance. They function much the same way as the IGF does on the surface, but they firmly declare that they will do things differently. The key distinction here is the presence of several Internet governance programs as opposed to just one.

Internet Governance by Cyber Organizations

The IGF has been very selective in its treatment of Internet governance issues. The presence of several groups would foster a balance of opinions and encourage a degree of fairness. A monopoly is only good when it applies the correct solutions for all. In the world’s history, single organizations have never been able to achieve this.

The IGF has a tendency to shut out certain sectors because their hands are tied by governments who are using UN policy to stonewall discussions of critical Internet governance policies. This year, violations of freedoms of speech and Internet censorship in Turkey would have been the main points to work on. The emerging Internet governance groups want to have open dialogue, particularly about the types of penetrating issues that governments want to keep under wraps. The IGF has also been known to physically block protesters from participating in discussions. With two panels comprised of global experts on Internet governance, more voices can be heard and recognized.

Internal Internet GovernanceMost importantly, these independent Internet governance groups have a goal. The IGF seems to focus more on talking but not on putting ideas into practice. Internet governance by those who have vested interests in the Net community will promote action. They want to grow into bodies that can form recommendations that will be accepted by institutions and influential individuals as guiding principles. Mueller was essentially saying that we need Internet governance that does not depend on governments who will not serve the interests of the Internet community. Many of the governing bodies that control the IGF consider the idea of Internet governance from within to be a threat. This is because their agenda is to control Internet governance so they can control the Internet for their individual best interests. Internet governance must become self-governance through new groups that encourage equal and open discussion among all public and private stakeholders. The IGF, of course, will not be replaced, and is welcome to take its place within this network.

3 thoughts on “Internet Governance by Social Contract

  1. Pingback: Is an Internet Bill of Rights for Privacy Feasible? | VPN Express

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