The Internet as a Common Good of Mankind to be Governed in the Global Public Interest: A Principled Outcome for NetMundial

Posted on April 13, 2014

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The Internet as a Common Good of Mankind to be Governed in the Global Public Interest: A Principled Outcome for NetMundial: A Petition

The world has been invited to a meeting “Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance” (NetMundial) in Sao Paulo, Brazil April 23-24 to discuss the global governance of the Internet. A number of countries, NGO’s, corporations and others have accepted the invitation.

As part of the process an invitation was extended to submit position papers concerning… 187 such papers were submitted.

An internal group has developed and circulated internally to designated stakeholder constituents of the meeting, the draft of a paper which is to be the outcome statement of the meeting. This draft has recently been leaked and even more recently there has been a leak of the responses to the draft by the NetMundial High Level Committee (HLC) designated stakeholder constituents including from individual governments who have agreed to co-sponsor the meeting and identified representatives of Civil Society, the technical community, the academic community and the private sector and a selected group of others. Interestingly several of those whose private observations were leaked indicated that NetMundial should indicate its commitment to an Internet for the Common Good (an Internet in the Public Interest)

In the last several days there have been a series of events and incidents that highlight and reinforce the need for both the principle of the An Internet for the Common Good and a means to ensure oversight of the Internet in support of that principal
1. Microsoft—Microsoft Stops Support (Including Security Patches) for XP—Some 30% of all computers in the world are currently running XP including the vast majority of Cash Machines/ATMs
2. Yahoo—Yahoo’s new email protocol breaks 75% (at least) of the world’s email lists
3. Heartbleed– How Heartbleed Broke the Internet — And Why It Can Happen Again

The first two of the above show how the actions of private corporations answerable only to their Boards and stockholders can, cause very very significant financial and social damage to significant portions of the users of the Internet, those dependent in some way on those uses of the Internet, and thus to almost the entire world.

Heartbleed, the third example, and the sudden revelation of the vulnerability of 2/3rds of the world’s websites to hacking and the report (although denied) that the NSA has known of this vulnerability for some time, exploited it for its own purposes and left the rest of the world to fend for itself.

From all that has happened just in the last week it is quite clear that we, the global Internet community—the users of the Internet and those impacted by the use of the Internet—that is effectively everyone in the world–are on our own! The global Internet companies that many of us have trusted if only that they would see that their commercial interests would coincide with the global public interest, have clearly demonstrated that we are foolish and naïve if we trust them to do anything other than act in their own narrow self-interest whatever the global impacts of these actions on their users and everyone else.

And given what we know from the Snowden revelations going forward and now with the Heartbleed revelations going to the very core of the technical operation of the Internet we are on our own and we must begin to exert our power as the global Internet community to ensure that our common interests in the global Internet are protected and promoted.

It is time that we the global Internet community, the users of the Internet and all of those who either directly or indirectly find significant elements of their personal well-being linked to the Internet, insist that the Internet be “managed” in support of our interests—as a global commons. The Internet cannot be allowed to be left to be a plaything for private greed and national “interests”.

This follows of course, the Tunis Commitment from the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which clearly identified the global public good – an elusive concept for sure – as the driving force that should lie behind the governance activities with respect to the Internet. “We reaffirm our desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and multilateralism, and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so that people everywhere can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, to achieve their full potential and to attain the internationally agreed development goals and objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.” These principles have been confirmed and reaffirmed over the last 10 years by an extremely broad range of political actors, often at the highest political and legal levels.

The means must be established to ensure the oversight and operation of the Internet as a global Commons operating in the global public interest.

NetMundial has and will see much squabbling and attempts at finding common ground in the next two weeks, and many of the issues being addressed such as the use of the Internet for global surveillance are of considerable interest.

But all of these issues pale in significance to the opportunity that this meeting has to make a clear and global commitment (in fact a reaffirmation of the Tunis Commitment) that the guiding principle for the Internet will be the realization of the common good of mankind and that the operations of the Internet will be managed in support of this common good.

To send an email insisting on this as an outcome for the NetMundial meeting send an email to <secretariat@netmundial.br>. To help us keep track, copy your email to <gurstein@gmail.com>.

Or you can sign the online petition here http://tinyurl.com/nawk9ak