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

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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: http://www.igf-usa.us/

-Colin Donohue, http://imaginingtheinternet.org

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, http://imaginingtheinternet.org

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 recovery.gov 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, www.imaginingtheinternet.org

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, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

IGF-USA 2010 Workshop – Web security will define the future of the Internet

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Panelists discuss the different options, perspectives and issues surrounding web security.

Brief description:

This panel, moderated by Robert Guerra of Freedom House, focused on critical Internet resources and how to ensure that the underlying principles that have led to the Internet’s success persist in the face of security challenges. These principles include openness (open standards, open technologies), accessibility transparency, bottom-up decision-making, cooperation and multi-stakeholder engagement. Key to implementing these principles is also a broadened understanding of the role of the infrastructure providers, such as global and national Internet services/connectivity providers who build and operate the backbones and edge networks. The panel was also expected to address some of the implications for the implementation of DNSSEC and IPv6 on a national basis that contribute to the security and resiliency of CIR on a global basis.

Details of the session:

The Internet’s success well into the future may be largely dependent on how it responds and reacts to increasing security challenges, according to panelists in a critical Internet resources workshop at the IGF-USA conference July 21 in Washington, D.C.

The Internet continues to evolve. It is also growing, as it becomes accessible to billions more people. The major challenge of our generation is to make the Internet more secure while continuing to promote openness, accessibility, transparency, bottom-up decision-making, cooperation and multistakeholder engagement. It is important that organizations continue to retain these values as much as possible as they react to cybersecurity and cybertrust issues.

Panelists at this workshop included:

  • Moderator Robert Guerra, Freedom House
  • Trent Adams, outreach specialist for the Internet Society
  • Matt Larson, vice president of DNS research for VeriSign
  • Steve Ryan, counsel to the American Registry for Internet Numbers
  • Patrick Jones, senior manager of continuity and risk management for ICANN
  • Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for public policy for AT&T

Panelists all expressed a desire to continue to engage in multifaceted talks because a single governmental entity is not the solution; it takes many people working together. As Brueggeman put it, there’s no “silver bullet” for the issue of Internet security.

“What we do on a day-to-day basis is ensure that those conversations take place,” Adams said. “The (critical Internet) resource is not a thing you can touch. You have this mesh of interconnected components that is the critical resource. You can’t pull one of those components out. Everyone must be around that table.”

So what’s the solution? The answer to that question is still a little unclear because Internet service providers and other organizations are often reactive to issues. Brueggeman said it’s time to embrace a forward-thinking approach.

“Things can get complicated when you’re reacting to an attack,” he said. “The best way to deal with these things is to try to think about them up front. How do we detect and prevent rather than react after the fact? How can we have more cooperative information sharing before attacks to try to prevent them and have the best information we can?”

Ryan stressed, though, that not all government is bad. He said citizens and organizations need to think “carefully about what the role of the government is.” But still, there should be a symbiotic relationship.

“There’s become a sense in government policy circles, including in the most sophisticated, that somehow (the Internet) runs on its own and you can’t break it,” he said. “I have news for you: You can break it. We look at government as something that has an increasingly important role because the Internet has an increasingly important role in economies.”

Ryan continued by saying non-governmental organizations have a responsibility to work with governments and to educate the people who work in them. He and the other panelists agreed that an international governmental organization wouldn’t work, though, unless core Internet values are embraced and upheld. They said a set-up that would allow countries around the world to vote on how the Internet is governed would not be a favorable solution.

“Until we get it right,” Ryan said, “I think we’re muddling along rather well.”

Panelists weigh in on the debate surrounding web security.

DNS issues and DNSSEC

Larson spoke specifically about the security of the Domain Name System because he views the DNS as an absolutely critical Internet resource. “If you don’t have the DNS, you don’t have the Internet,” he noted. He said users can’t truly trust the DNS, though, which is a bit disconcerting because of its necessity.

