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

Posts Tagged ‘dialogue

Closing remarks from IGF-USA 2010 cover improvements, invitation to IGF in Vilnius

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Brief description:

Marilyn Cade, head of the IGF-USA 2010 Steering Committee and president of ICT Strategies, leads the final plenary discussion.

Marilyn Cade, chair of the IGF-USA Steering Committee, led a closing discussion that also included remarks from Markus Kummer, executive administrator for the global IGF Secretariat; Larry Strickling, assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Deimante Bartkiene, a representative of the Lithuanian Embassy, invited IGF-USA attendees to the global IGF, taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sept. 14-17.

Details of the session:

Marilyn Cade, president of ICT Strategies, asked the gathered audience during the closing session of IGF-USA 2010 to suggest at least five ways the IGF process can be improved in the future. She received more input than that. Here are a few of the ideas:

  • The “users reign” scenario isn’t based in reality right now. The only way the scenario can come to fruition is if the people involved in global IGF efforts help design it and make it work.
  • People should not demonize innovative companies that make mistakes. When companies take risks, let them fail, call them out but don’t overreact or issue calls for new laws to stop an experiment from ever happening again.
  • The people involved with IGF should embrace transparency, inclusion and collaboration. Inclusion, in particular, means reaching out to parties that don’t show up to participate in opportunities like IGF-USA. The IGF effort should increase awareness, extend more outreach and have broader information available to people.
  • The organizers of IGF should extend participation, particularly remote participation (ability to “attend” virtually, online), to the conferences.
  • The Internet is inherently not like real life, and the more we try to make it like real life, the less appealing it will be to users. The people participating in the discussions at IGF should to keep this sentiment in mind going forward.
  • The IGF organizers should more clearly articulate the roles of the different Internet stakeholders and organizations, define and implement a funding model for IG and enact some form of output for the IGF itself.
  • The IGF should have more voices from emerging markets and the private sector at the table.
  • A final piece of advice: Make sure what the people involved in IGF ask for is going to gain the best result. Don’t change the mandate, just renew.

(From Left: Deimante Bartkiene, Markus Kummer, Larry Strickling) Panelists wrap up the IGF-USA 2010 conference with closing remarks.

Strickling said in his closing remarks that the U.S. government is committed to the continuation of the IGF in its current form. He said allowing a multistakeholder discussion will only enhance the accessibility of the Internet.

“Internet stakeholders across the globe are committed to this type of forum,” he said. “We want to make sure IGF is not just about dialogue. We need to make sure lessons learned from these discussions are put into action. I don’t imagine I am alone in thinking that open dialogue in IGF is an ideal way to enhance trust in these stakeholders.

“Changes that place one group above another in IGF would ultimately undermine this model.”

Kummer closed by saying that the IGF mandate will be up for a vote in the United Nations’ General Assembly later this year, and he added that the general assembly should almost certainly vote to extend the IGF mandate. But he’s concerned about what kind of changes might be suggested.

“Now we will have to find synthesis between two tendencies: the Internet will stay with us and nation-states will stay with us,” Kummer said. “We see the IGF as a synthesis between these two tendencies.

“I hope they will not do much tweaking moving on. All of you can have a role to play in this by reaching out, talking to governments.”

Click here to go to the main site used by

the organizers of IGF-USA:

-Colin Donohue,


McLaughlin: Transparency, openness of Internet important to promotion of democracy

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Andrew McLaughlin, Deputy Chief Technology Officer of Internet Policy for the White House, spoke about the importance of the openness of the Internet in a solid democracy.

Brief description:

Andrew McLaughlin, deputy chief technology officer for Internet policy at the White House, worked as a top policy expert for Google before joining the administration of President Barack Obama. McLaughlin talked about transparency and democracy in his keynote.

Details of the session:

U.S. government leaders believe that a wide-open Internet promotes growth, innovation and democracy, according to Andrew McLaughlin, the deputy chief technology officer of Internet policy for the White House. He talked about openness, transparency, innovation and democracy during his closing remarks at the IGF-USA conference July 21 at the Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C.

