Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

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IGF-USA 2012 Afternoon Plenary Discussion: Defining the Future for Internet Governance – Meeting Evolving Challenges

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – This  major session of the opening plenary of IGF-USA discussed the current state of play with various proposals ranging from the WCIT, the UN Commission on Science and Technology and Enhanced Cooperation, areas where more government may be called for from their perspective or strong improvements in “governance.” Panelists offered a range of perspectives about government and governance.

Featured participants in this special session included Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for public policy, AT&T; Chris Wolf, partner and Internet law expert from Hogans Lovells; Danny Weitzner, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House.

Details of the session:

Panelists sit to discuss “Defining the Future for Internet Governance: Meeting Evolving Challenges” at the IGF-USA Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

As Chris Wolf of Hogans Lovells said, the ghosts of Internet past, present and future were part of the final plenary discussion on “Defining the Future for Internet Governance: Meeting Evolving Challenges” at IGF-USA Thursday at Georgetown Law Center.

Wolf dubbed himself the “the past guy” and remembered a time he was considered a pioneer in knowledge of the Internet and how it was evolving in its early years. The trio of panelists defined the future for Internet governance and the evolving challenges citizens face.

There’s been an enormous amount of growth and development during the Internet’s short life, noted Jeff Brueggeman, vice president of public policy at AT&T.

“I think the true strength of the IGF, as we talk about every year, is its ability to self-improve,” he said. “And, for all of us, from a bottom-up way, to help innovate and change the process each and every year.”

IGF introduces new topics and builds on those addressed the year before. The IGF is not just a “talk shop” that meets once a year, Brueggeman added.

Chris Wolf speaks during “Defining the Future for Internet Governance: Meeting Evolving Challenges” at the IGF-USA Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

IGF needs to keep broadening the participation and the process, including peers in more developing countries. More remote participation and adding numbers has been a success in the meetings, Brueggeman said. The discussion needs to keep evolving at IGF-USA and on a global basis. Pressure is growing to show that it doesn’t have the same discussion year after year.

Brueggeman said those involved in IGF should do a better job of capturing the impact of the multi-stakeholder process and show the value of it to those who don’t come to the meetings and those who will never come.

Sustainability is a real challenge, though he has seen an enormous amount of progress. A few years ago, organizers and attendees were debating whether there would be an IGF the following year. Now, they debate what to build around the one-day conference.

Danny Weitzner of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – Wolf called him the “ghost of Internet future” – highlighted three things that are already happening.

“We are at the middle of a multi-stakeholder explosion and the question is how to actually help make sure it’s directed and productive and doing the right things,” Weitzner said,

The second thing: He said Vint Cerf has eloquently pointed out that the Internet is now being actively used by more than 2 billion of the 7 billion people in the world, adding: “Attending to that is going to tremendously important in the future.”

And his final point: “We are in an era of just inevitable and irresistible transparency. Sometimes even governments, sometimes companies, sometimes even civil society groups take refuge in un-transparent un-institutional activities because it’s often easier, it’s often safer. But I think we’re learning over and over again in a variety of different institutions that we’ve got to learn to embrace transparency, we’ve got to learn to make it work for us and that resisting it is a mistake.”

Top-down rule-making does not always lead to innovative solutions. The Internet keys into collective intelligence and is best served by the multistakeholder model of governance, Weitzner said.

Although there are many important issues to address as the Internet evolves, Weitzner said he thinks the real discussion that’s going on is to make sure the Internet’s open environment can raise its accessibility to move from 2 billion users to 7 billion.

— Ashley Barnas

IGF-USA 2010 Workshop- Best Practices Forum: Considerations on Youth Online Safety in an Always-Switched-On World

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Jennifer Hanley from Family Online Safety Institute and Stacie Rumecap from Stop Child Predators discuss the risks that young people face when using the Internet.

Brief description:

Danny Weitzner, associate administrator for the Office of Policy Analysis and Development in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, led this session. In June of 2010 a new report was provided to the U.S. Congress: “Youth Safety on a Living Internet.” Topics addressed in that report were covered in this session. They include: the risks young people face; the status of industry voluntary efforts; practices related to record retention; and the development of approaches and technologies to shield children from inappropriate content or experiences via the Internet.