He supports DNSSEC—Domain Name System Security Extensions—which give users digital signatures (origin authentication) and data integrity. “Once you have that, you can validate data and have a higher level of confidence that the data you’re getting back is valid,” Larson said.

(You can read more about DNSSEC here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnssec.)

He also said that DNSSEC makes DNS more trustworthy and critical to users as more applications—not just host names—depend on it. “We’re going to look back and realize it enabled a whole new class of applications to put information in the DNS,” Larson said. “Now you can trust the information coming out of the DNS.”

Going from IPv4 to a combination with IPv6

Ryan emphasized the importance of Internet Protocol version 6, IPv6, a new Internet layer protocol for packet switching that will allow a “gazillion numbers” vastly expanding the address space online. There is a rapidly decreasing pool of numbers left under IPv4. Ryan said the increased flexibility of IPv6 will allow for the continued growth of the Internet, but it won’t be a free-for-all.

“The numbers we have issued are not property,” he said. “We have a legal theory that’s embodied in every contract we’ve issued. They belong to community. If you’re not using them, you have to give them back. They are in essence an intangible, non-property interest, so over the next couple of years there will be some very interesting legal issues.”

ICANN in action

Jones said ICANN, which recently passed its 10-year milestone, has continued to work collaboratively with the community to take on major initiatives, such as the introduction of internationalized domain names in the root.

“We have taken requests from countries for internationalized country codes and approved 15,” Jones said.

“There’s a huge development in those regions of the world where you can now have domain names and an Internet that reflects their own languages and scripts. That will have an impact as discussion around critical Internet resources continues, especially in the IGF space.”

Physical critical resources

Brueggeman said AT&T has a broader perspective of critical Internet resources because the company is responsible for carrying Web traffic and for the underlying infrastructure, not just involved in issues tied to the DNS. He said the transition to IPv6 is daunting because it’s not backward-compatible. His main challenge has been in outreach efforts to customers.

“We have to deal with a lot of traffic that’s generated as we’re making changes to DNSSEC and IPv6,” he said. “In some cases, you might create some new security concerns, but overall both are important essential transitions.”

Brueggeman emphasized that multistakeholder discussions will be important in the coming years.

“We really need all of the parties who have the direct stake at the table to be part of the solution,” he said. “We need to have the resources handled in a way that promotes openness and promotes interoperability. There’s a huge policy risk of not managing these resources in a multistakeholder way.”

-by Colin Donohue, http://imaginingtheinternet.org

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: http://www.igf-usa.us/page/scenario-stories

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, http://imaginingtheinternet.org

IGF-USA Scenario Discussion: Panelists, participants discuss future that puts Internet governance in hands of governments worldwide

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Facilitators Steve DelBianco, Walda Rosemann and Janice LeChance lead a discussion on a possible global government for the Internet.

Brief description:

IGF participants broke into three different rooms to discuss three different, possible potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. In this session, the description given to the discussants was: Most of us assume that the ICT industry, media companies and NGOs will continue to be the leading players on the Internet stage, with governments playing just a supporting role. This scenario describes an alternate future, where citizens and industry worldwide demand that their governments take center stage to clean up an Internet that has become infected with dangerous content and criminal conduct.

Details of the session:

Panelists and gathered participants in a scenario session at IGF-USA 2010 in Washington, D.C., expressed discouragement about an Internet future that will quickly witness larger international governmental control that would ultimately remove power from the ICT industry, media companies and NGOs, who now continue to be the main controllers of the Internet.

“A scenario is not a prediction,” said panel moderator Steve DelBianco, the executive director of NetChoice Coalition. “It’s designed to be provocative, but plausible. It’s designed to challenge your assumptions.”

Some members of the audience were skeptical that the scenario, as a whole, is plausible, but all agreed that if it became reality, it would be a frightening prospect. (Read the full description of the scenario here: http://api.ning.com/files/KeHnmv3O-PHbKeh0tKl8RaAjWl7S9siFVN8YEM6lN0ImimLqwuq6B2UlGNDtHBKp7MwNPjexPsur3DKlypEhgQ__/GlobalGovernmentfortheInternet.pdf)

DelBianco presented three converging forces that serve as drivers for the scenario:

  • Consumers lose trust in online content and e-commerce.
  • Businesses can no longer tolerate losses from fraud and lawsuits.
  • Governments have successfully used electronic monitoring to thwart terrorist attacks.