He said President Barack Obama and the leaders of the federal government want to keep the Internet transparent and decentralized because they believe openness spurs creativity and discussion online.

“We’ve been trying to advance those policies,” McLaughlin said. “Openness is a normative value, which is to say a good in and of itself, but also an important network value. It helps everyone connected to the network understand what’s going on in the network.”

McLaughlin drew a strong distinction between the regulatory model developed for telephone services and the policies being established for the Internet, warning that the latter communications entity is definitely not simply a successor to the former. He said the public-switched telephone network was a closed system that was centralized, tightly controlled based on proprietary technologies and vertically integrated.

In contrast, he said, the Internet is an open, decentralized network that’s built around layers where power really rests in the edge of network, rather than its core. McLaughlin said the government needs to find a way to take advantage of this “ever more cheaper, ever more powerful technology” to help promote transparency.

“Transparency can be loosey-goosey term,” he said. “It can be related to openness in one sense. (It also) means the thing you put in is same thing that comes out at the other end. I think transparency in the network needs to come with transparency in policy making.”

McLaughlin said the first memorandum President Obama signed on his first day of office centered on the transparency of government, and one clear example of governmental openness is the digitizing of the Federal Register.

“We took the Federal Register and started publishing it in XML format, and when we did this, within about 24 hours a group of people at Princeton threw up a simple online application that allows you to type in search terms, and you can get e-mail or an RSS feed that pops up in your inbox any time something is published in the Federal Register that you’re interested in,” McLaughlin said. “That’s great because it’s 70,000 pages a year. It’s inscrutable. Now it’s all freely available.”

So yes, the Internet inherently spurs innovation, creation, growth and global dialogues. But it can’t be a staid resource. McLaughlin said its continued positive evolution is integral to its future success.

“We all have an interest in keeping the Internet global,” McLaughlin said. “The Internet should be open, and the Internet should be decentralized. It is and should be treated as a layered stack.

“The Internet governance work we are doing needs to recognize that and treat each of those layers differently. The Internet needs to evolve. We need to be open to that kind evolution and not let the Internet be hardened into its current structure. It’s breathtaking that in my lifetime this communications network has opened possibilities, enabled change and presented encouraging new horizons for the culture and for the practice and performance of democracy.”

-Colin Donohue,

IGF-USA 2010 Workshop- The promise and challenges of cloud computing

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Daniel Castro, a Senior Analyst for ITIF, talks about the promises and challenges of cloud computing.

Brief description:

Cloud computing holds great promise for customers and entrepreneurs in the United States and around the world. It offers users – including governments and enterprises – the opportunity to pay only for the computing they use rather than maintaining all their computing needs and resources themselves. For innovators, the cloud offers a greatly reduced cost of entry into a market heretofore dominated by big players. However, there are policy challenges to be addressed. Fully realizing this potential requires unprecedented cooperation between industry, consumers and governments to ensure individual privacy and data security and ensure confidence in the remote storage of critical information. Not all are optimistic about the future of cloud computing because of the centralization of personal information, concentrated threats to security and the questions it raises about national sovereignty. This panel, moderated by Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, explored opportunities and challenges of “the cloud.”

Details of the session:

There is a need for discussion about the opportunities and challenges of cloud computing in the public policy arena because of the popularity of platforms like Flickr, Facebook, fantasy sports leagues, Google and Amazon, according to panelists in a cloud computing workshop at the IGF-USA conference July 21 in Washington, D.C.

Panelists included:

  • John Morris, general counsel, Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Dan Castro, senior analyst, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
  • Jack Suess, vice president of information technology, University of Maryland
  • Evan Burfield, chief executive officer, Synteractive
  • Marc Berejka, policy advisor, office of the secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce

Cloud computing offers users — including governments and enterprises — the opportunity to pay only for the computing they use rather than maintaining all their computing needs and resources themselves. This allows innovators to have increased access to the market at a reduced price, increasing competition in the market.

