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

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IGF-USA 2012 Opening Plenary Roundtable: Emerging Internet Issues – Governments or Governance?

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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.

Details of the session:

The session was moderated by Marilyn Cade, the chief catalyst of IGF-USA. Panelists included:

  • Rebecca MacKinnon, the Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation
  • Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Jacquelynn L. Ruff, vice president of International Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs for Verizon Communications
  • Paul Brigner, the regional bureau director of the North American Bureau at the Internet Society
  • John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers
  • Kristin Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Inveneo
  • Fiona Alexander, associate administrator of the Office of International Affairs at NTIA

If there’s a keyword lying at the heart of the Internet Governance Forum it is “multistakeholder.” Key is the belief that individuals from various backgrounds—from private industry to civil society to government to academia—benefit from gathering and discussing their visions for the future, and the viability thereof. Whether they’re able to reach any consensus after gathering and discussing the issues is another matter entirely.

The 2012 IGF-USA conference, held at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C., Thursday, opened with a panel showing just how diverse these individuals can be, and how varied their focus is in regard to the pressing issues facing the parties looking to influence the continued growth of the Internet.

Rebecca MacKinnon from the New American Foundation speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Rebecca MacKinnonof the New America Foundation opened the seven-member discussion by highlighting the importance of the “digital commons,” the non-commercial backbone providing structure to a number of vital digital institutions. Because of the shared nature of this backbone, which stretches across traditional nation-state boundaries, MacKinnon said she believes the world is on the verge of a reformation of the current governing concepts, as individual states try to gain control over institutions that involve those beyond their jurisdiction.

In the modern era, MacKinnon asserted, individuals are “not just citizens of nation-states and communities, we’re citizens of the Internet.”

“We have to be informed about how power is exercised,” she continued, highlighting a need for everyone involved to play their part in shaping the direction of the Internet’s evolution.

This, in turn, circles back to not just the perceived necessity for multi-stakeholder solutions, but the lingering questions as to how those solutions are reached.

“How do we ensure that the policy-making mechanisms actually allow input from all affected stakeholders?” MacKinnon asked.

She theorized that societies are on the precipice of a “Magna Carta” moment, in which the traditional concepts that dictate the ways in which governments work will be disrupted by this multistakeholder model.

This drew some rebuttals to some degree from other members of the panel.

Fiona Alexander, associate administrator at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, agreed with MacKinnon that some nations may be standing at that edge, but said the Magna Carta moment isn’t to be expected of every country, or even every stakeholder taking part in current dialogue.

“They [unnamed stakeholders] have in many cases failed to live up to what’s expected of them,” she said, which leaves those advocating for multistakeholder solutions in a situation where they’re defending a model for governance under siege, fostering doubts for its efficacy.

And a large number of those stakeholders are far behind those in developed, Western countries in regard to Internet penetration.

Fiona Alexander speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Kristin Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Inveneo, a non-profit organization dedicated to the proliferation of communications technology in the developing world, shared just how much work needs to be done in bridging the gap between dominant Internet stakeholders and those just attaining reasonable access to the Web.

“Internet access is important not just on individual level, but on a functional level, an organizational level,” she said.

Part of this is due to the remoteness of developing, rural areas, which drives up the cost of infrastructure to a counterproductive degree.

A single 1MB connection, Peterson highlighted, which would be suitable for a school or a medical clinic, costs upwards of $800 a month in Haiti. Another unnamed country that Inveneo has worked with has less than 100MB in total. And that 1MB of Internet access? It costs roughly $2,000 per month.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, far removed from countries just beginning to break down the barriers preventing them from gaining full access to the Internet, are stakeholders who, in the minds of some, will have an inordinate amount of influence over multi-stakeholder debates.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, highlighted the influence of corporate entities as one such problem.

Comparing growing corporate influence over the Internet to “the clouds gathering at the beginning of a Batman movie,” Rotenberg warned those in attendance, “You have to pay attention when the skies darken, things are about to happen.”

One such entity, which Rotenberg accused of having an ever-growing outsized influence over the Internet, is Google, whose growing presence on the Web is the “Number-one threat to Internet freedom.”