As a result of those three forces, the scenario proposed the following about the Internet in 2020:

  • Governments cooperate to oversee online content and e-commerce to a greater degree than ever before
  • Government and businesses require biometric ID for online users
  • Online publishers are now liable for user-generated content and conduct
  • You need an “Online License” to use the Internet.

Janice Lachance, the chief executive officer of the Special Libraries Association and an invited panelist for the session, said she is anxious about the scenario’s potential to stem the openness of the Internet.

“I think this scenario gives us all a lot to think about,” Lachance said. “As someone who has an organization that’s concerned with the free flow of information and the access to information, I think that excessive government involvement raises red flags for us. It probably isn’t all bad, but if it’s certainly getting to the point that’s described here, I fear we will have a lot of consequences if you’re trying to do business.”

Walda Roseman, the founder of CompassRose International, said she thinks there’s a “rolling thunder” toward more governmental control because of the increasing security threats facing online users. A member of the audience agreed, saying the scenario is not so unlikely because it’s happening at lower levels already.

“All of these situations are going on, just not at a tipping point,” said the participant. “I don’t think this is necessarily avoidable. I think the focus should be on how to facilitate solutions, rather than to prevent something that currently exists.”

One possible solution, according to Roseman, is to rely on more and better intergovernmental cooperation. She said it’s necessary for countries to find ways to hold more cohesive and inclusive dialogues.

“Can we shape conclusions as a world as opposed to quickly avoid them?” Roseman said. “We’re seeing a lot of collaboration among governments, and the collaboration is not yet 100 percent on the cybersecurity issues, but it’s a different alliance there. We’re wanting intergovernmental organizations to make the policy decisions and a whole lot more than the policy decisions.”

Several audience members said they don’t foresee national governments getting together on the issue of Internet governance in the near future when they can’t even come to concrete conclusions on financial regulation or climate change, for example.

So if “some bizarre world government” isn’t created to handle the issue, as one participant said, then it will fall, most likely, to the local governmental level or the United Nations. Even then, there was some articulated concern that a governmental body simply can’t respond and react in a timely fashion to any problems that may arise.

“I’m concerned about notion of institutional competence,” said an audience member. “Does the government have the competence to run the Internet? I don’t think they have the expertise or the quickness to react.”

Markus Kummer, executive coordinator of the Internet Governance Forum, said that government shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame for ineffective policies.

“We need to avoid having a black-and-white picture of all government is bad and all the other institutions are good,” Kummer said. “I think it’s a little more complex than that. How do we find a fruitful cooperation among all the actors?”

No matter who might claim Internet governance, panelists and participants expressed concerns about the future of anonymity, security, openness and freedom of information on the Internet. They said it’s up to the people who work together through IGF to continue having conversations that could lead to a positive future. “Citizens and business have lost patience, and they need solutions,” DelBianco said. “If we don’t deliver, entities that discuss may be seen as not fast enough to solve problems. We need to show progress. Lots of organizations will have to start delivering results so we don’t get the result we don’t want. We need to avoid having the Exxon Valdez of Internet security.”

Two U.S. government employees who were part of the audience for the scenario said the United States needs to look carefully and closely at how it views and values the Internet to figure out what it truly wants and needs. “This is moving so much faster than we expected,” said a U.S. State Department participant. “Are we going to lose by maybe trying to be idealistic and assuming that everyone else is going to take on our same model? Maybe we need to get together as U.S. citizens and ask, ‘What do we absolutely want for our Internet, what do we want as a country?’ and get really clear on that so that when we start making foreign policy decisions we’re not compromising our values.”

-Colin Donohue, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org