Washington- Academics, companies and a State Department official outlined the challenges ahead for Internet governance and Internet freedom at a National Press Club event marking World Press Freedom Day Wednesday.
Christopher Painter, the coordinator for cyber issues at the State Department, said the WCIT meeting in Dubai was a wake up call that the multistakeholder model for Internet governance and Internet freedom are inextricably intertwined. “We can’t have just governments calling the shots in this area,” Painter said. “For the U.S government this is a core part of policy. Government has a role, but so does the private sector and civil society.”
“If we had government control from the beginning, we couldn’t have the Internet we have today with all the social and economic activity,” Painter said.
Ross LaJeunesse of Google said that the Internet is now equal to the retail sector of Australia’s economy and it is a fast growing sector of Hong Kong’s economy.
All panelists expressed optimism that openness would prevail as Internet users are smart and will find a way to gain uncensored access. They also said that countries that voted with Internet restricting countries on giving the ITU more control over the Internet could likely support Internet freedom when they better understand the economic value and other nations better understand those nations’ real concern about online access and build out in developing regions.
But LaJeunesse did say the ITU gaining more of a mandate to regulate the Internet is among the most serious threats to Internet openness the world’s Internet users face. He said the problem is the ITU wants to gain this jurisdiction on relevant Internet issues enough that it’s willing to be used as a vehicle by countries that oppose Internet openness. Even worse, the ITU has no real technical experience or expertise on how the Internet works and the body operates without little transparency or rules.
Laura DeNardis, an American University professor, said that it will be a question of what oversight of the Internet is needed in different layers to provide transparency and accountability. She said governments should take the lead in antitrust and computer fraud and abuse issues, but that that same type of government involvement is not appropriate in other areas of Internet governance.