Regardless of whether that’s the case, such problems do require a means to draw in those affected by the evolving dialogue on Internet governance.

John Curran speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

“How do we get people engaged, how do we raise a flag and pull in society, business, governments?” asked John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers.

Curran offered perspective into the scope of the problems facing Internet stakeholders, the shape of which appears on multiple layers, with technological standards and protocols existing at the bottom layer. They require little political involvement, moving up to domain names and IP addresses, which aren’t necessarily the most hot-button social issues under debate within the halls of Congress. Nonetheless, they bring about privacy and tracking concerns, peaking with the broad, end-user experiences that draw in such general topics as intellectual property use, censorship and national security.

And, of course, given the nature of IGF, the multistakeholder model is seen as the best means to approach such problems.

Paul Brigner, the regional director of the North American Bureau at the Internet Society and Jacquelynn Ruff, vice president of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon, offered insight into how new players are accepting and integrating into the multistakeholder approach.

Telecommunications firms, well aware of the dwindling demand for their traditional services in the wake of the Internet revolution, are “moving away from focusing on traditional telecommunications to Internet protocol and Internet issues,” Brigner said.

Jacquelynn Ruff speaks at the Opening Plenary Roundtable at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

An issue such as the possible transition to a sending party pays structure, for example, is an issue that demands the inclusion and participation of a multitude of affected parties. Under such a regime, “You’re not free, necessarily, to innovate at low cost like you experience today,” Brigner said. “The end-to-end nature of the Internet that allows these sort of things to evolve.”

To alleviate some of the difficulty inherent in such discussions, Ruff cited the importance of enhanced cooperation, the notion of mapping past developments, current deficiencies and projecting future ambitions in a way that involves all interested parties. Emphasizing examples within UNESCO, ICANN and the Council of Europe, Ruff celebrated enhanced cooperation’s increasing rate of adoption.

The world is at “a fork in the road on the global discussion on where the future lies,” she said. And applying enhanced cooperation to the traditional multi-stakeholder methodology could be an effective means to remedy the arguments over which path to take.

That said, a plethora of stakeholders have their own interpretation and they will be seizing the opportunities granted by this IGF event and future conferences to throw their hat into the ring drawn by the opening plenary session’s panelists.

— Morgan Little

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IGF-USA 2012 Opening Remarks from Marilyn Cade

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – The Internet Governance Forum-USA opened with general remarks from Marilyn Cade, IGF-USA chief catalyst. Cade is chair of the Business Consituency at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and CEO at ICT Strategies. She is a longtime leader in the WSIS and Global IGF processes and is a principal in the G20 ICT Policy Network and she has extensive expertise in multilaterial organizations including the ITU, OECD and APEC. She previously worked as vice president for Internet and Internet governance for AT&T.

Details of the session:

Marilyn Cade, Chief Catalyst to IGF-USA

Marilyn Cade, chief catalyst of Internet Governance Forum-USA, opened the 2012 conference at Georgetown Law Center July 26, 2012, by welcoming the gathered guests and discussing the goals of IGF during her quick 4-minute introduction.

Cade, an expert and international adviser on Internet policy, discussed the importance of regional and national initiatives such as IGF-USA as part of the international Internet policy debate.

The multistakeholder event, which includes representatives from government, NGOs, civil society and private enterprise, will feature what Cade called “frank discussion” on controversial subjects related to telecommunications.

“We do try to expand the learning about each other’s diverging points of view about tough topics,” Cade said. “We can talk about tough topics but we don’t have to tough while we do that.”

Plenary sessions and workshops will address topics including human rights, Internet freedom, cyber security and disaster response.

“The IGF-USA focuses more on the meta-level of building and supporting the multistakeholder models and to enhance awareness about what that means,” Cade said. “So we follow the practice of the IGF, hearing all voices. We don’t make decisions, per se. We don’t negotiate text.”

— Brennan McGovern

Written by andersj

July 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Internet Governance Forum-USA, 2011 Closing Remarks

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Details of the Session

Marilyn Cade, catalyst of IGF-USA, provided closing remarks to participants at this year’s conference in Washington, D.C., that mirrored, in some ways, her remarks from the previous year, as she described her view of the state of the Internet.