“There is a definite trend to using cloud computing,” Castro said. “There are much lower start-up costs because they don’t have to pay for the infrastructure. It gives you the ability to scale up or scale down. “

A common question is if data posted on cloud computing platforms is secure. The risks to data security and integrity rise with transnational cloud computing. Cloud users often do not know which law enforcement rules apply to their data.

“They don’t even know for sure where the data is; they don’t know exactly what country the data is in,” Morris said. “The challenges of being a cloud computing service provider and how to respond to law enforcement requests are very significant.”

If a cloud customer lives in the United States, but her data is stored on a server in another country, does that make her data more or less secure? Will the laws of the other country alter her rights regarding the actions she takes online?

“I think we will move to seeing risks to free speech on the Internet due to cloud computing,” Morris said. “I think that cloud computing could lead to repression.”

The panel also discussed issued tied to cloud computing and intellectual property.

“As we do move into the cloud there is a question about if we want to protect copyright protection,” Castro said. “Can service providers do a better job? We have a lot of intellectual property in the United States that we care about.”

Panelists noted that cloud computing presents completely new challenges in regard to cybersecurity, copyright protection and free flow of information on the Internet. “In the 1990s, during the version 1.0 era, the government philosophy on the Internet was ‘hands off,’” Berejka said. “We are now truly globally interconnected; it’s not a theory any more. Our philosophy is still to do no harm, but that might not necessarily translate into doing nothing.”

Higher education is one industry that has found a way to take advantage of cloud computing platforms. The outsourcing of student e-mail is becoming common, broadband and advanced networking are available to many more participants and vendor and government support for federations like InCommon is increasing.

“A lot of universities are coming together and thinking about community cloud services,” Suess said. “Higher education likes to collaborate with one another but one of the things that is holding the cloud back is stability. And trust is another question.”

Small businesses are also able to take advantage of cloud computing platforms. Burfield’s company, Synteractive, has 45 employees. He said they have no servers, conduct all their e-mail business in the cloud, use Skype for meetings and use Facebook for marketing. His company created for President Obama’s administration. They built the platform on an Amazon-provided server in about a week, creating the entire platform in the cloud.

“For a small business like ours it’s a great competitive advantage that never existed before,” Burfield said.

Panelists listen as Daniel Castro discusses his perspective on cloud computing.

Cloud computing is allowing small businesses to be competitive, but there are still limits to what cloud computing services can do.

“For the cloud computing revolution to really work for consumers we need for the industry to move to a world of robust data portability,” Morris said. “The real promise of cloud computing for consumers is innovation and competition. I hope that there is data portability so when a new service comes online I can take my data and try the new service.”

Rebecca Smith,

IGF-USA 2010 Workshop- E-Crimes and Malicious Use in the DNS: Implications and Observations

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Panelists (From Left Dr. James Galvin, Bobbie Flaim, Garth Bruen) discuss e-Crimes and the malicious use in the DNS in a workshop format.

Brief description:

The online world and the Internet are continuing to expand at exponential rates. As more and more users and more applications move into the online world with the expansion of broadband and mobile, concerns about online crimes and malicious threats to the Internet and to users also grow. This workshop was established to examine the range and scope of online crimes and malicious use of the Domain Name System. For instance, scam artists host websites with false information or a phisher registers a domain intended to resemble a famous brand. Consumers and businesses can be victims of abuse, and legitimate service providers are seeing crime and fraud in the network. The use of DNS security (DNSSEC) is part of a mitigation strategy.

Details of the session:

Every time an individual pulls up a webpage or website, the Domain Name System is used.

Moderators and industry leaders met at an IGF-USA 2010 workshop titled E-Crimes and Malicious Use in the DNS: Implications and Observations.

Panelists participating in the discussion noted that malicious use and criminal behavior in the DNS is not acceptable, but they did not come up with any clear conclusions regarding new ways to better control these problems.