Details of the session:

Braden Cox, policy counsel for the NetChoice Coalition, shared an anecdote: While driving to the IGF-USA 2010 conference he was listening to a traffic report. The reporter complained about his long commute from Fredericksburg, Md., to Washington, D.C., each morning. A traffic engineer then came on the air and explained that long commutes are often caused by people who choose the wrong routes.

“You know what?” Cox said. “D.C. traffic is a lot like the Internet. There are a lot of different options, people can become overwhelmed and it can be slow. But all it comes down to education.”

Education is something the panel and respondents in the “Best Practices Forum: Considerations on Youth Online Safety in an Always-Switched-On World” IGF-USA 2010 session discussed extensively.

Panelists included Cox; Jennifer Hanley of the Family Online Institute; Michael W. McKeehan, the executive director of Internet and technology policy at Verizon Wireless; and Stacie Rumenap from Stop Child Predators.

There to respond were Jane Coffin of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; Morgan Little, a research associate with the Imagining the Internet Center; Bessie Pang, the executive director of the Society for the Policing of Cyberspace; and Adam Prom, an intern for the law firm of Akerman Senterfitt.

The session leader was Danny Weitzner, the associate administrator of the Office of Policy Analysis and Development at NTIA.

The 148-page report, “Youth Safety on a Living Internet” (available as a PDF download here: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/reports/2010/OSTWG_Final_Report_060410.pdf) was provided to the U.S. Congress in early June. Cox and McKeehan were part of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group that prepared the report. Cox said the findings indicate that while issues such as child predators and “sexting” are minor problems, the main worry online today in the United States is cyberbullying by peers.

Cox said the report includes four recommendations to fight this trend:

  • Avoid scare tactics. Instead, promote social norms and good etiquette on the Internet.
  • Promote digital citizenship, e-literacy and computer security in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education.
  • Focus online safety programs on risk prevention, including interventions with high-risk youth.
  • Create a digital literacy core on Internet safety.

“The Internet is living,” Cox said. “And much like in everyday life, we operate without truly understanding the risks.”

Many lawmakers have tried to crack down on cyberbullying, Rumenap said. Forty-four states now have some sort of law about it. But she said most of the laws are ineffective.

“What’s the best way to prevent cyberbullying?” Rumenap asked. “Don’t be a teenage girl,” McKeehan responded. Rumenap said the majority of cyberbullying consists of teenage girls being teenage girls – gossiping and saying mean things to one another. “Criminalizing a 14-year-old for saying something mean probably isn’t the best result,” Rumenap said.

The panelists discussed attitudes online. The best method for cutting down on cyberbullying, the group affirmed, is education. “We have to inform minors about the permanence, about the implications and about what they are posting online,” Little said.

Hanley said that starts with teaching kids accountability. “We’re building a culture of responsibility,” she said. “We’re trying to move rights and responsibilities that we take for granted in the offline world to the online world. We have to make sure we’re teaching them new social norms.”

Participants in the discussion agreed that there is only so much public policy can do. “You can’t legislate cyberbullying away,” Prom said.

The opportunity for Internet education exists on every level, Little agreed. “It’s nothing that can come from the top down, it’s nothing that can come instantaneously, and I don’t think it can come from schools,” he said. “They’re stretched too thin as it is. It has to come from all around.”

The message is simple, McKeehan said. “The No. 1 recommendation: Teach your kid not to be a jerk online,” he said. “Don’t be a jerk in the real world, and don’t be one online either.”

While a lot of this education can start at home, it should be present everywhere in kids’ lives, especially when they are relating with their friends, Rumenap said.

“It’s a conversation,” she said. “It’s a conversation at home. It’s a conversation at school. It’s a conversation in after-school programs. And it needs to be a conversation with their peers. It needs to become a social norm.”

Sam Calvert, www.imaginingtheinternet.org