“We were at the very beginnings of the earthquake way out in the middle of the ocean,” Cade said, referring to one of her discussions from last year. “We were just beginning to detect some seismic activity that eventually, if not dealt with, could lead to a tsunami.”

This seismic activity, as Cade described, was a need to deepen the involvement of people around the world in issues related to Internet governance.

“It’s possible we’re on the threshold of some bad outcomes and we need to deal with those now,” Cade said.

In light of potential threats to the use and access of the Internet as we know it, Cade encouraged people who were not previously a part of IGF to stay in touch and remain involved in discussions surrounding Internet governance.

Cade, along with Chengetai Masango, representative of the United Nations Secretariat for the IGF, urged conference participants to attend the 2011 global IGF conference this fall.

The conference, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from Sept. 27-30, will be the sixth global IGF meeting. Masango said the main theme of the meeting will be “Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation,” and will include more than 90 workshops, best practices, open forums, dynamic coalitions and an IGF Village—a space where organizations can display their Internet governance activities.

Masango stressed that not only are the event meetings themselves important to attendees, but that there is “value at the edges”—a benefit from meeting and dialoging with others who have concerns about Internet governance.

Various remote participation options will be available for those interested in being a part of the 2011 global conference but are unable to travel to Nairobi. Among the options are Webex, realtime transcription, a webcast, email, Twitter and HUBS—gatherings of interested people or national IGFs that can connect together through Webex to take part in the meeting.

More information on the 2011 global conference can be found at http://www.intgovforum.org.

– Natalie Allison

Written by andersj

July 19, 2011 at 3:20 am

Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 Potential-future scenario discussion: Government Prevails

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Brief description:

IGF participants broke into three different rooms to discuss three different, possible potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2025. In this session, the brief description given to the discussants noted that “Government Prevails” scenario imagines a future affected by man-made and natural challenges and disasters – wars, civil strife, an aging world and interventionist governments. This scenario assumes that while “the ICT industry, media companies and NGOs” are the leading players on the Internet stage today [some people might disagree with this assumption], by 2025 governments and inter-governmental organizations will have come to rule the Internet as a result of actions taken to protect particular interests from negative exposure.

Details of the session:

A small group of Internet stakeholders from various sectors met to discuss the Government Prevails potential-future scenario at the Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 at Georgetown University Law Center.

The audience-participation session was led by facilitators Pam Covington of Verisign, Walda Roseman of the Internet Society, Steve DelBianco of NetChoice and ex officio leader Marilyn Cade of ICT Strategies.

This scenario sets up a closed-off future for the Internet. You can read the one-page PDF used to launch this discussion here:

http://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/Government_Prevails_Scenario.pdf

The potential future drivers of change people were asked to consider included:

  • Manmade and natural disasters push governments to exert more control over Internet resources.
  • Changes in the Domain Name System force intergovernmental organizations to impose new global regulatory regimes.
  • Networked image sensing through devices such as Kinect and GPS are used to identify and track people, with positive and negative effects, but the net result is a global surveillance culture.
  • Governments limit bandwidth for video conferencing when they find revenues for hotels, airlines and other travel-related economic entities in sharp decline.
  • Lawsuits and other developments cause governments to create blacklists of websites prohibited from Internet access.
  • Anonymity on the Internet is brought to an end as a response to viruses, worms and credit card fraud and user authentication is required.
  • Governments take every opportunity to coordinate and consolidate power under various mandates for global solutions and by 2025 governments and law enforcement are deeply embedded in all aspects of the Internet.

JULY 18, 2011 - Steve DelBianco of NetChoice was a participant during Government Prevails, one of the morning breakout sessions of the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011.

NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco began the session by sharing the drivers of this future and what the Internet might look like in 2025.

“The scenario at its key is an attempt to be provocative about a potential future,” said DelBianco, who emphasized this session was supposed to search for what could be plausible and to develop opinions on the possible benefits and disadvantages of a future and what could be done to mitigate its impact.

“Is this the George Orwell scenario where it is a question of not whether but when?” Roseman said.