The moderator of the event was Jim Galvin, director of strategic relationships and technical standards for Afilias. Panelists included Garth Bruen, founder of KnujOn; Doug Isenberg, attorney at law with GigaLaw Firm; Shaundra Watson, counsel for international consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission; John Berryhill, intellectual property lawyer; Bobbie Flaim, special agent with the FBI; Margie Milam, senior policy advisor for ICANN; and Matt Serlin, senior director of domain management at MarkMonitor.

The panelists agreed the abuse of the DNS is not a regional issue nor is it confined to a particular sector of the Internet. The crimes occur across multiple jurisdictions and affect a variety of individuals.

Some shared anecdotes about incidents where collaboration with other entities gave way to resolving a major DNS violation.

-Anna Johnson,

IGF-USA 2010 session summarizes and assesses earlier discussions of three thought-provoking 2020 Internet scenarios

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Elon Communications Fellow Kirsten Bennett and Phillip Bond, President of TechAmerica discuss the outcomes of the scenario stories at IGF-USA 2010.

Brief description:

Earlier in the day at IGF-USA, participants divided into three groups to discuss potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. At this session, moderators briefed the plenary crowd on the discussions and a panel of respondents weighed in with their observations. You can find the one-page descriptions of the proposed scenarios here:

Details of the session:

Moderators for the three futuristic scenarios presented for discussion earlier in the day recapped their respective sessions at the end of the IGF-USA conference. Their summations were followed by some observations from a final set of panelists representing business, academia, civil society and government who shared their perspectives on the different models.

The “Global Government for the Internet” Scenario: Presented by Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice Coalition

This potential-future scenario described a world in which governments might take up citizens’ call to clean up the Internet after it has become dominated by crime and dangerous content.

The panelists and moderators determined a “perfect storm” might result from three factors: a loss of consumer trust in online content and e-commerce, business owners find they can no longer suffer the losses from fraud and lawsuits, and governments have proven themselves capable of successfully using electronic monitoring to halt terrorist attacks.

“Converge those forces together and it has people asking government to come in and take charge,” DelBianco said.

In a “global government” scenario there would likely be strict oversight of online content and e-commerce. There would be required biometric identification for online users, and online publishers would be liable for user-generated content and conduct. All users would have to apply for an “online license” to use the Internet.

The IGF-USA panelists and audience who discussed this potential scenario came to one conclusion: avoid this at all costs. Court systems raise complexity, the barriers raised by governmental control would block entry and innovation, the bad actors are likely to ignore new rules or find ways around them, the digital divide would probably widen and it is not likely that governments would possess the competency needed to manage a large network like the Internet.

While this scenario was found to be deplorable by people attending the IGF session, it also seemed all too plausible. Governmental control is already occurring to varying degrees in some areas of the world; for the most part, people are already no longer able to operate anonymously online; and good intentions to close the digital divide might be a force that could drive the change to this less-than-ideal outcome.

Group members brainstormed ideas to avoid this scenario. They noted that government officials should simply enforce the existing laws and seek solutions without overreacting. They said the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) should involve more higher-level government representatives in its Governmental Advisory Committee.

They said people involved in the IGF process should continue to discuss Internet issues as they emerge and work with industry, government, civil society and technical groups on targeted solutions. And perhaps most importantly everyone has to recognize that the natural inclination of those in governments will always be to think that they have to regulate the Internet. They said this must be avoided when possible.

The “Internet Islands” Scenario: Presented by Andrew Mack, principal of AMGlobal Consulting

In this scenario, subtitled “The Rise of Digital Fortresses and the End of the Digital Republic,” it was proposed that by 2020, corporate, government and individual entities will have established the means to fence off Internet Islands, keeping inhabitants safe within the fortified walls and keeping “dangerous” — and new — voices out.

The small group of listeners and panelists who discussed this potential-future scenario pointed out that this is already a reality for the people online in some regions of the world and the leaders behind such “walled gardens” all claim to have legitimate reasons for the separation they maintain from the open Internet.

Discussants of this scenario said it is best to avoid a tipping point where we go from having a few scattered Internet islands to isolating nearly everyone in separate spaces online.

