e-G8: Governments Acknowledge Importance of Open Internet

On: June 14, 2011
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About Joris Pekel
I’m a MA. New Media student at the University of Amsterdam. In november 2009 I graduated as a bachelor theater, film and televisionstudies at the University of Utrecht. After that I started an internship at Kennisland where I worked on a project called Images for the Future. My main interests go to: Social media and how they can or can’t be useful, online copyright, Creative Commons and privacy issues. Other than that I’m an improv-theater actor and music lover (check out my famous Dutch eclectic-farmerband “Skitterend Mooi!”)

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Image ‘Mark Zuckerberg elysee france Nicolas Sarkozy e-G8‘ by Admond filed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence

Two weeks ago, leaders of several nations gathered to discuss worldwide challenges at the G8 conference. Prior to this event, French president Nicholas Sarkozy organized for the first time the e-G8 conference. Here, the focus was on the importance of the internet. Lots of civil rights organization were concerned that Sarkozy would use the conference to promote a worldwide controlled and regulated internet. However, now the report of this conference has been published, it appears that the conference has yielded some positive outcomes.

Before the conference started, the organization was criticized. Digital rights organizations were not invited to the conference, which was co-funded by big companies like Google, Ebay and Microsoft. This led to a lot of critique. Author and internet activist Cory Doctorow rejected the invitation with the words:

“I believe it’s a whitewash, an attempt to get people who care about the Internet to lend credibility to regimes that are in all-out war with the free, open ‘Net.”

Because of this private character of the conference, and the fear that Sarkozy would expand his wishes for a further regulated internet, several organization organized to let their voices being heard as well. the French digital rigthts organization, ‘La Quadrature du Net‘, held an improvised press conference together with Larry Lessig and Jeff Jarvis, and the organization Acces handed over a petition where they made a call to the governments to protect the internet as an open and neutral place, without government control.

If the participants of the e-G8 listened to the protesters, can not be said. fact is however, that in their final report, they do emphasize on the importance of an open internet.

“The openness, transparency and freedom of the Internet have been key to its development and success”

It continues with:

“Freedom of opinion, expression, information, assembly and association must be safeguarded on the Internet as elsewhere. Arbitrary or indiscriminate censorship or restrictions on access to the Internet are inconsistent with States’ international obligations and are clearly unacceptable.”

They also indicate that the protection of personal data and privacy is essential for a healthy public sphere. Goal is to make internet users more aware of what happens to their personal data when they put it online and ask the big internet companies to achieve this.

On the topic of copyright, the report remains a bit vague. They argue that international laws have to be made to protect intellectual property. How these are maintained and what the consequences are is not made clear. this, while the French government has accepted the three-strikes-bill, which makes it possible to close off individual users from the internet. This law directly runs in  the idea of a free and open internet for everybody.

In the end, the published report is only an advice. Governments do not have to apply to these ideas. Still, it is a positive sign that world leaders realize the importance of a free and open internet.

This blogpost is a direct translation of the one I wrote for Dutch digital rights organization ‘Bits of Freedom‘, which can be found here.

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