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

Posts Tagged ‘transnational

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

leave a comment »

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

Advertisements

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

with one comment

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

with 2 comments

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

with one comment

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

with 2 comments

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

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

leave a comment »

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

Freedom of expression in a Web 2.0 world; Future is not all positive – new tools have limited impact where controls are in place

leave a comment »

The Internet Governance Forum-USA workshop on “The Freedom of Expression in a Web 2.0 World,” was built to assess the whole idea of Web 2.0, and the tangent that the panel took grew increasingly bleak in outlining the limitations of new Internet technologies. They said Web 2.0 isn’t all roses. It’s not a park that simultaneously serves as a playground and the ultimate conduit of democracy, it won’t single-handedly save the world and it won’t always be used to better the lives of citizens in the U.S. or abroad.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a co-founder of Global Voices, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong and previous CNN bureau chief in Beijing, was particularly stern in extinguishing the optimism that emerged during the summer as a result of the contested Iranian election and the subsequent temporary uprising that was partially fed by social media, especially Twitter.

“There’s a naivete that capitalism plus Internet plus Twitter equals democratization,” MacKinnon said, later adding that democracy isn’t inherently going to spread just by handing software to dissidents.

MacKinnon’s extensive experiences with the Chinese government’s attitude toward the Internet provided a stark paralell to the stated goals of President Barack Obama’s administration, voiced at the IGF by Miriam Nisbet, the first director of the Office of Governmental Information Services.

“It’s rather extraordinary that he spent the first full day in office by issuing memoranda…dealing with the openness of government,” Nisbet said. She next quoted Obama: “All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their government.”

While the stated aim of the U.S. government is to utilize Web 2.0 to open up the government for its citizens, MacKinnon was quick to point out that the Chinese model, which is being increasingly adopted by similarly authoritarian regimes, is built more upon the idea of modern technology helping the government inform itself about its citizens, opening them up to the keen eyes of governmental watchdogs.

In some cases, these crackdowns can be justified. Ambassador David Gross, now a partner at Wiley Rein LLP, leveraged his 25 years of experience in politics and ICTs in the discussion. He told of his experience in trying to encourage a policy of liberalized Internet use to a Tunisian deputy foreign minister. The minister justified his country’s forced limitations on online expression as an extension of the government’s responsibility to protect its people by maintaining social cohesion in a country built up of incredibly factitious factions perfectly willing to fight each other, fights that the Tunisian government asserts would be stoked by open Internet communication.

Robert Guerra, the project director on Internet freedom at Freedom House, roped government surveillance into the increasingly mobile nature of Internet access, particularly in least-developed countries, pointing out that cell phones, by their nature and taking the complicity of the telecommunications industry in conceding to governmental interests for granted, are perfect for authoritarian governments to spy on their citizens. By triangulating a phone’s location, or by utilizing its speakers, receivers and text messages, governments can immediately drop in on any sort of communication deemed to be seditious.

It was agreed that while Web 2.0 has made progress, said progress can largely be credited not to the inherent power of the technology of Web 2.0, but of the lagging pace at which most authoritarian governments have approached the technology, falling behind the counter-culture movement in exploiting the Internet for its own aims.

There’s a reason, MacKinnon said, that China is currently offering to build the Internet infrastructure for several authoritarian countries, because China knows exactly how to receive the economic benefits of increasingly widespread Internet access without suffering the open scrutiny of governments and businesses that one would naturally think would result in concert with an expansion of communications technologies.

Ultimately – running counter to the long-winded, expansive rhetoric that often takes place in discussion panels dealing with governmental policy and communicative ideology – the most apt description of the Web 2.0 element of the world came from Bob Boorstin, director of corporate policy communications at Google, and previous chief speechwriter during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

“These are just tools, and they’re nothing more than that,” Boorstin said, indicating that no matter how many bells or whistles, tweets or status updates we may have, the censorship and free expression citizens endure or desire is ultimately up to their own actions and persistence.

-Morgan Little, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org