“The multi-stakeholder model is absolutely critical (to avoiding this),” said Leslie Martinkovics, director of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon Communications.

The group described four types of islands: totalitarian, liberal, corporate and cultural. The discussants of this scenario also came to the conclusion that users appear to trust the private sector more than the government when it comes to their activities on the World Wide Web.

“There is a lot of trust in the private sector on the Web,” Mack said. “Even though we know in our heart of hearts they have shared information with government.”

Audience participants who discussed this scenario noted that non-governmental organizations will continue in their traditional role as bearing witness and representing those who are unable to represent themselves and they noted that NGOs also serve as an important resource for government and corporate entities.

The scenario discussants determined that the threat of making more Internet Islands can’t be solved by one group but instead it must be addressed by many organizations and entities. They said the IGF should remain a place for open dialogue and it should not get into the business of making policies.

Other practical ideas discussants suggested to help prevent this sort of scenario included expanding regional participation, working to make meetings more substantive and promoting best practices.

The “Users Reign” Scenario: Presented by Pablo Molina, CIO of Georgetown University Law Center

This potential-future scenario anticipates that thanks to major breakthroughs in language translation and the proliferation of cheap easy-to-use mobile devices, billions more users begin to use the Internet — especially through social networking sites. And these new users become the people who are generating — and controlling — most of the content on the Internet.

Two words that filled the “Users Reign” session, Molina said, were “Facebook” and “privacy.” He added that other issues raised by the discussants of this future scenario included autonomy, identity, user-generated content, freedom of expression, censorship and editorial control.

This discussion group noted that the general public is not appropriately represented in Internet governance, directly or through intermediaries or via markets. They considered the idea that with billions more people coming online from developing nations that the Internet may change and they asked if Mandarin Chinese may become the dominant language. They said participants in the IGF process should focus on education, awareness and best practices.

They said a goal of 100,000 attendees, most in the virtual form, should be the target for the 2020 IGF. They said smart user engagement, including crowdsourcing and social research could be implemented to incorporate collective intelligence in the processes of IGF. And they added that those attendees should better represent the diversity of the users of the Internet.

Respondents comment on the scenario panel discussions

After the moderators of the three future-Internet scenarios presented information on their individual sessions, a panel of IGF-USA participants commented on their findings.

The group of respondents included Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC); Rebecca MacKinnon, a co-founder of Global Voices and visiting fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University; Milton Mueller, professor at Syracuse University School of Information Studies; Michael J. Nelson, professor at Georgetown University; Phil Bond, president and CEO of TechAmerica; Leslie Martinkovics, director of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon; Richard Beaird, senior deputy United States coordinator for international communications and information policy for the U.S. Department of State; and Kirsten Bennett, a communications fellow at Elon University and student research assistant for the Imagining the Internet Center.

Most of the respondents agreed that the most desirable future of the three scenarios presented is the one in which “users reign” on the Internet. They also agreed that the current trend is not headed in that direction.

They don’t see any of the scenarios as perfect, however. Bennett said while she finds personal value in her participation in popular social media and networking sites online there are some negatives that need to be addressed in the “users reign” model.

“You are broadcasting what you want people to think you are but you are not experiencing the world as you would have before the cameras were on,” Bennett said. “… (You) changed your personality. As soon as you put on that camera you’re acting.”

– Anna Johnson,

Participants in IGF-USA final plenary panel show unanimous support for global Internet Governance Forum process

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closing_plenaryA member of the gathered audience at the close of the first-ever Internet Governance Forum-USA in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2, 2009, offered his response to the open-ended and personal question about why the IGF is important to our future.

“No matter where you’re from,” he said, “you can share your ideas.”

That particular response, however understated and simple, seemed to carry the day and serve as the main thrust of the afternoon plenary session that assessed the IGF and its future.

Panelists on the daylong conference’s closing discussion continued to echo the importance of a multistakeholder dialogue, a concept that was initially raised during the opening session and continually referenced throughout the conference.