Although there was a list of questions the leaders intended to discuss, the session quickly turned into a running debate, bouncing from topic to topic as the participants introduced them. Two main themes quickly emerged.

The first was the conflict between security versus privacy.

Carl Szabo cited the situation in London, where hundreds of security cameras were added to city streets with the intention of reducing crime. The result was criminals adapting to the increased surveillance by wearing hooded sweatshirts.

“As we give away these rights and privileges for alleged increased security, it’s not necessarily going to return with security,” he said.

Slava Cherkasov, with the United Nations, brought up the recent case of Brooklyn boy Leiby Kletzky, who was allegedly abducted, murdered and dismembered by a stranger, Levi Aron. In that case, it was a security camera outside a dentist’s office that led to Aron’s arrest, confession and the recovery of the boy’s body within an hour of viewing the footage.

Judith Hellerstein, with the D.C. Internet Society, said that government use of data is acceptable when there is an understanding about privacy and intent.

“You also have to sort of figure out how governments are going to use that technology in hand,” she said.

In the scenario, an issue was introduced, based on reality, where pictures of protesting crowds were tagged, allowing for the identification of people at the scene of a potential crime.

Elon University student Ronda Ataalla expressed concern over limiting tagging in photographs, because it was a limit on expression.

But David McGuire of 463 Communications reminded the room that civil liberties traditionally don’t poll well.

“Free speech isn’t there to protect the speech we all like,” he said.

JULY 18, 2011 - Walda Roseman of the Internet Society shares her knowledge during Government Prevails, one of the morning breakout sessions of the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011.

DelBianco expanded the tagging issue to raise the issue of “vigilante justice,” people using debatably privacy-violating practices to identify people they consider wrong-doers, and brought up Senate Bill 242 in California, which would alter the way social networks create default privacy settings for users. This bill was narrowly defeated 19 to 17 June 2.

Chris Martin with the USCIB talked about how not all companies are interested in using their technology for ill or personal gains, listing Google and their withholding of the use of facial recognition technology to protect people’s privacy.

This subject is also related to the second main discussion topic: the government versus industry and the private sector.

Covington questioned Martin about whether he saw governments developing that same facial recognition technology, as described in the scenario, and using it to monitor citizens.

“Some,” was his reply, before adding that all Internet governance was about maximizing good and minimizing evil.

There was then a brief discussion about the Patriot Act and relinquishing civil liberties online in the circumstances of a national emergency. Who decides when the emergency has passed?

Szabo and others questioned if the government was even the right organization to take over in the event of a disaster.

“It’s much easier to say, ‘Let them deal with it so I don’t have to,’ but the question is, ‘Will they do it better?’” he said.

Cherkasov said not necessarily, mentioning that when Haiti was struck by the severe earthquake in January 2010, it took two weeks for government organizations to develop a database to search for missing people, but in Japan in March 2011, it took Google only 90 minutes to come up with the same technology. He then returned to the security camera situation, concluding that citizens were the first line of response and information in a disaster scenario.

“There will always be maybe an ebb and a flow but it’s the power of the people that will ultimately be able to create that balance,” Roseman said. “But it’s going to have to be a proactive effort to get and keep that balance.”

Roseman also said one of the benefits of the industrial and private sector was an ability to use funds more freely than the government, which, presumably, does operate on a limited budget.

“When you have governments and the private sector and industry working together, you generate a lot more money and opportunity to drive change,” she said.

McGuire, though, expressed concern that industry and the private sector have some misconceptions about the power of the Internet, believing that it is too powerful for any law or government to cut it down. He said many, including those in the area of Silicon Valley, Calif., think the Internet will always be able to circumvent policy.

Most session participants seemed to agree that the potential scenario was troubling.

“It makes me want to move to somewhere where there are more sheep than humans,” joked Covington.

But Brett Berlin, of George Mason University, said that the Internet, and the choices that are made about governing it, are ultimately people-driven decisions, reminding the rest of the room that technology works for people and not the other way around.

“If we are foolish enough to think that open Internet will fundamentally allow us to be better, we are making a mistake.”

– Rachel Southmayd

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

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, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org