Just five years ago, many people thought Chinese society and politics would be revolutionised by the Internet, a supposedly uncontrollable medium. Now, with China enjoying increasing geopolitical influence, people are wondering the opposite, whether perhaps China’s Internet model, based on censorship and surveillance, may one day be imposed on the rest of the world.
Reporters Without Borders have published The list of 13 Internet enemies. The enemies are: Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam (alphabetical order), all of them press freedom predators at least; most of them, much worse than this.
On the other side of Europe, The Internet Governance Forum met in Athens last week and held a workshop to deal with the creation of
an “Internet Bill of Rights” to articulate the global rights and duties of Internet users from the viewpoint of the individual. While the idea has resonated in lots of newspapers, blogs and mailing lists, this is, so far, what we’ve got:
IGF Community Site Wiki: The Internet Bill of Rights page
No pun intended. I really do not want to sound sarcastic, but just to show what we’ve got so far — including, for instance, the really good but not “widely officially” accepted Internet Rights Charter proposed by the Association for Progressive Communications. I really believe the statement I quoted on top of the article is more than likely to happen, and not only in totalitarian states but also in those states so self-called “democracy promoters”. More than ten years after, the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace is more than up-to-date. While there surely is a place — and a need! — for an Internet Bill of Rights, a minimums approach is a “hands off” approach.
Some days ago, Paco Lupiáñez pointed me to Introna and Nassenbaum Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters, where they write about the danger of letting the market freely shape the way search engines work, and how this can end in a biased World Wide Web perception, favouring the strong and silencing the minorities — even if search engines were driven by “neutral” technology.
So, on one hand we have the problem of Internet Governance and Internet freedom of access/use in general: there’s a strong need to control the controlers… so no control is exerted at all. On the other hand, some control must be set so there are no biases or exclusion risks. The Internet Governance Forum works top down, while Reporters Without Borders or the Electronic Frontier Foundation work bottom up. And the question is: will ends meet?
If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:
Peña-López, I. (2006) “The Internet Bill of Rights, the Internet Governance and the Cyberspace Independence” In ICTlogy,
#38, November 2006. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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