“What is important to me about multistakeholderism is not that it’s a formalized exercise in which you have a mechanism that puts a government person and a civil society person and a business person on a panel next to each other and assume they’re all speaking for their group,” said Milton Mueller, a professor in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies who participated by remote video feed.

“What’s important is to maintain access to all the players that have real operational or political control over Internet governance.

It’s distributed, it’s decentralized. What’s important about the IGF is the extent to which it can bring together all those people and come up with solutions to those problems.        – Milton Mueller

And open, unfettered discussions that don’t have to result in some kind of formal decree or decision have been a byproduct of putting several different opinions, ideologies and interests at the same table.

art_reilly“We recognized that the information society is an ecosystem that involves all the players and it’s built by contributions from all,” said Art Reilly, senior director of strategic technology policy for Cisco.

“The IGF has evolved. Any issue is on the table and it can be dealt with frankly and honestly. Because there’s no decision making, I don’t have to worry about at the end of the day what that sentence is that’s going to describe that discussion.

“We have the opportunity to have a very frank discussion.”

Of course, moderator Marilyn Cade, principal of ICT Strategies, didn’t want to know only how IGF impacted those in attendance. She also wanted to know what people had done to help IGF during the last three years.

She and the panelists noted the evolution of the IGF from its first international conference in Athens to its upcoming meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

beairdRichard Beaird, senior deputy and United States coordinator for international communications and information policy with the U.S. Department of State, said the U.S. government, specifically, has helped IGF during its course by supporting the organization since its inception and continuing to play an active role in its existence.

“We support the continuation of the IGF through it sessions, and we will continue to do so,” Beaird said. “We will be in Sharm el-Sheikh. Our participation is full, and we will continue to be available upon request to participate in workshops and panels.”

Beyond that, individual members of IGF have helped support the organization by offering an abundance of their time and energy toward ensuring that IGF hosts important and informative conferences.

“We have contributed significantly to shaping the agenda in the sense that we’ve been very willing to take on the controversial issues and promote the forum as a way of having a rational and intelligent dialogue about those issues,” Mueller said.

markus_kummer_IGF_USA_09While the IGF has demonstrated great progress in its effective collaboration in the last three years, all panelists agreed that room for improvement was available.

They said the critical mission of the IGF – that it remain an informal organization that holds open discussions – shouldn’t change.

But Markus Kummer, the executive coordinator for the Internet Governance Forum, observed that some questions have been raised about whether the group’s core beliefs should be reanalyzed.

We have been changing throughout but we have maintained some core principles. Should these core principles be maintained or not? Some would like to change some of the principles and reorient the IGF more like a traditional UN body. Many governments are not used to this freewheeling type of discussion. But there is danger that governments could have the last word, so there is a need for an outreach.    – Markus Kummer

Panelists and attendees ended the daylong event looking optimistically toward the global conference in Egypt and yet another opportunity to engage in an international dialogue about Internet issues.

“(The IGF) deals with global issues, transnational issues, ones that require coordination across political boundaries, and that is probably the most important thing about the IGF,” Mueller said. “We cannot deal with the Internet in a purely national context. We don’t want to put the Internet back into boxes for the purposes of regulation.”

-Colin Donohue,

IGF-USA young people’s panel: GenNext’s Online Future

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This 2009 IGF-USA session description: “Young Internet users, entrepreneurs and advocates are the expert respondents in this session which is aimed at illuminating current and future issues. Discussion points will include the positives and negatives of hyperconnectivity, online security/safety, copyright, the future of the media and information, and the future of identity and privacy.”

Nathaniel James, executive director for OneWebDay was the panel moderator. Participants on the panel included Sebastian Bernal, a student in the School of International Service at American University; Aaron Eilbott, a sophomore at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va.; Randy Gyllenhaal, and Alex Trice, both from Elon University’s School of Communications; and Kim Ngyuyen, consumer privacy fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

How they use the Internet

The panelists started out by describing their personal use of the Internet and online tools. Aaron Eilbott, age 14, noted he has more than 300 Facebook friends and at any moment at least 100 of them are online. Randy Gyllenhaal spoke with enthusiasm about his Blackberry. “There’s a reason they call them Crackberries,” he said as he noted that he is checking it all the time.

Moderator Nathan James, director of OneWebDay, asked the young panelists to share stories about how they work online. Eilbott said he keeps Facebook on when he does homework every day. “One day last week it went completely offline and I felt deserted,” he said. “I had to do my homework by myself. I didn’t realize I was kind of addicted to it until I didn’t have it.”

Kim Ngyuyen, a consumer privacy fellow for EPIC in her mid-20s said that she disagrees with older adults that the Internet is a distraction for young people.

It is actually more distracting when the Internet is down because you keep clicking on it and checking and checking when it’s gone. You are trying to do everything you can to get that Internet back. It’s a security blanket. You always need to feel connected. – Kim Ngyuyen

She also spoke about being online while in class at her university. “It’s not a distraction there. When you are called on in classes, friends might ‘chat’ you answers to help you if you have trouble answering a professor’s question,” she said, adding with a smile, “I’m not saying all of the conversations are academic, you know.” The room filled with laughter.

Being hyperconnected, now and in the future

Discussant Stephen Balkam, director of the Family Online Safety Institute, brought up a current BBC report titled “Tech Addiction Harms Learning.” It noted that 63 percent of the students surveyed indicated that they are addicted to Internet. “Obviously this was written by adults with a different point of view,” he told the panelists, noting that it might be a slanted perspective. “The world you guys are going to inherit is an interconnected world… Whether we like it or not we are going to a world where there is this constant need and desire to be connected.”

Panelist Alex Trice, 19, agreed. “I had to do an assignment for class where I had to go through a whole day without being connected to media, and I was constantly thinking about it… For our generation, being connected is important.”

Sebastian Bernal, a freshman from American University, noted that the hyperconnectedness we have now is “just foreshadowing what we will have in the future.”

Discussant Balkam noted that some people anticipate that brain implants of information devices may be only five years away. “When your kids come to you and ask for a brain implant,” he asked rhetorically, “what are you going to do about that?”

Young people tough on right age for starting on the ‘net

The group of young people began to discuss the appropriate age to begin going online. Trice said she started using the Internet at age 7, researching dinosaurs, fairies and unicorns. “I would say don’t get an e-mail address and Facebook until you are 13,” she said.

Randy Gyllenhaal, a senior at Elon University, said he read a report that 11 is the average age of a child encountering a porn site. “There are certain things in the digital world like pornography that worry me,” he said. “They should be exposed to the Internet, but don’t become addicted to it until you are rational about it like we are.”

Bernal said 13 is the age he would suggest to delineate as the divider before a child goes online. “If a 2-year-old or 4-year-old is online all the time, he won’t be able to develop social skills.” Ngyuyen said she suggests children should not go online before the age of 13. “The risk of stumbling upon pornography or something that is harmful to children is higher every year,” she said. “The Internet poses a specific danger to younger children. It is up to parents to make sure their children are using the Internet the right way.”

Eilbott declined to set a particular age for starting on the Internet. “I wouldn’t want to expose my children to the Internet until they have a reason to use it for educational purposes,” he said.

Privacy as an opt-in choice

The topic of online privacy was introduced by the moderator. “We don’t have to give up our privacy,” Ngyuyen said. “Users have to have control over their information. You should have a choice. EPIC favors an opt-in approach not opt-out. So you should start with no information available about you and then have to opt-in to allowing it to be shared.”

Eilbott said he generally knows the people who are seeing information about him on social networks. “I have met 90 to 95 percent of the people who are my friends on Facebook,” he said.

On Facebook, it’s not about being friends with them as it is with friends in real life. On Facebook, the definition of a friend is anyone you have met in your life for at least two seconds.   – Aaron Eilbott

How young people get their information

The panel began discussing how they get information. “I am probably the only person in my age group who watches network news,” he said, adding that he thinks the “flattening world of media” – in regard to so many unreliable sources getting into the mix, with some being considered to be producing ‘news’ – is dangerous. “I think most people still trust CNN, the Associated Press the New York Times, and I feel the mainstream media has been flattened to include bloggers.

“It is important to have professional and verifiable journalists doing work and Twitter and those tools will help spread that information out to those who are not looking at traditional news.”

Trice noted that she gets news through her social networks. “I find out a lot of news on Facebook and on Twitter rather than watching television, I find it all out on the Internet,” she noted, and she added, “We all know how to use the technology and it gives us more power as individuals. We can share what we see from our perspectives from all over the world. Rather than just the mainstream media you can see news as a person sees it from an eyewitness viewpoint.”

A member of the audience, Derrick Cogburn of American University, asked the panelists what techniques they have developed or adopted “to vet the information that’s coming at you so fast today. How do you know that Michael Jackson died?” Trice told a story about being out with friends one night when she got a text message that Matt Damon had died. She and her friends began texting other people to ask if it was true and didn’t hear any verification. Next, they checked the LA Times. “We didn’t see anything from a source we trusted,” she said, “so we didn’t believe he died.”

Copyright and IP gets audience going

The moderator brought up the topic of intellectual property and copyright. “Think about the people you know and how they are using content,” James said. “Tell us from your perspective in a world where information flows so quickly it is simpler to get it without paying. Where is the intellectual property debate going?”

Eilbott said teens are aware of copyright but they don’t care about it. “We are aware of what can happen if you are caught, but there’s not much fear of any legal consequences,” he said. “The fee if you get caught is so high that it seems almost mythical – $80,000 if you download one song, yeah right. ”

Trice observed that hackers who enable illegal downloaders always seem to find a way around any barriers raised to deter them.

No matter how many ways they try to make people pay, they are going to find ways to circumvent it and find ways to hack into it and get it free.   – Alex Trice

Susan Anthony from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was among many audience members with a keen interest and questions tied to this topic. “If it’s my ox you’re goring I care, if it isn’t, I don’t,” she noted. “In the United States we talk about the university age as the ‘lost generation’ in regard to respecting other people’s copyrights. We have an ongoing debate over how early you should start teaching children about copyright. Some say in elementary school, but I don’t know how I think about that.”

Gyllenhaal jumped into the discussion. “I agree with you completely,” he said. “I think it comes down to the moral issue that you are taking someone else’s work. Personally, a song means more to me if I pay for it. It’s the principle of it – you are taking something that’s not yours. From the moral level of it, if more people treated the Internet that way we’d be better off.”

Several of the young people on the panel agreed that they would pay a flat rate to cover all downloads of copyright-protected content, such as $5 per month paid to their ISP.

Anonymity is valued by young people

When asked by an audience member about anonymity, all of the panelists said they have an anonymous e-mail account. “I call it my spam e-mail account,” Gyllenhaal said. “I don’t have a secret life. It is my Yahoo account. I send my Facebook stuff there and anytime I have to register for a site I use it to avoid spam.”

Ngyuyen also said she uses an extra e-mail address for dealing with spam. “I also use it when I want to make comments on blogs and I want to stay anonymous,” she said. “In general, I do think people have the right to be anonymous online. It would create a chilling effect to lose that right.”

Gyllenhaal brought up Juicy Campus, a currently defunct site on which all posts were anonymous and people were being subjected to bullying and hate speech. And online bullying was briefly discussed.

What are adults all wrong about?

A member of the audience asked, “When you hear adults talk about these ‘universal truths’ about young people online, are any of them really true?”

My parents assume that just because I am on the Internet while I’m doing homework I’m not getting anything done. They don’t give us enough credit for the fact that we are able to multitask.  – Alex Trice

Ngyuyen also said her ability to work on other tasks while online was misunderstood. “My parents had the misconception that the Internet is really an entertainment world when in fact I would say having fun on the Internet is maybe 30 percent. I am learning something.”

Eilbott admitted some distraction, noting his parents “do have a point, I will get home from school, start my homework and an hour later not have done anything but talk to 12 friends.”

-Janna Anderson,